There’s been a whole lot of hoo-ha about the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, but there’s the lingering shadow of the whole problem with Google. Does the absence of support for Google apps really make the phone unbuyable? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take a look.

The Mate 30 Pro looks great, but there’s not much retained from the previous Mate 20 Pro phone. It changes almost every year, and Huawei has really decided to push the boundaries in terms of what a smartphone should look like in 2019.

There’s a steep waterfall display that has an 88-degree curvature, which looks really good when you’re watching content on your phone, but it doesn’t feel as great in the hand.

The camera housing on the back is pretty nice though, the design language is unique and cool. Credit where credit’s due, Huawei really does push the industry forward in terms of product design. We saw it earlier this year with the square camera housing that first appeared on the Mate 20 Pro, and now this circular camera housing that’s also already appeared on some other phones.

This phone is running on the Kirin 990 chipset, which was designed to compete against the Snapdragon 855 and 855 Plus chipsets. It’s certainly slightly faster than the older Kirin 980 chip, but for normal day to day usage, it’s not that obvious.

There’s 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, so there’s more than enough space for photos and the phone is snappy and responsive. The storage is also expandable via Huawei’s proprietary NM card. The 4,500mAh battery is great, lasting a full day with no issues at all. Fast charging and wireless charging is also available.

User experience on this phone can be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a phone that looks great in photos, but for day to day usage, the removal of the physical volume buttons and implementation of a touch-based slider can be a bit cumbersome. Menus are fine, it’s still an Android phone and EMUI 10 works great with no lag or bugs when we were testing it.

There are four cameras on the back, with a 40MP ultrawide camera, 40MP wide camera, 8MP telephoto as well as a depth-sensing camera. Huawei has always done well with their cameras, but there’s not much of a discernable difference between these and the cameras on the P30 Pro or the P20 or Mate 20.

Video and low-light photography have definitely been improved, with great detail in images. There is a slight issue with Night Mode however, it’s just taking too long for each photo to be processed. With 7 or 8 seconds in between tapping the shutter button and actually taking the photo, it means that photos with moving subjects end up having plenty of motion blur. The phone will expose everything really well, but sometimes it looks a little synthetic.

Telephoto images won’t be as sharp as photos taken with the wide or ultrawide lenses because of the difference in megapixels and sensor size, but there’s AI built-in and it does a relatively good job. Autofocus is quick and accurate, but these aren’t the best cameras on the market.

We get to the most important part, Google. The absence of Google apps on this phone can be seen and felt right away. Most consumers won’t know how to sideload apps, and this phone is definitely not for them. It’s definitely possible to get Google apps on this phone, but it’s troublesome and requires steps to make it happen.

The previous Huawei phones had something unique, there was something about their image quality and what they were doing with the phone cameras with Leica. But after the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, there’s this feeling that Huawei’s attempts at innovation have made these phones more gimmicky and the image quality has plateaued and stagnated since the P20.

After getting rid of the monochrome sensor, it’s almost like the image quality just became like any other smartphone on the market. Granted, there’s the Leica stamp on the cameras and the photos do have some of the Leica colouring, but even with the Mate 30 Pro, you don’t really feel that Leica’s involved with the phone.

It would be nice if Huawei took a step back and went back to the basics of what made them interesting to a lot of people.

Dimensions158.1 x 73.1 x 8.8 mm
Weight198g
ProcessorKirin 990
RAM8GB
Internal Storage256GB
External StorageHuawei NM card
Operating SystemMIUI 10
Display6.53″ OLED
Screen Resolution2400 x 1176 pixels
Pixel Density403 ppi
Screen-to-body Ratio94.1%
Camera (Rear)40MP wide camera, F/1.8
40MP ultrawide camera, F/1.6
8MP telephoto camera, F/2.4
3D depth-sensing camera
Camera (Front)32MP camera, F/2.0
Battery4500mAh
Headphone JackUSB-C
SpeakersSingle bottom-firing speaker