In a moment that could have extracted a gasp from even the most ardent Apple fan, Huawei CEO Richard Yu brought a toy panda to life with the power of his Mate 20 Pro.
Standing on stage at the launch in a packed London event centre, Yu demonstrated the augmented reality capability of the phone by 3-d scanning a toy panda and then having a digital version run, jump, do cartwheels and even pose for a selfie.
The dramatic display was an Apple-esque moment if there ever was one.
Huawei, the world's second-largest cellphone manufacturer have launched the latest members of its 'Mate' smartphone family.
The Mate 20 and slightly larger Mate 20 Pro were unveiled to hoards of journalists, bloggers and social media influencers at a packed London event centre.
The Mate 20 Pro, sporting the company's latest mobile processor takes industry line honors, being crowned 'The world's most powerful smartphone'.
A refreshed design and a raft of new AI and camera features accent the company's most aggressive bid yet to tackle the high-end smartphone market dominated by Apple and Samsung. Almost every feature appears carefully choreographed to outperform the latest generation Samsung and Apple devices at every turn.
It might be branded 'Mate', but in reality this device is the iPhone nemesis.
Smarter/ Faster/ More Efficient
The Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro feature the company's new 'Kirin 980' Artificial Intelligence processor. Announced just over a week ago, the Kirin 980 has been independently verified as the world's fastest mobile phone processor to date. The next-generation processor performs anywhere from 75 per cent and 226 per cent faster than its predecessor, while being 30 per cent smaller than its competitors and allowing for a myriad of Artificial Intelligence functions such as automatic, live photo editing.
The company revealed performance data showing the Mate 20 Pro consistently trouncing Apple's latest iPhone offerings in tests, ranging from the speed to launch an application or multitask, to playing games. The Mate 20 Pro launched Instagram for example almost 4 times faster than the latest iPhone Xs.
The company says the next generation chip also offers significant benefits to battery life with general tasks like web browsing up to 58 per cent more energy efficient and high-end gaming 178 per cent more efficient. For 'Super Heavy' users Huawei says the 4,200 mah Mate Pro battery will last 33 per cent longer than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and 38 percent longer than the iPhone Xs Max.
Next Generation AR Camera
A core focus of the upgraded Mates are a new threee-camera setup which Huawei claims trumps the iPhone and competing Samsung devices in everything from low-light performance, to focal length.
Engineered in partnership with German optics titan 'Zeiss', Each of the three lenses ranges in image size from 8 to 40 megapixel, with the camera sensor itself 125 per cent larger than that of both the iPhone Xs and the Galaxy Note 9. Preliminary testing revealed richer and sharper images that were less subject to grainy images in low light conditions when contrast to an equivalent Apple iPhone.
The company demonstrated a new version of its AI camera technology which smoothes skin imperfections, identifies highlights and amplifies and colour grades photos on the fly.
The Mate 20 is designed to create Instagram-ready pictures, with the click of the shutter button, and without any editing by the user. It was a feature which proved favourite with the hoards of influencers and bloggers in the moments after getting their hands on demonstration devices. They're features which executives confess they believe will resonate with consumers in retail stores.
Beyond his panda wizardry, Huawei CEO Yu also demonstrated a new camera feature which uses the phone's Artificial Intelligence processor to reveal the calorie details of virtually any food placed in front of the phone's lens.
He also took a few shots at Apple. When announcing a wireless charging feature that lets users not only charge the Mate 20 wirelessly but also leverage its battery to boost the charge of another phone, Huawei executives opted for a slide displaying a Mate 20 giving a power boost to an iPhone on its last legs - something which elicited a light chuckle from a broad cross-section of the audience.
The Mate 20 series also charges 4 times faster than the iPhone Xs Max for those playing along.
Coming of Age
Visually, both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro boast a new rounded screen and textured glass back, meaning the chance of your 6.53" screen investment breaking free from wet or clumsy hands has been downsized from last year's model.
The 'notch' which houses the selfie camera and interferes with the screen at the top of most high-end smartphones today is a largely unnoticeable 1.7 millimeters smaller than the iPhone's, but the width of the phone at its narrowest edge is also half that of the iPhone XS and XR.
The Mate 20 event served as both a product release and coming-of-age milestone for Huawei. It wasn't just the team of Zeiss engineers on hand to laud their partnership with the organization which began in 1988 primarily selling cellphone network infrastructure and eventually smartphones into the budget market category.
Google executives were around too, endorsing the product for the commercial environment by dolling out the much vaunted 'Android Enterprise Verified' security badge to the new Mates. Then there was a final 'just one more thing' announcement to add to the list. The CEO of Porsche Design arrived on stage to announce his organisation would be producing their own custom leather, limited-edition 'Porsche Design Mate 20'.
If the brief from Huawei executives to its hoards of engineers and partners like Zeiss, ARM and Porsche was to outperform its competitors at virtually all costs, it seems to have delivered remarkably well. Whether that will be enough to wrestle the latest iToy out of the hands of staunch Apple loyalists remains to be seen. But today's message was clear, Huawei has arrived (possibly driving a Porsche) and with a phone like the Mate 20 that should certainly turn heads in California and South Korea.
Preorders for the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro start October 19th at Spark and 2Degrees. Each will also be available in selected retailers from November 2nd. The Mate 20 will retail for $1199 with the Mate 20 Pro priced at $1499.
They're price tags heftier than some low-end competitors, but still several hundred dollars shy of the top of the range iPhone.
- Will Trafford travelled to London courtesy of Huawei.