Android’s flagship pool is absolutely stocked with top-end competition right now, with the Samsung Galaxy S8 heading the pack – but here’s another phone you’ll want to keep an eye on.
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro fits in well, with a taller-than-average screen that dominates the front of the phone, plus plenty of top-end tech within. But if you’re thinking about spending big on a large phone, there’s something outside of the Android world worth considering, of course: Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus.
While it’s lost a bit of momentum thanks to the impending debut of the iPhone X, Apple’s revised Plus packs in a number of incremental perks that could sway you in its direction instead. Wondering which phone seems best? Here’s the categorical showdown, based on the specs and our brief hands-on time with the Mate 10 Pro so far.
DESIGN: FRESH OR FAMILIAR?
Huawei’s screen is larger and taller, at 6in and 18:9 aspect ratio – compared to 5.5in at 16:9 for the iPhone 8 Plus – but they’re both sitting in the 1080p zone. That’s below the Quad HD standard that many Android flagships shoot for these days, but it’s still plenty crisp for a pocket-sized device.
The Mate has the advantage of an OLED display, with its impressive contrast and deep blacks, plus it supports HDR10 content with a wider colour gamut. Meanwhile Apple’s LCD panel has True Tone tech, which adjusts the colours based on your ambient lighting, and it too uses a wide colour gamut.
We haven’t used these phones side by side yet, and we can’t make a firm call based solely on specs. That said, we expect that they won’t be far off in overall quality.
Likely Winner: Draw
CAMERA: DOUBLE THREATS
Both of these phones offer a double-camera experience on the back, albeit with some notable differences between the two. With the Apple iPhone 8 Plus, you get a pair of 12-megapixel cameras: a main wide-angle one at f/1.8 aperture and a telephoto one at f/2.8. Only the main sensor has optical image stabilisation onboard.
And the results are rather fantastic – we call it “one of the best smartphone cameras we’ve ever used.” You’ll get detailed, balanced, and lifelike shots with good lighting, and even in more challenging outdoor scenarios, the exposure is typically spot on. Low light shots are pretty solid, too – cleaner and sharper than in previous models.
Of course, you get some dual-camera perks as well. You can swap to the secondary camera for optical-style zooming, while the Portrait mode – with its blurred backdrops – works better than ever. The new Portrait Lighting feature even lets you tweak the results to your heart’s content.
Over on the Mate 10 Pro, you’ll find a 12MP main RGB sensor and a 20MP monochromatic sensor alongside. It’s the same kind of setup from Huawei’s P10 and P10 Plus, albeit now with both lenses at f/1.6 aperture.
From what we’ve tried so far, the results seem pretty impressive. Only the 12MP camera has optical image stabilisation, like the iPhone, but the 4-in-1 hybrid zoom should ensure speedy focusing. AI-assisted scene detection also comes into play, with machine learning algorithms helping to recognise the scene and adjust accordingly.
Our first impression was strong, but we haven’t seen enough to make a call yet – and the P10 and P10 Plus both suffered from a bit of over-sharpening in the processing. Hopefully that’s been dialed back a bit. But for now, we’ll call it a draw.
Likely Winner: Draw
PERFORMANCE: STRONGMEN HERE
The comparison here is exactly the same as between the Mate 10 Pro and iPhone X, since both Apples have the same kind of muscle inside: the new A11 Bionic chip alongside 3GB RAM.
Meanwhile, the Mate 10 Pro has Huawei’s new Kirin 970 chip (with 6GB RAM), itself promising a solid improvement in speed over the Kirin 960. On top of that, it also has a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) to help with the phone’s automated, AI-driven processes.
We suspect that the Mate 10 Pro will be just as speedy in everyday usage as Apple’s offering here, handling games, apps, and media with ease. However, the A11 Bionic has been slaying all Android comers in benchmark testing, showing that Apple has even more raw muscle available to play with – and we should see a similar result here, if purported benchmark comparisons are any indication.
Likely Winner: Apple iPhone 8 Plus
BATTERY AND PERKS: PRETTY GOOD, MATE
When it comes to battery life, this seems like a sure win for Huawei. The huge 4,000mAh battery pack inside the Mate 10 Pro is a far sight better than the iPhone’s 2,675mAh cell, not to mention a nice improvement over its flagship Android rivals. That should mean you’ll see extra hours of uptime, and the iPhone already provides a strong day’s charge.
As for storage, the Mate 10 Pro gives you a nice internal cache of 128GB, but has no option for microSD expandability. Of course, that’s true for Apple, as well, as the iPhone 8 Plus starts at 64GB storage – but you can bump up to a 256GB version instead for a staggering R3,000 more.
As far as other perks, each side has a fairly minor offering. Apple’s 3D Touch pressure sensitivity on the screen is moderately useful, but it hasn’t proven to be a hugely critical part of the iOS experience. Meanwhile, Huawei has a desktop mode that lets you plug the phone into an external display, pair a Bluetooth keyboard, and use it as a proper PC. But that’s a pretty niche benefit that we imagine most people won’t even bother trying.
Overall, Huawei should come out ahead on battery life, plus it has double the starting storage, even if Apple ultimately offers a larger version… for quite a bit more money. Huawei it is, then.
Likely Winner: Huawei Mate 10 Pro
INITIAL VERDICT: IT’S A CLOSE CALL
Truth be told, these phones seem largely comparable on paper and at a glance. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has the fresher design here and an advantage on battery life and storage, while the iPhone seems to have more power to play with. Meanwhile, the screens and cameras might end up being about even in terms of overall quality.
We’ll have to wait until we finish our Mate 10 Pro review to see whether any advantages or deficiencies pop up that might swing this battle strongly in either direction, but for now, it seems like they’re pretty close.
Where the Mate 10 Pro might find an advantage is with price. The iPhone 8 Plus starts at R15,500, and we don’t have an official price yet for the Mate 10 Pro, but its European price of €799 currently converts to about R13,000. If the SA price puts it at R1,000-R2,000 less than the iPhone 8 Plus, then Huawei could pull some prospective buyers over. Especially when the storage bump to the 256GB model puts the iPhone 8 Plus at R18,500 instead.
On the other hand, when it comes to the base models of both phones, that’s not a huge price difference if you’re already spending several thousand for a top-end smartphone. As such, you’ll have to consider things like operating system (iOS 11 vs Huawei’s EMUI skin atop Android 8.0 Oreo) and the app ecosystem. The overall experience, in short – and that’s somewhere that Apple always excels.
Overall, this should be an incredibly close decision, but we already know the iPhone 8 Plus is a fantastic overall package – and we don’t know that for sure with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro yet. So for now, given how tight this battle is, we’re giving the nod to Apple. For now.
Likely Winner: Apple iPhone 8 Plus