back to article Huawei Mate 20 Pro: If you can stomach the nagware and price, it may be Droid of the Year

When, four years ago, I predicted Huawei was coming to eat Apple and Samsung's lunch, derision swiftly followed. Either it couldn't, or it would take a very long time. For years, Japanese and Korean cars were nasty little tin cans, jokes on wheels, remember? But smartphones aren't cars. The Chinese production miracle, and …

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  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    £899 - Ouch

    "Huawei is no longer the plucky underdog and at £899"

    That is an understatement to say the least. I have the P10 Pro and would like to upgrade but not at that price... That is moving towards the ridicoulous Apple/Samsung price inflated shiny shiny levels...

    Corporate greed knows no limits.....but my pockets do...

    Shame because it looks like a nice device...

    1. Craig 2

      Re: £899 - Ouch

      Yea I'm never paying close to £1k for a phone! The BOM for the iPhone XS was quoted as something like 1/3 sale price so plenty of wiggle room while still making obscene profits. Hopefully this slowing in phone sales / upgrades recently is the tip of the iceberg and people will wake up to the fact that they are being fleeced.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: £899 - Ouch

        > Hopefully this slowing in phone sales / upgrades recently is the tip of the iceberg and people will wake up to the fact that they are being fleeced.

        There are lots of competent phones available for far less, so who is being forced to buy the pricier handsets?

        Given no vendor is wildly undercutting the others, when comparing oranges with oranges, it's hard to make the argument that they're overpriced.

        The relationship between people's upgrade cycles and the price of a new phone isn't one way. For example, someone might deliberately choose a pricier phone with the intention of using it for three years, instead of a slightly cheaper / mildly compromised phone for two years.

        People also expect their phones to do more. Easy example is that many people haven't bought a discrete digital camera for a few years, so there's a £100 - £200 saving right there.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: £899 - Ouch

          I was out and about at the weekend and I was surprised at the number of iPhone 4/4S still in use. My youngest daughter's friend still has a 4S and is looking to replace it next year, when he finishes his intership and can get a 200€ phone to replace it - so probably not an iPhone.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: £899 - Ouch

      Dont worry. 99% of the features will be on the Honor 20 in 6 months or less for less than half that price.

      ( I havent even checked that there is an honor 20 but there will be something roughly equivalent.)

      1. thegroucho

        Re: £899 - Ouch

        For me it is the 1%.

        Although my priorities would be someone's 'meh, so what' list.

        The camera array, the IP6X-rated phone:

        1. I have young kids and lugging MILC (Sony a6000) every time we go out just sucks.

        2. Cycling (not commuting) in the rain and generally perspiring while cycling precludes me from having non-IP6X-rated phone.

        Of course YMMV.

        Not going to upgrade in 12-18 months so this is a long-term investment in a phone which will still be relevant (for me) in 3 years time.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: £899 - Ouch

          @thegroucho,

          You should worry about the X, not the 6 in your IP rating. The first digit stands for the intrusion protection, with 1 offering no protection 2 basically protecting against sticking your hand in Through 7 protecting from all dust. (6 is protection from any dust which may harm the device). The second digit indicates the moisture protection. In your case you'd want something atleast rated IPX7 rated, more likely an IPX8. (water jets, and immersion respectively)

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: £899 - Ouch

            IPX5 should also be fine for perspiration and the odd shower. x7 and x8 are really for prolonged submersion.

            We used to sell IP65 industrial terminals, they were protected enough for cleaning with high pressure water jets... Although that is way above standard IP65.

            We tried IP67, tested it inhouse and everything was fine, took it to TÜV for testing and it let water in. The difference was 2cm in height difference in the tanks - with out mounting bracket to pull the terminal down to 1M depth, we only managed 98cm, which the terminal survived without problems. By the TÜV it reached exactly 1M and those 2cm made all the difference.

