We are at the time when it is now more difficult to choose the right flagship smartphone for us. During the heydays of Apple, the iPhone was the only aspirational product by a lot of consumers. For someone who has been writing about technology and gadgets, I am still inside the ecosystem established by Apple that entails a lot of effort to get out off.
While I’m enjoying my time with Apple portable devices, I am ecstatically in love with the benefits I get from Android on my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. The device where Google’s Android is installed offers a lot of features that make the overall experience unique from Apple.
The phone’s enhanced cameras co-engineered by Leica shows superiority among the competition. Its screen is the best we’ve seen from the company and the performance is undeniably better than our expectations.
The big question remains though – which one is the better flagship smartphone?
I took both phones to the test over the weekend to give you my recommendation. There are several features that we would like to zero on to for this comparison, and we’ll give each section a point and determine our verdict in the end. However, at the end of the day, you have the last say and you can just simply take our recommendations as part of your note to have an informed decision.
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For the purpose of our test, we had to make sure that Smart Tone or True Tone features are disabled on both phones. This will allow us to see how well it looks and performs without altering the default color of the screen.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro has more screen real estate than the one from Apple. This is a major advantage of the former as it retains to have bigger coverage and space without sacrificing the phone’s overall size. It is also good to note that Mate 20 Pro’s screen has curved edges, like the one on Galaxy Note 9. There’s no function associated with it though apart from aesthetics. Unlike the one from Note 9 where there are gestures that may be used on it, or on OPPO Find X where light wraps around it whenever there’s notification, Mate 20 Pro’s screen is just all about beauty.
The iPhone XS Max’s screen is bigger albeit too wide in vertical position. This isn’t necessarily bad. As Apple’s first phone with a “taller” screen, they did an amazing job of making the phone a significant update from last year’s iPhone 8 Plus. It is the iPhone that has the biggest screen relative to its body size.
According to DisplayMate, “ full-screen design on the iPhone XS Max results in a 21% larger Display Screen Area than the iPhone 8 Plus, which has the same overall phone dimensions.” If you’re coming from last year’s iPhone, this is a good reason to switch to the new one. Otherwise, if you want something smaller in the pocket but with huge screen real estate and a different kind of software ecosystem, consider switching to Mate 20 Pro.
In terms of quality, the Mate has more pronounced depth, saturation, and contrast at default settings. I am not entirely a fan of its default level of saturation as photos almost already look so unreal compared to the iPhone. However, the added pump of saturation on the new Mate’s screen is the best we’ve seen on a phone, even better than the one we recently reviewed, the Galaxy Note 9.
Then, we have the additional features that make both devices stand out in the competition. Huawei’s latest smartphone does not just have awesome quality but it also has a nifty trick underneath – a fingerprint sensor. This is the same technology found on Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design that was introduced last year.
The iPhone XS Max, on the other hand, doesn’t have a Touch ID anymore, but it also has a trick that is somewhat familiar to iPhone users for quite some time now – 3D Touch.
Who wins this round? It’s a tie! I love the screen on the Mate 20 Pro as much as I like the one on iPhone XS Max. Each device has its own merit in terms of quality, size and extra features. The advantages of Huawei’s star product in terms of screen quality isn’t remote from the iPhone; whatever nifty trick Huawei has underneath its screen can be topped by the iPhone’s 3D touch technology.
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We do a lot of things with our smartphones. In fact, my average total mobile phone screen time is around 3.5 hours a day, and mostly associated with social media and gaming. You may be spending more (or less) time than that, but that solidifies the fact that we are very engaged with our network-connected smartphone more than ever before.
In terms of wireless network, both devices feature the same 2G and 3G bands but Apple has more LTE network band compatibility. This means that the iPhone XS Max can be used in most number of telcos around the world, provided that the unit is network unlocked.
The iPhone released in the Philippines is dual-SIM but it’s unlike the devices launched in China and Hong Kong where you can really put two SIM cards. My iPhone XS Max can only house 1 SIM and an eSIM, which is a virtual SIM that telcos offer.
The new Mate 20 Pro can house 2 nano SIM cards or 1 nano SIM card + 1 NM card. It’s an interesting take on making use of the other SIM card slot, which is plus a factor on the new Mate. Unfortunately, the NM card isn’t available yet as of this writing, but I might get one once it comes out locally.
Who wins this round? I must give it to Huawei Mate 20 Pro! Its saving grace is the physical dual SIM slot, which may be very useful for a lot of Filipinos! The iPhone XS Max has more compatible LTE Bands that may be used in Canada, US and Japan but almost all the bands being used in the Philippines are on both devices. The only major advantage of iPhone XS Max is its compatibility with LTE Band 41 (2500) is being used in the Philippines, US and Japan.
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For the purpose of our test, we had to make sure that both phones are shooting in Auto mode without any AI enhancements. The only time we had to flip a switch was during portrait/aperture modes. The iPhone XS Max does not have an Aperture Mode, so we used Portrait mode for the purpose of comparison. All photos were shot with the phones’ rear camera.
