With a 5.5-inch screen, the Mate S doesn’t boast quite the same mammoth proportions as last year’s Mate 7, but large displays run in the Mate’s family and this phone is no exception. With a rounded back, Huawei claims the phone is on 2.65 mm at its thinnest point, and 7.2mm at its thickest. WIRED went hands-on with the phone immediately after its launch and our first impression of the device was that Huawei has far exceeded its previous efforts at creating a large phone that is still a pleasure to use.
Its more diminutive proportions make it far easier to hold and its simple touch features, like the ability to simply use a knuckle to open an app or take a screenshot, unlock some of the potential of what in previous generations has been a slightly awkward device to handle. It doesn’t feel like a great deal has been done to alter the design of the phone, but its major pain points seem — at least on first glance — to have disappeared.
Under the hood is an octa-core processor with four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and four cores clocked at 1.5Ghz. This is supported by 3GB of RAM and a 2,700mAh battery. Considering this is a large phone at the top end of Huawei’s range, this is about what we’d expect in terms of raw power, but probably slightly less than what we’d like to see in terms of battery.
The phone comes equipped with the second generation of Huawei’s fingerprint sensor, which promises improved recognition speeds of 100 percent from the one that appeared on the Mate 7. The sensor can be used for a variety of tasks other than security, including erasing notifications, previewing pictures and hold and accept phone calls — all features designed to make this big handset easy to use with one hand.
Huawei claims the Mate’s camera has been designed to cater both to beginners and professionals. It boasts a 13-megapixel four-colour sensor (most smartphones only have three) and optical image stabilisation, as well as a dSLR-level image processor. We’ll reserve judgment on the camera until we spend some time with the phone, but for all its merits, it’s unlikely the Mate S will genuinely serve as a dSLR replacement.
Huawei’s selfie mode with its ability to soften and morph your face has always been a joy to play with, but the Mate S takes it up a notch, offering not only an 8-megapixel camera and the requisite software but a forward-facing flash that will bathe your visage in soft, flattering light.
Given that Samsung chose to announce its latest flagships, the S6 edge+ and the Note 5 last month, IFA will be rather short of smartphones this year. Huawei’s Mate S will only have to share the limelight with Sony, which is expected to release at least one handset of its own. Huawei is currently the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer and with the Mate S it is fully taking aim at its rival’s larger devices — the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6 Plus.
Last year’s Mate model was extraordinarily popular in China, Huawei’s home market, but the phone won’t be restricted to Asian market. The phone will be on sale in Europe, a growth area Huawei has been increasingly focused on over the last year. The phone will be available in pink, champagne, grey and gold to pre-order online from 15 September. The 32GB model will be priced at 649 euros (£477), whereas the 64GB model will set you back 699 euros (£513).