            1. thegroucho
              Thumb Up

              Re: £899 - Ouch

              @imanidiot and @big_D

              I have been a moron as per my usual self and you are quite right.

              Although not an expert I have been to the relevant Wiki page for IP rating number of times and have no excuse for not remembering.

              I have this photo of me draining rain water from one of my cycling shoes into the other ... looks like I'm pouring a drink into a glass.

              It was proper deluge so I think IP65 might suffer.

              Luckily Mate 20 Pro is IP68.

        2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          At TheGroucho, re: water protection.

          A trick I used to use back when I cycled all the time with my MP3 players (and Walkmans before that) was to stick it in a ZipLock Baggie, seal it, & manipulate the controls through the plastic. The water can't get in, you can still use it, & it may even survive a dunking.

          I don't know how well a SmartPhone screen would work through the ZLB plastic, YMMV, but it's worth a shot.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: £899 - Ouch

      Wait a month or two... I bought its predecessor, the Mate 10 Pro back at the beginning of the year.

      The launch price was 800€, I paid 700€ two months after launch and it is now around 430€ on Amazon.

    4. Steve Crook

      Re: £899 - Ouch

      And for a phone that'll only receive updates for a couple of years too. It's approaching the price I paid for my desktop PC and I expect to get OS software updates for that for some years to come...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: £899 - Ouch

        > And for a phone that'll only receive updates for a couple of years too

        They all have Android 9, so they all have Project Treble.

        1. vmistery

          Re: £899 - Ouch

          Project Treble is only half the battle. The OEMs are still not forced to release updates so you are still at their mercy. Personally I’d like to see google get direct control for security updates.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: £899 - Ouch

            > The OEMs are still not forced to release updates

            No, but it makes it much easier for them to roll out updates, and and removes their dependency on chipset vendors releasing binary blobs.

            In short, vendor's past performance in this area is no guide to their future performance. (And even before Treble, we've seen some vendors go from poor to good in this regard)

        2. Patrician

          Re: £899 - Ouch

          >They all have Android 9, so they all have Project Treble.

          If the manufacturer doesn't push out the updates it doesn't matter what "projects" it has installed.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £900 nagware and a shit UI ?

    Next !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Having received this phone today after having read this review I was a bit concerned. However I have had no nagging at all. The huawei apps were all said 'no' to and I did not need to give any excess permissions.

      The phone itself is brilliant, even the emui layer is fine, loads of customisation to make it close to stock or bells and whistles. I was worried after having used awful android launchers and customisations of the past, this actually had some nice features that I don't think stock has, (loads of options for screenshots for instances)

      The twilight colour has a slippy, not ridged, back. The headphones that it comes with (USB C as well as a 3.5mm adapter) don't stay in my ears.

      The charging is super fast, quite a strange sight after my quick charge 2 phone, it goes up in seconds in front of your eyes.

      The notification area is rubbish, shame "hiding the notch" didn't bring the notifications down to the next line.

      Can't wait to properly try the camera out tomorrow.

  3. teamonster

    No word from ElReg on how a face scanner is probably not a good idea as it's most likely ridiculously hackable with a photograph.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would imagine it is not 'ridiculously hackable' with a photograph seeing as it has a dedicated infrared dot projector and dedicated infrared depth sensing camera.

      So it may be possible - some techniques have found that creating a 3d model of someones head and then placing photos in the appropriate places can have a good attack vector against Apple's Face-ID. Also some reports that creating a true infrared photograph under certain situations might be a cuase for concern.

      However 'ridiculously hackable with a photograph' is not a term that I would use for a 3D IR depth sensing unlock system.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        3d dots in space...

        Just spoof the dots. Block the IR emitter, and have a pre-printed "hash crash" dot matrix. These things are "AI" driven (hint, just maths, not real AI). So if you know the average to try for, a few known hash/algorithm breaking dot arrangements and you can hit a false positive and open the device.

