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48 hours with the phone Huawei didn’t launch in SA, the Mate 30 Pro 5G

huawei mate 30 pro 5g stock 1

It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited to review a non-foldable phone, but finally, it’s here.

Months after the local launch, and disappointing news that it wouldn’t arrive in South Africa, I have a Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G smartphone in my grasp.

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The phone’s a huge step for Huawei.

At the launch, it wasn’t clear what this phone was running software-wise. It later confirmed that it would be its first flagship device to go Google-less, replacing the American giant’s services and apps with its own.

And as the US entity list likely won’t be tossed in the waste paper basket, it’s likely that this is Huawei’s future too.

So, with that said and the phone in my hand for the past two days, what are my initial thoughts of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G? Have at it below.

The good

  • My major issues lie with some of this phone’s physical design elements, but I ultimately enjoy most of them. The waterfall screen, albeit impractical, makes this phone compact and easy to hold.
  • Aesthetically, it’s one of Huawei’s more beautiful devices especially in this shade of emerald.
  • The display is the best I’ve seen on a Huawei smartphone thus far. Colours no longer look washed out, although I would’ve loved a few more pixels.
  • Battery life is astonishing. After installing apps via Aurora and the AppGallery for the best part of two days, I only dropped to 8% on the third. This was with AOD on as well.
  • EMUI 10 has its annoying quirks, but on this phone it just feels polished and swift.
  • The bright orange power button contrasts nicely with the rest of the device, and is easy to find.
  • Face and fingerprint unlock methods are about the fastest I’ve used on a device to date.
  • The selfie camera is excellent, one of the best I’ve used on a device so far. There’s almost no facial smoothing.
  • Huawei’s done wonders with the rear cameras too. Photos are crisp, and there’s a definite feel of depth within each snap. Colours are also rich without being unnaturally oversaturated.

The questionable

  • The AppGallery has some intriguing features. For one, it displays more information on downloading apps that the Play Store. It also adopts an AMOLED theme instead of Google’s trash shade of grey. But the list of apps are thin, and I found myself avoiding it almost entirely.
  • I had to rely on other apps stores, like Aurora and Fdroid, to find and install some apps I use on a daily basis. Without them, I couldn’t use this phone daily.
  • I would’ve loved a Huawei P30 Pro periscope camera. The Mate 30 Pro’s camera array is great, but it feels lacking without macro and zoom lenses.
  • 5G support is definitely a nice addition, but pointless for South Africans right now.
  • It’s not clear if the screen protector on my review unit is preinstalled, but it’s terrible. Fingerprints are clearly visible, and smudges are extremely difficult to clean.

The bad

  • Waterfall screens are aesthetic gimmicks that look good on marketing leaflets but are trash to use in the real world. The curve robs valuable screen real estate and turns white edges a murky grey.
  • The screen design also means Huawei rid the phone of the volume rocker, instead opting for a double-tap haptic-feedback touch-sensitive software button. It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s easily the worst thing I’ve ever used on a smartphone. If there’s room for a power button, there’s room for a physical volume rocker.
  • If you use it without a case, you’re going to scratch the bottom of the camera hump, and probably the camera cover itself too.
  • Without Google Mobile Services, you won’t be able to access your purchased apps. For me, this means no Nova Launcher, SD Maid, or ad-free Podcast Addict.

Final thoughts

This phone will never go on sale in South Africa, and that has its positives and negatives. For one, the physical design of this phone has its issues. And it’s unlikely that South Africans would spend flagship prices on a phone that doesn’t have a software and service experience they’re used to.

But it’s a shame, because the Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G, for its ridiculously-long name, is a charming phone.

It shows glimpses of life without Google, and rewards users who are open to learning workarounds, and alternative services. We’ve all become so used to Google’s wares in our life, and using this phone for just the past two days has demonstrated how attached I’ve become.

Huawei had a lot of work ahead to make the P40 series a success, and the Mate 40 too at a later date, but I feel it’s off to a rather impressive start. Just, please, for gods’ sake, give me physical volume buttons.

All images: Andy Walker/Memeburn

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