At CES 2016, Huawei announced a huge (literally) new addition to their line of high-end smartphones, and while this won’t be part of their new United States push, it looks like the Mate 8 might be one of the most powerful Android smartphones anywhere this year. If nothing else, it’ll definitely be in the running for best battery.
The Mate 8’s 6″ 1080p display is huge, but that’s not necessarily apparent from looking at the phone as a whole — the bezels all around are very small, with the phone achieving an 83 percent screen-to-body ratio. The body reflects Huawei’s new commitment to premium materials, using both aircraft-grade aluminum and 2.5D curved diamond-cut glass. On the back, there’s a camera, LED flash, and the fingerprint scanner, which sadly can’t be used to pull down the notification bar like it could on the Mate S.
Inside, the Mate 8 has a Huawei (through their subsidiary, HiSilicon) Kirin 950 SoC — we’ll have to run tests of our own later, but Huawei claims that it is 125 percent more powerful than the Kirin 925 SoC, an older model than the 935 that held the Mate S back last year. The phone can be configured with either 3 GB or 4 GB of RAM (depending on if you get the 32 GB or 64 GB storage model).
Photos should be a strength of the Mate 8. Huawei is using a 16 MP Sony BSI sensor on the back paired with premium features like optical image stabilization and dual-tone flash. The front camera has an 8 MP sensor, and Huawei has built their own image processor and editing features to make the phone great for taking selfies (which can be snapped by pressing on the fingerprint scanner, instead of having to tap the screen).
But, it’s the battery that really puts the Mate 8 on the map. Usually when we see premium smartphones, battery life is the feature that gets sacrificed. Not so with the Mate 8, which has a 4,000 mAh battery that is said to last for two days on normal use. Even if that doesn’t end up being true, quick charging can add a day’s worth of battery life in 30 minutes of charging, so battery life should virtually never be a concern. That performance might be helped along by Huawei’s own six-layer cooling system, which is said to cut down on power consumption.
Battery life is also no doubt helped by the addition of Android 6.0 Marshmallow as the base operating system, although some of those gains might be cancelled out by Huawei’s overlay, Emotion UI 4.0. Granted, EMUI is still one of the more lightweight overlays in the Android world (and its menus are excellent), but there’s still a lot of redundant apps stored on the phone as a result. And, the biggest knock on EMUI — the lack of an app drawer — still hasn’t been changed. Knuckle Sense returns as well, which lets you activate features by knocking on the phone with one or two knuckles. This can make it easy to crop an image from a webpage or take a quick screenshot.
Huawei is also talking up some of the business features of the Mate 8, including a triple-mic array with software that will allow you to specify from which direction the sound you want to record is coming from. Those microphones can be powered up in hands-free mode to allow for speakerphone calls from further away, too. Business card scanning is another nice extra.
The Huawei Mate 8 is launching in 30 countries including Spain, Germany, France, the UAE, Mexico, and Australia, and will retail for €600 for the 3 GB RAM/32 GB storage configuration and €700 for the 4 GB RAM/64 GB storage configuration. It’ll come in space grey, moonlight silver, champagne gold, and a new mocha brown color.