        Oh, it will take someone to do the math, as they did with the "turtle or gun" image recognition. And yes, the IR device means it's a bit more complex than an image hash false positive search. But at the same time, if they find the exploit, it will be up and out to everyone and their dog to replicate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 3d dots in space...

          But your dot matrix will have to be infrared to start with and will be different for every single person, and therefore would need significant time with the owner's phone to try repeated attempts of millions of patterns etc.

          This isn't trying to use AI to decide what a 2d image looks like and you can try over and over. This is deciding whether a biometric input matches the one that is stored on the encrypted pattern on the phone. You aren't even trying to fool it into thinking that it is looking at a 3d face from a 2d image. You are asking it to match it up with a single 3d face. Millions of times more complex.

          Therefore massively different from your proposal. If it really is that easy then the Apple face-id would have been hacked using that method a long time ago.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: millions of times more complex.

            Not really: https://youtu.be/uEJ71VlUmMQ

            So replace "pixels" with "3d dots". In fact, as said, with some IR reflective paint, and a TV remote control (IR light source) you could spoof an IR dot matrix. As shown in the other Reg reports, these things can be "spoofed" so a single paint blotch on a gun makes it look like a turtle, and a well painted turtle looks like a gun.

            While yes, it is different for each person, current exploits show it is doable. It's just a risk/reward time taken problem. A pin could not be spoofed. Biometrics can.

            1. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: millions of times more complex.

              So replace "pixels" with "3d dots". In fact, as said, with some IR reflective paint, and a TV remote control (IR light source) you could spoof an IR dot matrix. As shown in the other Reg reports, these things can be "spoofed" so a single paint blotch on a gun makes it look like a turtle, and a well painted turtle looks like a gun.
              And several other posts along these lines.

              You choose the unlock method that suits the level of security you are seeking.

              1) Just stop kids/friends screwing around with your phone (changing ringtones, etc), probably the most common use case - faceid, pattern, perfectly fine.

              2) stopping an opportunistic thief stealing your phone to sell on from accessing your data again faceid and pattern unlock are perfectly fine - probably the 2nd most frequent use-case.

              3) Has some business stuff or private stuff on it you don't want getting out, - fingerprint or passcode.

              4) keeping an affair or financial information in case of a divorce secret from your significant other - passcode (nothing that they could access while you slept in the bed beside them) - probably 3rd most common use-case.

              5) Has some highly sensitive stuff on it that many people might specifically target you for (financial secrets that could allow billion dollar insider trading/stock manipulation, or research on stuff you haven't patented yet - industrial espionage), professional thieves or government agencies that have the resources to - and care factor - to build a 3-d model of your face or steal fingerprints and make impressions of them - passcode.

              6) Has really sensitive stuff on it - kiddie porn, national security type stuff that foreign espionage would extraordinary rendition you for - where they might just beat you with a rubber hose or pull your teeth out before they turn you into a corpse and feed it to the pigs - just don't put it on a phone at all.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: 3d dots in space...

          "Just spoof the dots. Block the IR emitter, and have a pre-printed "hash crash" dot matrix. "

          .... or just drug the owner, and hit him with this $5 wrench until he tells us the password....

          Ref. (that-eveyone-knows): https://xkcd.com/538/

    2. goldcd

      No - that's when you unlock with a reglar RGB/2D camera

      Mate 20 has got similar 3d scanning thingie that Apple does.

      (so yes, you could probably defeat it with a 3D model of a head, but that's only a small step away from cutting off my fingers for access)

    3. big_D Silver badge

      You can't hack these with a photograph, or at least not the Lumia 950, Apple iPhone X or the Hauwei P20...

      But Andrew did make a point of saying that biometrics aren't safe.

      They are your identity (username), not your secret (password), because if they are hacked or stolen, you can't change them!

