Huawei has a new flagship, and boy is it hot.
The company officially launched the oft-leaked P20 and P20 Pro today at a special media event in Paris. (A third variant, the P20 Lite, was soft-launched in China a week ago.) This time, Huawei’s got one goal: Crush every other smartphone camera with an insane amount of resolution.
The 6.1-inch P20 Pro is the most interesting device here, with a 24-megapixel selfie camera and a triple camera on the rear, consisting of a 40-megapixel RGB sensor, a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, and an 8-megapixel sensor with a telephoto lens and 3x optical zoom (and up to 5x “hybrid zoom”). Note that this is very different from previous Huawei dual-camera setups, where the monochrome sensor had the higher resolution.
The cameras have f/1.8, f/1.6, and f/2.4 apertures, respectively, and Huawei’s camera-based AI is also on board.
There are other tricks, too, such as Leica’s color temperature sensor (which should result in better color reproduction), extremely high light sensitivity (with a maximum of 102400 ISO, whereas most phones max out at 6400 ISO), AI-based image stabilization, fast predictive focus, and a dedicated ISP (image signal processor) chip.
That type of overload does not necessarily result in the best smartphone camera on the market (remember Nokia Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel camera?), but Huawei has been building up to this for a while. That said, the company seems pretty confident it has balanced megapixels with image quality. Bigger camera sensors equates to better photos (especially for low-light shots), and the 40-megapixel sensor is a beast: It’s 223 percent larger than the iPhone X’s 12-megapixel image sensor and 170 percent bigger than the Galaxy S9+’s 12-megapixel camera sensor.
The company’s Mate 10 Pro has a 20- and 12-megapixel combo, and it takes pretty amazing photos, so I’m very excited to spend some time with the P20 Pro and see whether Huawei’s doubling down in the camera department paid off.
The P20 Pro’s no slouch for shooting video, either. Like the S9 and S9+, it shoots slow motion at 960 frames per second at 720p HD resolution.
The Huawei P20 is a bit smaller at 5.8 inches. It also has a 24-megapixel selfie camera, but only has a dual camera setup on the back — a 20- and 12-megapixel monochrome/RGB combo, as seen on earlier Huawei models.
On the front, the phones have an iPhone X-style notch on top, and a not-entirely-slim bezel on the bottom, housing an oval fingerprint scanner. Hate the notch? There’s a setting that lets you “hide” the notch with a black bar on top of the screen.
It looks as if Huawei finally realized it has to do something radical to make these phones stand out from the crowd because both phones come in a new Twilight color that’s a pretty flashy gradient from green to purple. If you prefer to blend in, both phones will also be available in black, blue and pink gold.
Both devices are powered by Huawei’s Kirin 970 processor and have 128GB of storage. The P20 has a 2,244 x 1,080 resolution display and the P20 Pro has a 2,240 x 1,080 resolution.
The P20 Pro has 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 4,000 mAh battery, and IP67 water and dust resistance. The P20 is only splash resistant (up to IP53 specs); it has 4GB of RAM, and a 3,400 mAh battery. And in case you’re wondering: yes, it has a face unlock feature (2D-based that unlocks in 0.5 seconds).
Huawei has also improved the phones’ audio capabilities. Both devices support hi-res Bluetooh audio transfer, and the company is also selling (separately) three new audio accessories. Huawei FreeBuds are wireless stereo earbuds; the Active Noise Canceling Earphones 3 support hi-res audio and noise cancellation, and the Huawei DAC Headphone Amplifier has an “audiophile-grade” DAC chip that can decode 384kHz, 32-bit audio, as well as power those power-hungry, high-end headphones.
Software-wise, both phones run on Android 8.1 and Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 user interface, which still looks a lot like iOS.
As if all this is not enough, the company also announced an ultra high-end model, the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS. It’s similar to the Huawei P20 Pro in terms of specs (triple rear camera, 4,000 mAh battery), but it stands out with IP67 water/dust-resistance and something we’ve only seen on Vivo phones so far, an in-screen fingerprint scanner. The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS will be available in black and red.
Pricing and release details haven’t been announced yet. Considering their specs, though, you can probably expect the phones to be pricey. The cameras on the P20 Pro alone scream premium.
Raymond Wong contributed to this report.