Huawei recently launched the Mate 8 in South Africa. Just to give you a better idea, the Mate range is the phablet lineup from Huawei. The Mate 8 is a premium device, which you can tell from the R12 000 price tag. A phablet is a very specialised device, and at 6″, you better *know* that you want one. It’s generally aimed at those who want a tablet and smartphone solution in one, because you don’t want to spend money buying both.
The Mate 8 is very similar to the Nexus 6P, which received great reviews. Except it has Huawei’s Emotion UI , which you either like or don’t. Each (Android) manufacturer tends to have their own overlay and unless it’s a Nexus device, you’re not gonna get vanilla Android. The most noticeable thing with Emotion UI, apart from trying to look like iOS, is there is no app drawer; but you can create folders for apps.
I’ve been playing with the Mate 8 for the last couple of weeks, and the biggest challenge was carrying a 6″ device around with me. I tried it in various scenarios, which is what this blog post is mainly about. If you want to read a full on review, you can find plenty of those on the web.
I took it to the spa, and when you want to pass time by reading, the 6-inches are fully appreciated because it kinda becomes a magazine substitute here. The last thing you want to do is squint or zoom in; so I had no problem with the size. Also, I managed to hold it with one hand (which is another issue with large devices), and scroll with the other. To its credit, the Mate 8 has a good design, with chamfered edges, making it easier to grip. The matte finish is great too, you won’t find it slipping out of your hands. The Mate 8 weighs 185g.
One of the first things I set up initially was the fingerprint reader. And I’m impressed at how fast it is to unlock the device – it took about ONE SECOND. In all the times I’ve used it, there was no lag, and no multiple attempts to unlock the device. It would have been ideal if the fingerprint reader was incorporated deeper into certain parts of Android, like when you add multiple Gmail accounts. You have to keep typing your PIN for each account added, despite it being added a minute after each other. When you add more than four accounts, you realise the fingerprint scanner could work great at this point.
If you look at the above pics, the location of the fingerprint reader is ideal. Right in the middle on top, beneath the lens. It’s a very natural position for your index finger to sit. And yes, the pictures are a clear indication that I’m taking selfies. You can choose under Fingerprint ID in Settings what functionality you’d also like it to double up as, in a ‘touch and hold gesture’. They include taking photos/videos; answering a call; and stop alarm. You can use it for all three.
Speaking of taking pics. The Mate 8 has a 16-megapixel main camera, and an 8-megapixel selfie-cam. The main modes are what we saw on the P8 – light painting; beauty; photo; video; and time lapse. You can then choose different settings for photos – panorama; HDR; super night; professional; watermark; and slow mo. You can also choose to set your own resolution, depending on storage space. It’s not necessary to keep the setting on 16MP (4608×3456), even 8MP (3264×2448) will do, which is on a 4:3 ratio, but if you want 16:9 you can get it in 6MP or 12MP. Video mode shoots in 1080p HD; was surprised it didn’t do 4K.
You can do fancy things at night with light painting mode, like the pic below. You can see my fingers in the background, but for the main part, you can see the patterns I made, in my kitchen no less. You can obviously take things up a notch with fancier stuff than just a lighter.
You can also play with car light trails, under “light painting” mode. Other options include “silky water” and “star track” for the night skies. This is an example of car light trails; not in the shot, my Fiat 500 🙂
Here’s a regular sunset shot – okay not *regular* but taken from a balloon in the sky, in HDR:
This is an example of a shot taken at night with not the best lighting. I took it in HDR mode instead of super night:
These above photos haven’t been colour corrected or edited, just resized. But is should give you an example of what photos it takes. As for selfies, it takes great front-facing pictures, in normal mode; not beauty. I’m not a fan of beauty mode because of how unnatural it is.
If you need to get writing done on-the-go, Microsoft’s Office for Android is excellent. I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Office, and Word is great. If you have an Office 365 subscription, just login and access your content on the cloud, or just save and email stuff to yourself if you don’t use the cloud. Another feature I like is when you’re switching between apps, you can see how much of RAM is being used, and with a single tap, you can free up some space. I usually don’t remember to keep killing apps running in the background, so prefer just freeing the RAM to do this. You can see a little summary of how much was cleared and how much you have available.
The device also comes with “Phone Manager”. This app is great because in one quick glance you can access a bunch of stuff to optimise your handset. You can choose the main “touch to optimise” or go into individual settings and tweak accordingly. I strongly suggest going into “battery manager” first and choosing custom settings. You can choose a power plan (performance, smart, ultra); choose which apps to run when the screen is turned off; view consumption level (after a couple of weeks I was on 46% hardware, and 54% software), amongst other things. Most days ended off with me having 66% of battery left, after 9pm. The battery is a whopping 4,000mAh. So if you’re using the Mate 8 as both smartphone and tablet, which is your primary consumption device, the battery is excellent.
The Mate 8 ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, so all the latest features with it is available to you immediately. I couldn’t find the Android Flappy Bird easter egg on the Mate 8 unfortunately but it wasn’t the end of the world. Some of my favourite little shortcuts on the Mate 8 (not relating to Marshmallow), was taking a screenshot by tapping your knuckle twice on the screen; using the Mate 8 in a smaller view mode; and hiding the network name on the home screen (okay this one is more of a setting).
Overall, the Mate 8 is a very ambitious handset from Huawei. If you look at competitor handsets (Galaxy Note 5/iPhone 6S Plus/Galaxy S7 Edge), it’s the cheapest of the lot. If you’re buying a Huawei handset, you always feel like you’re getting more phone for your money. As for Huawei’s Emotion UI, you’re either going to like it or not.
*Experiences captured in photos courtesy of Huawei. Pics featuring the Mate 8 were taken on the P9.
I’m giving away a Huawei Mate 8 handset to one lucky Wired to the Web reader. All you have to do is tell me via the comments section why you want/need a Huawei Mate 8. Tweeting about it is optional and *won’t* get you an extra entry. The competition will run until Sunday, 15 May at midday. A winner will be announced on this blog post on Monday, 16 May. Only one entry per person, open to South Africans only.
UPDATE – WINNER: The winning entry for Huawei Mate 8 is Mo… Congratulations!
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 14 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com