Tipping point: that pivotal moment in time where all the conditions are right, your status bar maxes out, and you level up from protégé to hero.
For some it comes by divine moment; others still by hitting critical mass.
For Huawei, this milestone is achieved with the launch of its P20 and P20 Pro. Unveiled today in Paris, these monumental smartphones will one day be remembered as the devices that ushered the company into ubiquity.
But first, as soon as they hit shelves early next month, they are meant to be enjoyed. Earlier this week we spent some hands-on time with the P20, and here’s what you can look forward to.
Designed to stand out
In person and in the hand, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro look stunning and feel amazing. They are improved over last year’s models with rounded aluminum corners, a glass back that shimmers when hit by light, and just the right amount of curves to give it a softer feel.
But what’s most impressive is the phone’s range of color options. One color in particular stands out; it’s called Twilight, a gradient finish that fades from purple to blue and then green. While the Twilight P20 looks good in photos, nothing comes quite close to the moment when the sun’s rays hit the phone’s back and it explodes with color.
Earlier this year, I spoke with Huawei’s Chief Brand Officer Gloria Cheung about the importance of color and how a variety of finishes has always been important to the Huawei design story. While many folks gravitate to standards like black, silver, and gold, it’s nice to see options like Twilight, Midnight Blue, and the other gradient finish Pink Gold.
Huawei is clear about its intent to fuse both art and technology, and hopes that the P20 will attract a generation of users that care as much about technology as they do art, fashion, and pop culture. It’s evident too in its choice of its launch venue, The Grand Palais, also home to Chanel’s haute couture fashion shows.
Both phones sport the new trend of taller but narrower displays, with near edge-to-edge screens and you guessed it, a notch. Having also used an iPhone X, the notch doesn’t bother me as much, but if it’s notch your thing, there’s an option to fill the space around it with black giving your P20 a more traditional look.
Unlike most phones that come with a notch, the phone still has a bit of chin, enough space for a fingerprint sensor which also acts as a home button with gestures for going back and multitasking. The saves you that tiny bit of screen real estate normally taken up by on-screen buttons. I like that the fingerprint sensor is up front, even if it ruins the all-screen illusion.
P20 vs P20 Pro
The phone comes in two sizes: the 5.8-inch P20 and the 6.1-inch P20 Pro.
Both phones are slightly different with the P20 Pro the obvious superior sibling. It has the better OLED display, more memory, water and dust resistance, and a bigger battery.
While we are unable to verify at this point, Huawei promises the P20 Pro should last as long as last year’s Mate 10 Pro, which lasts me about a day and a half on a single charge.
Even with the switch to a glass back, neither phone gets wireless charging. Reps from Huawei tell us wireless charging speeds are not fast enough to justify the feature. With its bundled supercharger though, you can go from zero to 58 percent in 30 minutes.
There are some concessions that need to be pointed out. Neither model has a headphone jack and no room for expandable storage; instead, the phone comes bundled with a 3.5mm audio to USB-C adapter, and a generous 128GB of storage space as the standard.
The P20 is only splash resistant. I would have loved to see it come with the same water resistance as its big brother.
For a complete rundown of specs, check out our launch article.
The Best Cameras
If there’s one place where Huawei’s spent the most development, it’s on its cameras — which are, as of today, the highest rated by independent camera rating firm DxOMark.
It’s not hard to see why. There are tons of improvements to talk about: tweaks that make it easier to focus on subjects quicker, to new sensors that produce better colors, and super slow-mo 960fps video capture just so that its competition does not get a leg up.
Many will (secretly) appreciate the high-res 24-megapixel selfie camera, which is often left out of high-end phones.
The P20 Pro again gets the better end of the stick in terms of cameras. In fact, it has not just two like on the standard P20 (one monochrome and another with color), but three rear Leica cameras; one is a 3x zoom lens (more than the 2x we’re used to from the likes of Samsung and Apple), one black-and-white camera, and one incredibly ridiculous 40-megapixel main camera.
While that’s a great conversation starter, one of its biggest camera achievements comes in the space of low-light photography. Without getting too technical, Huawei managed to squeeze in an image sensor that’s larger than those found on all of the best camera smartphones available today, and boosted its maximum ISO to 102400 which is in DSLR (not smartphone) territory.
They claim the P20’s low-light abilities are so good that it can shoot at one lux of light, which is basically close to pitch dark.
Hardware improvements are only one half of Huawei’s camera story.
Since last year’s Mate 10, artificial intelligence has played a role in how well its cameras perform. That phone could detect objects and adjust camera settings to best suit the conditions and the subject.
On the P20, we’re seeing AI take a more active role. Huawei is calling it AI-powered Master Photography. Think of it as the right photography skills for the right moment.
For example, if you’re taking a photo of your mom, the camera detects this and changes to portrait mode so you get that nice background blur. Slightly crooked composition? The camera will show a horizon line indicator so your photos are perfectly framed.
But where AI really steps in and impresses is image stabilization.
