The Pro with the mostest
AN AMERICAN reviewer recently described Huawei’s P20 Pro as the “best phone you’ll never buy”. He was referring to the fact that major cellular networks and a big retail partner had just pulled out of deals to distribute the Chinese tech giant’s smartphones in the
US, bowing to pressure from the government.
This protectionist ploy means Huawei smartphones, including its latest P20 line, are almost impossible for US consumers to find in stores. Thankfully, their South African counterparts have no such problem and are snapping up these phones in record numbers.
In the two months since its launch in South Africa, the P20 series has shattered sales records. According to Huawei, sales soared by a whopping 60% compared to their predecessor, the P10 series. Sales of the P20
Lite have soared by an even more impressive 150%. In addition, April sales numbers of the P20 series surpassed those of the Samsung S9.
I’m not sure how Huawei came by that last titbit of information but if true it’s hugely significant. This shows there’s more than mere bluster to the company’s goal of toppling Samsung from its spot atop the South African smartphone sales pile.
Commenting on reasons for the surge in Huawei’s popularity, Akhram Mohamed, its South African marketing director, said: “We invest a large amount of resources to connect with our consumers in meaningful ways. Over the last few years, customers have come to know Huawei as a brand that offers reliability and great service, but also as a global brand with a local culture. We also make exceptional products with revolutionary on-device artificial intelligence (AI) that offer the best pricing in their class”.
Typical marketing speak to be sure, but there’s truth in what he says. The company has invested heavily over the past few years, not just in marketing and sponsoring local sports teams and music events, but also in its distribution and customer service capacity. As a result, it has grown from a brand hardly anyone had heard of to one of South Africa’s most recognisable names.
Nor is Mohamed exaggerating when he talks of “exceptional” products. It certainly applies to the flagship P20 Pro which I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some quality time with recently.
Boasting not two, but three rear cameras, a stunning 6.1-inch OLED display and class-leading battery life, it also bristles with AI smarts.
Let’s start with that groundbreaking Leica triple camera, which gives the P20 Pro the highest total pixel count on a smartphone to date. It comprises a 40MP RGB sensor, 20MP monochrome sensor, and an 8MP telephoto lens.
According to Huawei, this combo works together to produces images with better lighting and 300% better camera detail over the industry standard 12MP sensors. Thanks to the 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom, and 10x digital zoom, the company says, getting closer to your subject without moving is now easier to do and produces better results with any phone-mounted than other camera.
These bold claims were largely borne out in my testing, where I found it compared favourably to, and in some cases surpassed, that other champion snapper, the Samsung
S9+. I particularly liked its zoom capabilities, which really do blow the competition out of the water.
As someone who takes quite a few photographs for my work, the
P20 Pro is the first phone-mounted camera I’ve used that comes anywhere near to rivalling a DSLR and a big part of that is being able to zoom into a subject without producing a pixelated mess.
The low-light capabilities also impressed me, with the Pro managing to produce shots in near complete darkness comparable to – and often better than – that low-light maestro, the S9.
My only gripe about the camera is the lack of image stabilisation when shooting video at 4K resolution, which can make for some shaky footage, particularly when you’re shooting while moving.
Moving on to some of the P20 Pro’s other attributes, the 2 240 x 1080-pixel display is near faultless and the first I’ve seen from Huawei to come close to rivalling Samsung’s screens. Yes, there’s a notch, but it’s significantly smaller than the one on the iphone X and if it really irks you, there’s a setting that lets you mask it, albeit at the cost of a few millimetres of extra top bezel.
It’s when it comes to battery life, however, that the P20 Pro really gets to live up to its “extraordinary” label. Huawei says that the 4000mah battery will deliver close to two full days between charges, a claim I was delighted to find to be justified, except for a couple of occasions when under really heavy use it needed a recharge by mid-morning the following day. No other flagship smartphone comes close.
Combine this with the powerful Kirin 970 processor, IP67 water resistance, 128GB of onboard storage and the very latest version of
Google’s Android operating system (Oreo 8.1) and you’ve got what may well be a Galaxy S9+ killing device.
That’s not to say it’s perfect.
The lack of a headphone jack is a big minus for me. There’s also no wireless charging or SD card slot, although these aren’t biggies when you consider the amazing battery life and capacious built-in storage.
One of its biggest selling points has nothing to do with the phone itself. I’m talking about the killer after-sales service package that it comes with.
Dubbed the Huawei Diamond VIP Service and valued at a tad under R4000, it’s being offered free to anyone who buys not just the
P20 or P20 Pro but the Lite, too. It includes free collection and delivery from a customer’s home or office if they can’t get to a Huawei repair centre, a loan device to users whose phones are being repaired, a software upgrade and a memory and system clean-up, as well as a free screen protector replacement and engraving service.
Additionally, those who buy the P20 and P20 Pro will be eligible for one free, front screen repair or replacement within the first year of warranty, and Pro owners will also be able to have their devices repaired within one hour on weekdays.
It’s final selling point is the price tag. The P20 Pro is selling for R15499 prepaid or on contracts starting at R670 per month. This isn’t pocket change by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still significantly cheaper than competitors. And that’s before you factor in the excellent after-sales package.
Is the P20 Pro the best smartphone you can currently buy? It’s certainly the best flagship device for the money. And if unrivalled battery life and stills photo quality are important to you, it’s the best.
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Huawei’s P20 Pro has a lot to offer.