Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro hands on: Enter the Matrix with the do-it-all Android phones

If Huawei had polled Android fans about what they wanted in a phone, the Mate 20 Series—which includes the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro—would be pretty close to what you’d get. There are distinct differences between the two handsets, but separately, the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 Pro might be the two best Android phones ever made based purely on specs and features.

Like last year, the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are not clones of each other, and each has its own defining characteristics. On the Mate 20, you’ll get a 6.5-inch Full HD display with a small teardrop notch, while the Mate 20 Pro brings a 6.4-inch Quad HD display with a curved OLED and a wider notch. There’s still a bit of baked-in confusion because the Pro model is smaller than the standard Mate 20, but for the most part, it earns its surname.

mate 20 notchAdam Patrick Murray/IDG

The notches on the Mate 20 (left) compared to the Mateo 20 Pro (right) are very different. 

Both handsets are gorgeous. On the Mate 20 Pro you can barely see the bezels at the top and bottom, and the sides of the screen drape around the edges like the Galaxy Note 9. Even the bezel-heavier Mate 20 has dramatically trimmed the non-screen areas to eliminate the distracting Huawei name from the front. In the increasingly homogenous world of glass backs and notches, the Mate 20s still manage to stand out, mostly due to the attention Huawei has paid to a design element that’s usually overlooked: the arrangement of the camera. Instead of a simple horizontal or vertical array in the center or the corner like every other phone does, Huawei turned its triple-camera array into a square called the Matrix, with the flash occupying the upper right corner. It’s a playful, distinctive characteristic that will set the Mate 20 apart more than any color will.

The Mate 20 phones are pretty incredible on the inside as well. Huawei has spared no expense with its flagship product line, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an Android handset that packs a more powerful punch:

Mate 20

  • Display: 6.53-inch LCD, 2244 x 1080
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB 
  • Battery: 4,000mAH

Mate 20 Pro

  • Display: 6.39-inch OLED, 3120 × 1440
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Battery: 4,200mAH
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Next-generation features

But while the design will draw people in, the features of the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are what will compel them to drop upwards of $900 on a new handset. It starts with security. While there’s a standard fingerprint sensor on the back of the Mate 20, you won’t find one on the Pro. That’s because Huawei has introduced two new secure biometrics: facial recognition and in-display fingerprint scanning.

mate 20 twilightAdam Patrick Murray/IDG

Huawei’s trademark twilight color looks great in any light.

Inside the Pro’s notch you’ll find a 3D depth sensing camera system similar to the one Apple uses for Face ID. There’s a dot projector and a flood illuminator for secure facial unlocking, and it’s secure enough to use for unlocking password-protected apps as well.

If you’d rather unlock the old-fashioned way, Huawei has put a pressure-detecting fingerprint sensor under the glass of the Mate 20 Pro. I didn’t get a chance to try out 3D face unlocking, but in my brief testing of the in-display fingerprint sensor, it felt about as accurate and as fast as the sensors from 2-3 years ago, which is to say it still worked well.

Huawei has packed its new phones with the biggest batteries you’re likely to find in a smartphone: 4,000mAh in the Mate 20 and 4,200mAh in the Mate 20 Pro. That should be more than enough to charge through a full day, and it might even help your friend’s Galaxy phone last longer too. That’s because the Mate 20 Pro can double as a charger. Seriously: Just lay another Qi-enabled phone on its back, and the Mate 20 will share what’s remaining of its charge with the other phone. That’s the kind of feature that’s so ingenious, I’m surprised no other phone-maker has though of it before.

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