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Huawei Mate S – A Gorgeous, Powerful And Rather Clever Android Phone [Review]

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There’s clearly a new generation of Android smartphones hitting the shelves right now. They combine top class specifications, with super stylish design wrapped up in a price which is significantly lower than the market leader brands. Sony and Huawei seem to be leading the charge (absent HTC), and we’ve just got our hands on the latest Huawei handset to put through its paces. And it’s good.

The Huawei Mate S comes in a couple of models, one with dual SIM and one with a microSD card facility. We tried out the latter, which can take up to a 128GB memory card in the SIM slot to add to the onboard storage. Our test unit also didn’t have the touch sensitive screen, which is a shame, because we would have liked to see that in action. Anyway, even so we were suitably impressed with this beautiful handset in many ways. Check out our video below for an overview and our five favorite features of this innovative handset.

First impressions
Everything about this phone is classy, from the slick black packaging, to the sleek brushed metal finish on the unibody design. This is top class stuff, and propels Huawei into the big league in terms of design cred. The specs of the phone are not shabby either. We’re talking a 5.5 AMOLED screen, Kirin 935 2.2GHz 64bit octa-core processor, Android 5.1, 3 GB RAM, 32GB ROM, LTE/4G, 13 megapixel rear camera with OIS (optical image stabilization) and a 2700 mAh battery. All housed in a gorgeous 7.2mm slim form factor. Nice!

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In the box you get the typical power block, USB charge cable and headset, plus a sparse but fancy user guide and a neat slimline protective case. As you can see from the video, the case makes the phone end up looking a bit like an old iPod, which is kind of surreal.

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In use
The phone features the usual Huawei EMUI user interface layered on top of Android, which comes with a bunch of cool and unusual stuff. As always, purists will probably hate the fact that Android has been polluted like this, but as Samsung has proved, custom interfaces build product loyalty, which is a good thing from a repeat sales viewpoint.

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Chief amongst the innovative features of the phone is the ‘Smart Fingerprint Reader’, which doesn’t just do service as a biometric security device to lock your phone, but also gives you some navigation skills. You can use it to swipe through photos and pull down the notification screen, which are useful tasks which happen a lot. Especially valuable for one handed operation.

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We also especially liked the flexibility of the camera in Pro Mode, which lets you manually change things like exposure, ISO and other DSLR type functions, to get the perfect shot. And the scenes featuring light painting looked like they could really be fun. We’re including some sample images at the bottom to check out, but overall the camera was impressive.

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After a while with the phone you start to appreciate the overall ‘utility’ of the design, in terms of ease of use, customisability and general tactile enjoyment. It’s reminiscent of the mega Nexus 6P handset, but in a more elegant package. The speakers are nice and loud, the buttons impeccably finished and positioned, and the call and audio quality exactly what you would expect from a premium phone.

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The only thing we found a little strange is the lack of an app drawer, which again is a Huawei EMUI feature. If you use a lot of apps, it’s likely to make for a whole heap of screens you have to wade through to find your chosen app. Not as elegant as the Nexus 6P search and drawer function at all.

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The two things most people will focus on are battery life and processing power in terms of games and apps, and in these two areas the Mate S will definitely not disappoint. We were easily able to get a days’ standard use out of the phone, even with that slightly smaller battery size (we’re kind of used to 3000mAh + batteries nowadays), and the processor handled 3D games with style.

Conclusion
The Huawei Mate S is a great entrant to the Tier 2 phone market. We would say it’s probably one of the most beautiful phones on the market at the moment, and there are no compromises in the specifications either, which makes it a real bargain for those looking for an Android smartphone replacement. It may not have the brand credibility of Sony, but in all other departments it’s a worthy rival in every way.

Price: £399.99 SIM Free / $637.00 SIM Free

Image Samples:

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Specifications
SIM Type: Micro SIM Card
CPU: Kirin 935
CPU Processor: 8 Core, 4 x 2.2GHz + 4 x 1.5GHz
OS System: EMUI 3.1
RAM: 3GB
ROM: 32GB
External Memory: Micro SD card up to 128GB (not included)
Sensor: Proximity sensor, Acceleration sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Hall sensor

Network
Type: WCDMA, GSM, FDD-LTE
Band:
(2G): GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
(3G): WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
(4G): FDD LTE:B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B17/B20
GPS: Yes
Bluetooth: V4.0
WIFI: 802.11b/g/n, 2.4G

Screen
Screen Size: 5.5 inch
Screen Type: Capacitive, FHD

Camera
Camera Quantity: Dual
Front Camera: 8MP
Back Camera: 13MP

Connectivity Ports
2 x Micro SIM card slots
1 x TF card slot
1 x Micro USB
1 x 3.5mm earphone port

Other
Battery Types: Undetachable, Li-polymer Battery
Battery Capacity: 2700mAh
Size: 149.8mm x 75.3mm x 7.2mm
Weight: about 156g (including the battery)

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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