Huawei says its AIS is so good, that it’s basically solved an age old problem in photography: long exposure night shots without a tripod. The phone can shoot four-second handheld photos while artificial intelligence and machine learning can compensate to remove any or all motion blur. Not even my US$ 3,000 Sony A7S II, which is one of the best low-light cameras today, can manage that.
The P20 and P20 Pro run on Android 8.1 with an EMUI 8.1 skin. Huawei promises it’s at least 50 percent smoother and more responsive than previous models, but it’s still not close to stock Android which would have been the cherry on top of the P20 pie. There are plenty of gems under the hood, though.
Huawei Share 2.0 makes it easier to share files to and from a PC or Mac as long as you are on the same wireless network. You can share files wirelessly without having to install any apps on your computer, photo albums are curated by AI, PC Mode still lets you connect to a monitor for a full desktop experience, and then there are partnerships with Amazon and Alibaba so you can point your phone at objects and buy them right then and there.
Is the Huawei P20 your GadgetMatch?
You’ll have to wait and see. For now, we cannot wait to put the phone through its paces and see how it performs in the real world.
But I’ll tell you this: Where the P20 and P20 are concerned, Huawei has pulled out all the stops, and has delivered on all fronts. Both phones are exciting to look at and packed with all the right features.
Nokia 3.2 Hands-On: Basic but classy
Nothing fancy but really speedy
Nokia has been stepping up its lineup of budget smartphones. Early in 2019, the brand launched a plethora of budget smartphones that are under the Android One program. One of the budget-friendly smartphones introduced was Nokia 3.2. Eager to have that Nokia experience, I took the phone out for a spin.
It’s cheap… but classy
I had high hopes when I first got the Nokia 3.2 in its box. Seeing it earlier in MWC 2019 made me appreciate its look and vibe. Compared to other budget smartphones, it’s classier and sexier. However, the phone feels a little bit downgraded when compared to its predecessor.
Nokia the 3.1 with an aluminum frame, a plastic back, and corning gorilla glass while the 3.2 used only a polycarbonate unibody design. Its plastic back is smudgy and slippery, but the phone has a tighter grip, thanks to its subtle curved edges towards the front.
Even its buttons are subtly protruding on its sides. On the left is a dedicated Google Assistant button, and on the right are its power buttons and volume keys.
Found on its back are the 13-megapixel main camera, LED Flash, and fingerprint scanner. On the other hand, its top side features a headphone jack, while the micro USB port and speaker grilles are found on the bottom.
It also features a 6.2 inches LCD panel on its front display, with a tall 19:9 ratio. It might be disrupting, but the Nokia 3.2 still sports a small notch, housing its 5-megapixel selfie camera capable of AI face unlock. Even though it might be bigger and taller this time, the Nokia 3.2 is definitely a joy to hold.
Stock Android on a budget
The saving grace for Nokia’s disappointing build (at least for me) is its clean version of Android One. That means there’s no bloatware to take up your limited memory and storage.
Additionally, the Nokia 3.2 comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box. This makes it feel faster than its competitors in the budget segment despite having a 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Fortunately, it provides a microSD card slot up to up to 400GB of storage.
An entry-level performance
Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 429 processor, the Nokia 3.2 performs better compared to its predecessor which carried a MediaTek chipset. In addition, its GPU runs on Adreno 504.
This made the Nokia 3.2 handle graphic-intensive games like Mobile Legends even if it was set on the highest graphics setting possible. There were no delay and lag spikes, ensuring smooth gameplay all throughout.
Decent cameras for your everyday needs
Featuring a 13-megapixel main camera with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture, the Nokia 3.2 takes decent photos. Depending on the lighting, both of its cameras can either take a vibrant, lively reproduced color during daylight or a slightly desaturated photo on indoor and low-light conditions.
Of course, we can’t really expect budget smartphones to have flagship-like cameras. It won’t have quick auto-focus or any fancy features like blurring your background, but it’s the compromise we’re getting when we follow our tight budget. At the very least, make use of natural light and other camera tricks to improve your photos.
Lasts longer than your partner
If there’s one thing I enjoyed with this smartphone, it’s the humongous battery. Packing a 4000mAh battery, the Nokia 3.2 can definitely last a day on a single charge. It can handle your multimedia use and everyday tasks throughout the day, yet it will still have enough juice left to carry you through the night.
However, for a phone carrying a huge battery, it charges slowly at 10W. This phone might just be good for those who love to charge their phones overnight.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Nokia 3.2 is a contender in the budget segment. It might have a disappointing build and design, but the phone packs with power, performance, and speed, thanks to Google’s Android One program.
With a starting price of PhP 7,990 (US$ 154) for the 3GB/32GB model, Nokia loyalists will find this a real treat. For people looking for a secondary phone, or a primary phone with no frills and just functions to handle your everyday needs, the Nokia 3.2 could be your GadgetMatch.
However, there are still far better options in the budget category, like the Redmi Note 7 and Realme 3. If Nokia wants to come back in its former glory and capture people looking for an affordable powerhouse, they need to join the battle and beat Realme and Redmi in their game, just like Samsung bending over to compete in the tough budget battlefield.
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