The battle for dominance in Mobile devices continues unabated. Huawei are producing better and better devices with surprising regularity. 2015 has been a good year for Huawei, with over 100 million phones sold. The recent launch of the Huawei mate S was another shot at the top for Huawei. The Mate S represents a significant shift in quality for the Chinese brand. Steven Ambrose gets mobile with the Huawei Mate S.

Huawei is a dominant global player in the infrastructure and mobile handset market. With its hard to pronounce name and Chinese origins many have overlooked the brand in favor of the more familiar. Brands such as Samsung, LG, and obviously Apple. Huawei realising that they would have to go the extra mile to make their brand stand out, have followed a very Samsung approach. Huawei have engaged in massive brand advertising and a flurry of really good product at all price points. Huawei have released both high end and lower cost devices on the South African market, with the Mate 7, P8, and now the Mate S, with a Mate 8 to be launched really soon.

The Mate S is clearly in response to the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6 and other top end devices. It is easy to write the Mate S off as just another device but after using it for a while, it is clear that Huawei have sweated the details and have come up with a phone that is far more than the sum of its parts.

The Hardware

Top end phones all tend to be a fusion of aluminium and glass with the LG G4 being the exception. This makes all the top end and even some midrange contenders very difficult to differentiate. The Huawei Mate S is no different. A superior 5.5” AMOLED screen dominates with tiny bezels or surround, and a rounded polished aluminium unibody rear. The top and bottom Bezels are really small with no buttons, making the Huawei Mate S smaller than other devices with similar screen size.

The Body is 7.22MM at its thinnest and curves gently to make room for the battery and completely flush 13Mp camera A fast fingerprint reader is centrally located on the rear. The Screen features rounded edges and is made from the latest Gorilla glass 4 which is extremely drop and scratch resistant. The only buttons on the side are the volume rocker and on of button. A dual single slot sim and SD card holder is mounted opposite the volume control.

Huawei Mate S

Overall the smooth feel and premium finish makes the Huawei Mate S feel seamless and super premium. Huawei have paid great attention the fit finish and detail on the Mate S. This makes the Mate S  one of the best finished and finest feeling phones I have used, and that includes the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S 6 range.

The screen is only full HD and despite all its major competition featuring Quad HD and more, really does shine, both in low light and bright outdoors the AMOLED screen has excellent colours and deep blacks and the feel of the Gorilla Glass 4 is silky and smooth.

The Huawei Mate S features a Huawei made processor the Kirin 935 8 core unit. This powers the screen and phone exceptionally well along with 3 GIG of ram and 32 GIG of internal storage, expandable via Micro SD card. The Mate S performance is smooth fast and never lagged in daily use, only exceptionally challenging games resulted in a little lag and the body getting pretty hot. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note 5 tend to perform better in this regard. In normal use speed is just not an issue.

The camera is fast accurate and very close to the top end mobile cameras. The iPhone 6S Plus is sharper and a little more accurate, with the Samsung Note 5 in optimum conditions edging them both out. The 2015 smartphone camera of the year, for me anyway, on the LG G4 has more versatility and can produce astounding pictures. Most of us will never explore the cutting edge ability of most smartphone cameras and the Huawei Mate S mixes it in with the best. The front Selfie camera along with its numerous modes is also excellent, in fact probably the best of the bunch.

Call quality and connectivity option are first rate 4G LTE is standard with all the bands you would need locally and globally. The Huawei Mate S also features LTE category 6 connectivity so LTE advanced offered by Telkom, and more and more providers globally, is fully catered for.

The non-removable internal battery is small by the competion average at 2700mAh but coupled with the Kirin processor and the lower screen resolution offered at least a full day’s usage even after watching some video and playing a few games. The included battery saving features and imminent arrival of more advanced power saving and optimisations in Android 6 Marshmallow make the battery life as good as, if not better, than its other top end rivals.

The Software

Huawei once again have shown maturity and attention to detail. The Mate S runs Android 5.1.1, with an update to Android 6 in the first quarter of 2016. The key to the smooth performance of the Mate S is the Huawei Android overlay they call Emotion UI or EMUI. In many ways the Huawei Mate S interface mimics many of the key features of Apples iOS operating system with similar layout and flat easy to use icon screens. The sum is simply greater than the parts. From lock screen to pull up quick menu accessed by swiping up from the bottom, to Androids superior notification system, the Huawei Mate S is fast fluid and mostly intuitive to use.

First time users will very quickly get the measure of the phone, with logical layout quick access to key features and for the power user no end to Android customisability, once the main menus are accessed. Using the Huawei mate S along with all the standard Android apps was a pleasure. The finger print reader is exceptionally quick. Swiping though to apps you want is simple and even multitasking worked fluidly and quickly. The polish of the EMUI overlay and the underlying Android operating system is clean fast and fresh looking.

Huawei include a number of clever optimising apps which monitor battery usage and suggest closing apps when they get to power hungry. Themes to customise your look and feel are easy to download and install and overall the clear attention to detail shines through.

Huawei Mate S Unboxing


Huawei devices have matured in the past few years to become viable alternatives to many others on the market. Personal preference aside the Huawei Mate S is a polished refined and top performing mobile device. There are very few areas where the Mate S stands out from the competition, on the converse there are essentially no areas where it falls behind. The Huawei Mate S is simply far better than the sum of its parts. It has a superior build, excellent screen, outstanding camera and competitive internal specification. It is however in actual use that the Mate S shines. The one area that seals the deal for me is Price.

The Huawei Mate S retails for around 20% lower than its intended competion, yet gives very little if anything up in return. The restraint polish and competence of the phone, more than makes up for it slightly bland outward appearance and after a few weeks of use proves to be one of the most enjoyable devices I have used for a long time. The Mate S from Huawei is highly recommended.

The Huawei Mate S is available in Silver Gold and Grey, at most mobile operators on various contracts and packages.

Steven Ambrose