Should you be buying a Huawei smartphone now?
You’re tempted to buy a new Huawei P30 Pro handset. Boasting a wide range of features and a gorgeous colour scheme, this sexy baby would have been in your pocket by now, if Google and Android had not thrown a spanner in the works.
Caught in the crossfire of the US-China trade war, Chinese tech giant Huawei has faced one hurdle after another ever since the US government blacklisted it last month. The latest in a string of updates sees a popular social media platform join Google in announcing new software restrictions on Huawei smartphones.
But what do all these statements mean? It’s difficult to keep track, and even more so to make sense of them. The cacophony surrounding the issue has spurred some users into panic-selling their Huawei handsets on online marketplaces like Carousell, which we feel is not the smartest thing to do.
Should you join the fire sale?
Let’s set the record straight: the bans demanded by the US government will not affect current Huawei phones at all. That includes phones which have been sold, as well as brand-new-in-box phones in stock at retailers. Simply put, if your worry is no longer having access to Google and Facebook apps and services, keep your Huawei phone.
In fact, there’s no better time to buy that phone than right now—when the Android OS and other Google apps are pre-installed on the Huawei handsets already on store shelves. Google has said that current Huawei users can update these apps and the OS as long as their phones shall live.
At this point, it’s not certain whether future versions of Huawei phones will or will not be pre-installed with Google and the Android OS. It’s all still rumours right now and nothing has been confirmed.
The fate awaiting future versions of Huawei handsets
Huawei did not become the world’s second-largest smartphone maker by chance. Over the 10 years Huawei has been around, it has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android. Also, Huawei is one of the few smartphone companies which boasts its own chip division.
Huawei still has access to the open-source Android ecosystem. Tim Watkins, Huawei’s vice-president for western Europe, reports that the company has its own operating system in the works, too.
This OS has already been tested in domestic markets and “can kick in very quickly”. After all, Google services have been blocked in China for years—that means years of Huawei surviving without them.
According to Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, “The US government’s actions at the moment underestimate [our] capabilities”.
In a letter to staff, president He Tingbo of Huawei’s chip division HiSilicon said that it has been secretly developing back-up components for years in anticipation of this exact scenario.
Huawei also sources from a diverse range of hardware suppliers, including companies in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and its own home country, China.
Business as usual for Huawei
Just last week, Huawei rolled out its EMUI 9.0 update for older smartphone models, making sure their users enjoy the same upgrades that newer ones do. It’s business as usual, and for Huawei that means stellar customer support.
The recent local launch of the Amber Sunrise P30 Pro included a complimentary gift bundle worth S$200+ with every purchase. Earlier this year, Huawei also introduced monthly Service Days with free phone sanitising services, screen protectors with application, and out of warranty labour charges waived. Even back in April, customers queueing overnight for the P30 Pro were treated to breakfast and given bottles of water.
Whatever happens next for Huawei, you can be sure that they will continue to deliver quality products for their customers. And you can’t deny that they have the technological prowess to back it up.
An honest look at the P30 Pro
When it was first launched here, their P30 series sold out in just a couple of hours. Its main draw was its top-of-the-line smartphone camera technology, which includes an extreme optical Huawei SuperZoom lens. You can read more about its specs in an earlier post we published here.
We have had the chance to try their latest flagship model P30 Pro for ourselves. First of all, it’s the prettiest phone we’ve ever seen. Here it is in Breathing Crystal:
The holographic back is attractive enough in itself, but the phone also packs serious punch in terms of battery life and storage capacity, both upgraded from the previous P20 series along with other hardware.
Another plus point is the space-optimising design. Huawei has expanded the display across the surface area and added curved edges. The physical fingerprint scanner of the P20 phones has been abandoned in favour of on-screen fingerprint ID, and the front camera notch has been made even smaller. This gives you much more usable space for photo and video content.
The P30 Pro currently runs on EMUI 9.1. To compare how far Huawei has innovated its products, my regular personal smartphone is an earlier generation device on EMUI 8.0.
One pet peeve this reviewer has with her own phone is that app icon shapes are inconsistent, with some round and some square. EMUI 9.1 makes all app icons round-edged squares and uses a more flat design, making the overall appearance of the home screen much neater. It also does away with most of the excessive battery-saving optimisation notifications that have plagued Huawei users over the past few upgrades.
With EMUI 8.0, notification content is hidden on the lock screen, and I have to unlock the phone before I can read it. This problem is now non-existent, as EMUI 9.1 allows you to expand messages and notifications from the lock screen itself. It’s much more convenient and intuitive for users.
But it’s the Leica Quad Camera system that steals the show. Its low-light capabilities are way above industry standards, as are the zoom features that everyone has been raving about. Here’s how a tree looks at night on the two phones (what I saw with the naked eye was close to the image on the left):
When standing a metre away from a cat, here’s what I got with the zoom (not at its maximum):
The zoom is pretty amazing, yes, but what really impressed me was the colours and definition the P30 cameras provide when it comes to night photos. Without the need for any manual adjustments, the raw photos are already better than some I’ve seen from professional cameras.
The P30 Pro even works well with backlight, which usually only allows you to capture either the foreground or the background. Here you can see both, neither over- nor underexposed:
It auto-focuses almost immediately, and the photos come out sharp and clear in vibrant colours. A couple more of my point-and-shoot attempts:
Huawei is ushering in a new age for smartphone cameras, and right now they are unparalleled in this department.
The US needs Huawei too
American software companies and Huawei are in a symbiotic relationship. Google, for instance, needs Huawei just as much as Huawei needs Google. When Google first suspended business with Huawei, the Mate 20 Pro was removed from their Android Q Beta programme, which gives app developers early access to future versions of Android for testing. However, it has since made it back to the list of supported devices.
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Google has asked to be exempted from any ban concerning Huawei, and is in talks with the US government to reach a consensus. Plus, it’s not the only company that wants to keep Huawei.
Where Facebook is concerned, it’s extremely telling that they’ve chosen to ban app pre-installations on new Huawei devices rather than take more drastic measures to curtail Huawei users. This means that you can simply download Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat from the app store yourself.
Although many US companies have denounced partnership with Huawei, it seems that all parties involved are trying to work around the government’s bans to support the company. Huawei’s quiet confidence in its ability to work independently has, ironically, put them in fear of losing Huawei’s business instead.
What should you do? Keep calm and carry on
All things considered, Huawei has shown that they are fully capable of surviving, even thriving without their US counterparts. At the same time, these counterparts are clearly trying to lend Huawei whatever support they can without going against governmental restrictions.
So there’s no need to panic about your Huawei phone becoming obsolete. Or if you’re considering the switch over, now’s the time. We are sure that these challenges will only push Huawei to develop and innovate further and faster than ever before, and if the P30 Pro is any indication, we can’t wait to see more.