For the most part, the camera of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro produced the best color saturation and contrast. What you see on screen (thanks to both devices’ OLED screens) are what you see on our monitor set at sRGB setting. I am not a professional photographer, but I must say that I’ve got my eyes trained to understand how to spot accuracies and I have photographer-friends whom I asked for help to identify which photos are better.
At auto mode during the day, I noticed that the color of the sky is more accurate on the photo shot on iPhone XS Max. It does not overemphasize color saturation and contrast on other subjects too to the point of having a mask or filter that boosts certain levels. This usually happens when Mate 20 Pro’s camera is pointed to the sky. Photos shot on it has more pronounced saturation and contrast, which give a surreal representation of reality. It isn’t a bad thing as the photos tend to “wow” people, but at the end of the day, you want your photos to look natural unless you’re into creative mobile photography.
Without night mode, the color of the skies looks better and accurate on the Mate 20 Pro. This has always been the major advantage of Huawei starting from P20 Series. At auto mode, Mate 20 Pro drops down the exposure level, lessens the ISO and cranks up aperture level to maximum (f/1.8) to suck in more light. It’s amazing how things work on Mate.
When Night Mode kicks in, Mate 20 Pro works wonders! This supremacy has carried over from the P20 Pro and it will be a shame if Mate 20 Pro failed to top it off. Still, Huawei proved that they have got one of the best smartphones that can shoot great photos in mode.
Both smartphones shine when it comes to landscape photos. The major advantage of the Mate 20 Pro though is its ability to shoot in wide angle. This gives you more options to shoot certain subjects using Mate.
When taking photos with aperture mode enabled on Mate 20 Pro or Portrait Mode on iPhone XS Max, the former excels in many ways: you can recalibrate the aperture at post and depth level is accurate. There are times, however, that I find my subjects shot on iPhone XS Max using portrait mode look more accurate and sharper. Otherwise, while both phones work great using this mode, I’d give the points to Mate 20 Pro.
Conversely, for a smartphone, the various shooting modes available on Huawei Mate 20 pro gives a more compelling reason to get this over the iPhone XS Max. If you want to get your money’s worth, Huawei Mate 20 pro offers a variety of ways to use your phone as a camera like you’ve never done before.
Something worth sharing is its ability to take super macro photos, and that’s something that I’ve never seen or tried on a smartphone. Flip the camera, enable Master AI, set the camera at auto mode, and bring the lens as close as you can get, and make magic.
And this is still like scratching the surface of what the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can do!
Who wins this round? Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s advantage is variability since you’ve got plenty of shooting capabilities with it. On the other hand, the iPhone takes sharper photos with a balanced level of saturation and contrast at auto mode. Nevertheless, both smartphones take great photos and there’s no reason to regret if you have either one of both phones.
Without question, Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s battery life slays the one on iPhone XS Max. For starters, the former’s capacity is 4200mAh as opposed to the latter’s meager 3174 mAh battery. It can last for more than a day with around 15% left juice at 2 am with the following conditions:
- LTE on, WiFi on, Bluetooth on
- Screen is set to 60% brightness
- Performance Mode: Disabled
- Most used app: Facebook, Instagram, Chrome and Ragnarok M
iPhone XS Max, with the same settings (except for Performance Mode, which the phone doesn’t have), it leaves me with 7% battery left at 2 am.
Mate 20 Pro has supercharge feature, which enables the phone to charge the device up to 70% in 30 minutes. Apple has the same feature that lets you charge the iPhone XS Max to 50% in 30 minutes, but you will need to spend PhP2890 for the 30W charger plus another PhP1,190 for a Type-C to Lightning charging cable. Huawei, on the other hand, packed the compatible supercharger inside the retail box so you don’t have to buy it separately.
Oh, do I also have to say that Mate 20 Pro can charge the iPhone XS Max wirelessly? What a way to troll Apple, Huawei!
And then we have the price! Let’s put it this way: both are flagship devices that relatively offer the same features and performance. Software ecosystems are different, but both relatively provide the same experience. Most of the apps for the iPhone are now on Android; and if you’re a fan of cloud storage, both devices have the same features.
The cost of the current iPhone XS Max starts at PhP75,000. This is more expensive by PhP25,000 than the Mate 20 Pro. Should you pick the latter, you can save up the balance or buy the new iPad 9.7 plus an Apple Pencil if you can’t leave the ecosystem just yet. Conversely, it is obvious that Mate wins this round.
Giancarlo Viterbo is a Filipino Technology Journalist, blogger and Editor of gadgetpilipinas.net, He is also a Geek, Dad and a Husband. He knows a lot about washing the dishes, doing some errands and following instructions from his boss on his day job. Follow him on twitter: @gianviterbo and @gadgetpilipinas.