Huawei Porsche Design Mate 20 RS – Thoughts

I don’t normally comment on phones but this is my first Huawei phone (I did have a Huawei watch a few years ago). Despite the relatively hard to obtain device in North America, the Mate 20 RS is the most technically advanced phone out there and in 2019 I expect Huawei to continue their technical lead. I have resisted using Huawei phones in the past (partially due to potentially security concerns but also with other phones being better – from my perspective). However the P20 earlier in 2018 was tempting but the Porsche Design version of the Mate 20 Pro was irresistible, especially as I fortunate enough to be able to obtain one at an airport store (far below the high prices eBay is currently showing).

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Quick Review 

Overall the Mate 20 RS is fast, highly configurable and a joy to use and look at. The battery life is the best I have ever had on any device (without a supplementary battery case). Moreover I am on the Dec 2018 security release of Android Pie (so Huawei seems to be keeping up to date).

I had an issue with the Summit 2 after I upgraded to Android 9.0 (on my prior device).  This was sufficiently concerning that I started to look for a new phone as I suspected it was specific to Android 9.0 on my specific phone. The battery drain on the Summit 2 was severely reduced from Android 8.0 to 9.0 (on the same phone). On Android 8 (same phone) the Summit 2 battery life was OK.

After switching to the Mate 20 RS, the battery on the Summit 2 has been really good. I can’t really explain it other than potential differences in Android 9.0 and bluetooth. Regardless I am very happy with the battery life of the Summit 2 with the Mate 20 RS!

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A Developer’s Perspective

As a developer I did find a few things:

  1. Hooking up to ADB on my Surface Laptop 2 was not immediate. Huawei does things differently – including default options.
  2. Notification Lister Service – Specific to Huawei phones I had a heck of a time every time I updated my app (while debugging). I was able to implement a manual workaround but Huawei seemed to behave differently than other Android phones. Interestingly, in their latest .171 firmware update, the issues now seems fixed!
  3. TTS and Sensor Detection – My speak TTS only when lying flat did not work. I eventually traced it to my logic that seemed to work on all other Android devices but not on Huawei. Admittedly it was my logic bug, but the Sensor readings from Huawei appears to be different (perhaps staleness/caching to effect performance/battery savings). It turned out well as I was forced to fix my logic bugs and now the features works really well for me.
  4. BatteryManager.BATTERY_PLUGGED_WIRELESS does not seem to be properly set on the Mate 20 RS (Android 9). Instead it appears to set BATTERY_PLUGGED_AC. Note this is with a non Huawei charger. On the Sony XZ2 BATTERY_PLUGGED_WIRELESS is set properly on the same wireless chargers (I tried 3 different ones).
  5. Should I be concerned about these messages from LogCat ? : )

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A need to focus on Software

The Mate 20 RS is a beauty as a hardware device. One key area to improve is on the software side. Huwaei seemed to have made some interesting decisions on default options, what options to not allow to be configured and design choices.

  • Settings are highly configurable but some default settings seem to not be intuitive (or at least consistent with other Android Devices).
  • Battery Information – they provide a LOT of information. They should look at Sony on how they provide estimated time remaining (graph). Moreover have multiple menus to drill into power consumption seem more complex than it should be.
  • Always On Display – it is too restrictive – allowing 3rd party apps to show information should be allowed.
  • Buggy? – I cannot get the “Magazine Unlock” to work as it initially did (after I installed a few 3rd party themes).
  • Bloatware – there are to many redundant apps – Huawei doesn’t really need to have their own version of every app. Instead focus those resources on making the other areas world class to have a truly world class hardware/software product!
  • The Smart Screen hides the LED notification – perhaps design the next version to show it.
  • English Canada does not seem to be supported in the key Huawei app!

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What will be Next Phone?

I typically change phones 2-3 times a year. However in 2019 I am looking forward to the Sony XZ4, the next Mate 30 Pro and Foldable phones. Note I also carry an Apple Watch 4 (LTE) that needs to be connected to an Apple phone (X) that I don’t really use/carry otherwise. A key feature for me is battery life. Huawei leads in terms of battery life but I don’t think I can yet get to a magical 2-day battery life with the Mate 20 RS. My next device would need to be at least as good (which will be very challenging IMO).

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