Huawei Mate50 Pro Review : A Return in Google Mobile Services?
If we were upfront, Huawei phones haven't been the best of phones we've experienced lately despite very promising software and hardware. Maybe because it feels like they are worlds apart from the rest of us that depend on Goo…
Wait a second.. Is Google services back? Well, yes! But not in the way you would think.
Huawei’s App Gallery finally found a way to include native Google apps since their departure all those years back. But more on that later! For now, we can simply appreciate good tech, as the Huawei Mate50 Pro could actually fall in that category of “Good Phones” of the year.
Especially if we consider how it comes with all of your flagship essentials like a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, a dazzling 50MP main camera, plus a promising 64MP telephoto lens, Huawei’s rebranded XMAGE image engine, a massive 6.74-inch OLED display, and all of your Huawei-esque goodness packed into a familiar Mate series frame. And with all of that, a vegan leather exterior ?
With the legacy of a Mate series, the Mate 50 Pro is quite reminiscent of the older Mate20 Pro with quad cameras at the back, but this time it seems to have grown in size. There's now a much bigger module which houses all of the cameras and has a really nice finish when you look closely. The ring surrounding the module has these fine carvings, it’s a shame to hide under a phone cover before appreciating the details, while also feeling very comfortable in the hands weighing approximately 209g.
Even in this silver we have with us, it just blends well into the frame and glass. While it might not cause head turns like other Huawei designs we've seen before, if this colour is a bit too plain for your liking, you could opt for their dual sim model which comes in this Orange Vegan Leather. This just means it’s likely made out of polyurethane instead of animal leather. And it comes at a hefty added premium, if this design floats your boat.
There’s still quite a wide notch on the display, but considering the size of a 91.3% screen-to-body ratio, it won’t actually bother you as much as you’d think. Just like every other notch design we’ve been used to seeing in the past, this would disappear to your eyes soon enough. Let's just hope they won't call it something related to "Islands" or "Dynamic" whenever they do come up with something new.
Huawei’s new drop protection glass, or Kunlun Glass, which is made from 10 quadrillion-level nano-crystals and scores a five-star drop resistance rating, claims to be 10x stronger than ever before. But somehow, a typical looking 6.74 inch curved OLED display might feel a little too boring by now, as though every iteration before this hasn't evolved much. It raises the sentiment of "oh please, not another curved screen", yet oddly plays a big role in its overall design and just wouldn't look this good if it were done any differently.
Perhaps it's always been a thing for Huawei to have good screens on their flagships, it’s a good reminder of a feature we might’ve overlooked in previous models. Smart resolutions are available for a better viewing experience by amping up to maximum clarity and 120Hz refresh rates allows the EMUI 13 interface to be a little more enjoyable, while 300Hz touch-sampling rates should give you a competitive edge for first-person-shooter games.
The sound experience feels full of life coming with stereo speakers which utilises the earpiece as a 2nd output. It might not be actual dual speakers, but playing music or watching content on this feels immersive and is one of the best we've experienced.
Some lower-end notes can actually be heard while speech driven audio is very clear. We'd give it 5-stars if we could rate it, for supporting up to 32-bit or 384kHz audio.
Performance / Geekbench / 3D Mark tests
Coming with 8GB of RAM, Snapdragon's 8+ Gen 1 and Adreno 730, our Geekbench tests score 944 for Single-Core and 3624 for Multi-core. While it may not break records nor high scores compared to other androids we’ve tested in the past, it still handles like a flagship should, even while having countless apps running in the background.
Graphics too manage an overall Vulcan score of 2735 and averages 16.4fps. Temperatures might increase ever so slightly when put through its paces but nothing too noticeable in real life situations, like playing intensive rounds of Call Of Duty or CarX Drift Racing 2.
Banking on further developments seen in the Mate50 Pro are its cameras coming with 50MP f/1.4 main camera, a 64MP Telephoto, a 13MP Ultra-wide, and a 40MP Monochrome camera. Supported by Huawei's rebranded XMAGE image engine from their previous XD Fusion, the dynamics are still quite similar to an earlier release this year, the P50 Pro.
Results show better low-light performance and sharpness within each focal length, while also retaining more true-to-life colours and causing much less fringing, thanks to computations that work hand-in-hand with that 40MP monochrome camera. Some of these photo examples taken from 1x-10x show very consistent outputs either in daylight or at night, though still having a little shutter-lag for faster moving objects such as pets.
Video outputs topping at 4K60fps also manage highlights very well, while dynamic range retains most clarity even at 10x zoom. Colours may shift when switching between focal lengths, but it still adapts to light sources very quickly to enhance overall usage. Low-light conditions are impressive for showing little-to-no noise and gyro-EIS has improved to minimise warping effects, which sometimes can be seen while walking but not in the case here.
So yeah, take a bow Huawei, for delivering us yet another solid camera build that makes the mobile photography experience a promising tool for average users and creators alike.
Google Mobile Services
But, the headline news that swept most of the SEA regions at the launch of the Mate50 series, was having GMS (Google Mobile Services) available through the LightHouse app within Huawei's App Gallery. So how is this possible?
Well, according to our media friends and some discoveries of our own, it seems that a 3rd-party developer code-named "Skywalker" created this solution as an open source project to act as a secret key, allowing Huawei phones from 2021 onwards to gain access to Google services such as YouTube, Google Drive, Google Chrome and many others —
In a way, you could frame it as the new-age jailbreaking we saw in iPhones a long time ago, but bear in mind LightHouse is currently only available to some southeast asian countries. Whether this solution would make it to other western regions for the foreseeable future, is still unknown.
Whether or not this workaround sustains as a permanent solution is a little uncertain, while some GMS apps are still unavailable through Huawei's App Gallery and would require APK files in order to gain access. Needless to say, this has been the most promising solution we've encountered so far and we hope it stays.
Battery life got us around a day and half of casual use coming with a 4700mAh battery and a 66W SuperCharger which should get you back to 100% under 30 minutes.
The Huawei Mate50 Pro comes with 8GB RAM, 256GB internal storage and retails at RM4,499 or S$1,548.
Our impressions on this phone shows a lot of promise in something that felt like a dire future for Huawei phones. While there is a sizeable population of users that don't require GMS as their daily drivers, having the option to access native apps when you need it is still better than not having it at all. Aside from the high performing cameras, beautiful display, high quality speakers – all wrapped into a less exciting but decent overall design, the Huawei Mate50 Pro is definitely one of the greats that were released this year and we're ashamed it wasn't introduced to us earlier.
Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all and we can only give props to Huawei for weathering through the storm by creating an ecosystem that has worked to their advantage despite the adversities. To quote a few "It's not about how hard you hit, but it's about how hard you can get hit… and keep moving forward." So hats off, Huawei.
Written by Fitri Aiyub