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Oct 16, 2018

The best phone you cannot (easily) buy

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Huawei launched its latest smartphones today, the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 Pro; and while we don’t usually focus on a single product launch in a blog, this one is worth the attention for a couple of reasons. Huawei has managed to upstage the typical flagship smartphones with this latest launch; and the U.S. market will probably not even notice, despite the fact that this is a major smartphone launch from the second largest smartphone manufacturer worldwide.

Before delving into why we believe this is a stand-out device, let’s deal with the second point: why no one will notice. Huawei has been effectively banned from the U.S. market. AT&T and Verizon were both expected to add Huawei to their device portfolio earlier this year, but both changed their minds due to government pressure (and Best Buy followed suit a few months later). Only Amazon continues to sell Huawei devices in the U.S. market. The theory is that the Chinese government leverages their connection with Huawei to use these devices to spy on people. It’s an unsubstantiated claim and one that the rest of the world does not seem overly concerned with. Go into any carrier store in Europe, and Huawei is on the best-seller list. And it should be; the devices are reasonably priced and chock full of innovation.

Let’s consider the new Mate 20 series, which launched today. Both versions have three Leica cameras on the back (telephoto, standard and ultra-wide angle) that produce best-in-class pictures from a close-up to a distance shot. In addition, the way the cameras are physically grouped (as a square) means that the phone stands out from aesthetic and brand recognition perspectives, which are quite rare in today’s lineup of banal design. The Mate 20 Pro also has facial recognition and an in-screen fingerprint sensor, as well as the the ability to leverage both techniques down to the individual app level allowing for a strong, customizable degree of security.

But perhaps the most interesting innovation is that the Mate 20 Pro is a wireless charging pad. In addition to being able to charge the phone on a wireless charging pad, other devices such as your colleague’s (wireless charging enabled) phone can actually be charged by placing them on top of the Mate 20. And while you may be loath to use the Mate’s battery life to charge your friend’s phone (are they really that close a friend that you will use up your precious battery?) it can be used to charge other peripherals such as you earbuds that come with a wireless-chargeable case. That is a major innovation that no other phone is able to do at this point.

The innovations continue with a fast processor - dual processors to offload slower jobs to a less battery-intense processor - TUV certification for safety and, of course, an OLED curved screen. It has everything we expect from a top-of-the-line flagship device. And it comes with a flagship price tag too, starting at euro 799 for the Mate 20, and over Eu1000 for the 20 Pro.

As the U.S. carriers continue to look for new devices to add to their portfolios, they do owe it to themselves and their customers to reconsider the Huawei range. The devices meet a clear market need with more features and innovations. We acknowledge that the political pressure against these devices is quite intense, but that same issue does not apply to the range of other Chinese brands, such as ZTE and OnePlus. We suspect that the carrier bold enough to take the leap will reap the rewards



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