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Facepalm

      No word from ElReg on how a face scanner is probably not a good idea

      Apart from the notes in the article that biometrics are inherently not secure… The review even briefly touches on the quality of the radios in case anyone wanting to use the phone as a phone is interested.

      I'm not currently looking for a new phone but credit where credit's due: an impressive device. But it's got a notch and Huawei phones are not well supported by Lineage OS, so not for me even if I was looking.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good to see another review which isn't hailing this phone as the second coming, like most are. But a couple of points. The Mate & P lines are distinctly different, one is not a successor to the other. Also not sure why this review is comparing it to the S8 & S8+, surely the S9 line is more appropriate comparison? Either way the upshot is still the same & correct, £900 is too much for a phone with a shit UI full of nagware & unnecessary bloat and same can be said for Samsung.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Samsung's TouchWiz isn't bad as it used to be, and the launcher can be changed if you must. It's hard to get another launcher to stick to Huawei phones.

      Additionally, Samsung flagships are well supported by the modding crowd.

  5. 45RPM Silver badge

    At that price I’d expect solid security, and a dedication to not sharing my data. Sadly, much of what makes Android great (such as an advanced and working AI (Siri, say ‘goodbye’ - here’s what I found on the internet about Goodbye) is predicated on sharing data - that’s what makes it work.

    For my use-case that doesn’t work - but my use-case isn’t for everyone and, in those cases, it seems that you can get ‘as good’ for less.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    "One example is Apple's FaceID, developed at great expense, released on 3 November 2017"

    While Apples FaceID was released a year ago, Apple did not invent this technology in 2017, there have been other implementations of facial recognition on phones for quite a while. I had an Android phone around 2012 which had a basic unlock the phone with your face option.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Which could be fooled with a photo, so not the same thing as Face ID or the Mate 20 Pro.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      "there have been other implementations of facial recognition on phones for quite a while"

      Not the same thing. Those compare 2D images and are easily spoofed. A few (eg, Lumia 950) added crude depth detection via IR, to decide whether the image was a photo or a 3D "face". By contrast Apple's FaceID builds a 3D model using 30,000 points, then uses that as the basis for comparisons.

  7. big_D Silver badge

    Face-ID

    One example is Apple's FaceID, developed at great expense, released on 3 November 2017.

    Which is technology they bought in. It was also used in the Lumia 950 a couple of years before Apple got their mits on it. The iPhone X version was a generation or two further on than the Lumia 950, but it is essentially the same technology, from the same company; just that it is now a division of Apple.

    Also, the Hauwei version debuted on the P20 and P20 Pro during the summer.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Face-ID

      Addressing Andrews point. I very much doubt that Apples engineers and management view Face ID as a competitive advantage no matter what their Marketing says.

      Face ID was blindingly obviously a decision made to launch the iPhoneX with workable tech at a given point in time. And guess what they were right. Workable in-display finger print readers are only now appearing on the challenger phones and they still lag in responsiveness to discrete fingerprint readers.

      There is no way Apple could bin a flagship feature after one year so they were forced to double down for the XR/S/SMax

      Presumably there will be a iPhone7/8 replacement next year at the £550 mark - whether it has face id will depend on 2 factors .

      1. Whether the cost of the FaceID sensors can be scaled down to that price point.

      2. Whether Marketing decide that fingerprints are for the plebs and face id for the 10% who can afford an X model.

      Knowing Apple Im erring about 60/40 on the side of an 8 replacement with FaceID and fingerprints being consigned to the Reality distortion field of history (no fingerprints around here - nosirree). Although with most Mac laptops now coming with fingerprint scanners I could be wrong.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Face-ID

        Can't beat a discrete finger.

        1. Locky Silver badge

          Re: Face-ID

          As Keanu foretold in The Matrix

          How about I give you the finger, and you give me my phone call

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Face-ID

        @Gordon10 on the other hand, the Lumia had the same type of sensor in a sub 700€ package, cheaper than iPhones with fingerprint sensors at the time.

        And Apple could have easily moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the case, where it fits nices to the index finger as you pick up the phone...

      3. DougS Silver badge

        Cost of Face ID sensors

        Was only a problem during the initial ramp up of the iPhone X last year, due to low yields. Once those problems were solved, it became a non-issue - which is why Apple was able to offer it on the cheaper iPhone XR. The big cost difference between the XS and XR is the OLED display with 3D touch layer.

        They'll likely keep selling the XR next year for $100 less than today, just like they are selling the iPhone 8/8S now for $100 less than they were a year ago.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Cost of Face ID sensors

          The iPhone XS panel is made by Samsung to Apple's spec, driven by a driver of Apple's own design. DisplayMate rate it a smidge higher than Samsung's panels on its own Note 9, but they're all in the 'so close to perfect colour accuracy you can't tell the difference' territory.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: Cost of Face ID sensors

            Yes I wasn't implying Apple makes it, but that it costs them a lot more than an LCD, and that and the lack of the 3D Touch layer accounts for 90% of the cost difference between the XS & XR. The only other difference that matters cost wise is a single camera versus dual camera.

  8. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    It may be a £899 phone

    But with a £2.99 UI plus bloatware and nagware as described then just: no thanks.

    1. matjaggard

      Re: It may be a £899 phone

      Downvoted, I'm sure many people would pay more than £2.99 not to use that UI

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It may be a £899 phone

      I made a comment further up. First day of use and I haven't seen any nagware, everything just got turned off in the settings without a fuss. Maybe further use will reveal it, I don't know?

      Also the ui is fine so far, some nice customisations and nothing like launchers of yore. I thing the sub-heading is a bit brutal or maybe the software has changed since the review, but so far it's the best phone I've used by far.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: It may be a £899 phone

        "First day of use and I haven't seen any nagware, everything just got turned off in the settings without a fuss."

        I have to review what's in front of me, anon.

        HiTouch is turned off in Settings and should stay off. Instead, it requests permissions to start every time the phone detects a two finger gesture. Which is quite often. Arguably, this is coercion under GDPR and the process is not fully GDPR compliant.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It may be a £899 phone

          Could well be a bug that has been fixed, I've tried touching two fingers, three fingers on web in apps etc and not had anything pop up?

          I've so far (day 2) seen far less nag, intrusion or bloat than my wife's Xperia 5 compact.

  9. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    China and IP

    I am no fan of the Chinese government and am unlikely to buy a Huawei, but can we get this clear?

    China is officially run by the Communist Party.

    A core tenet of communism is that all inventions and discoveries belong to the People.

    Despite knowing this, since the 1990s more and more US companies (and UK ones) have shifted manufacturing to China in an effort to reduce costs and make more money.

    The result is obvious.

    I don't imagine anyone from the Chinese government approached Apple and ordered them to have iPhones made by Foxconn or Pegatron. They did it to increase margins and build up an enormous cash pile.

    The rise of Huawei, BBK and Xiaomi is entirely the result of unrestricted Western capitalism. I forget which Communist observed that capitalism would hand the communist world the tools to defeat it, but he was right. Even if China is emerging from communism...it just doesn't need to acquire Western IP any more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: China and IP

      >The result is obvious.

      The detail is interesting, in 1980 Shenzhen had a population of 30,000 farmers - now it has 20 million skilled and semi-skilled workers, Macau now has the fourth highest per-capita GDP, China is the USA's biggest creditor etc.

      >I forget which Communist observed that capitalism would hand the communist world the tools to defeat it

      That's not really the aim, they may not talk about it but they know Mao's vision starved 50 or 60 million. China is just slowly moving to social capitalism from the other direction. The upside of totalitarianism is the ability to enact and deliver plans (as with Shenzhen and other SEZ) which take a generation to bear fruit.

  10. iron Silver badge

    Sounds interesting but without a headphone jack or SD card forget it.

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