Tuesday, 17 October 2017 02:11

VIDEOS: Huawei seeks to checkmate Apple and Samsung with Mate 10 and 10 Pro

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Boasting a "neural network processing unit" inside an ARM CPU of its own design, it's not from Apple but Chinese tech superpower Huawei with its two new super smartphones.

In Huawei's 30th year, having been founded in 1987, the company has just launched three new Mate 10 models in Munich – the Huawei Mate 10, the Mate 10 Pro, and the Porsche Design Mate 10.

Both the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro will be available in Australia at launch in the first wave of countries, in mid-November and early December respectively, but the Porsche Design Mate 10 model isn't listed to launch in Australia at first – if it does launch locally it will presumably come some time in 2018.

The new models feature Huawei's first AI-powered Kirin processor, with Neutral-Network Processing Unit delivering machine learning, AI capability.

Developer accessibility to AI capability has naturally been made available, so its full potential is yet to be achieved, but there are obviously features and benefits that Huawei has enabled through this additional smartphone brainpower, so much so that Huawei says its new devices are just smartphones but are intelligent machines.

Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei's Consumer Business Group, said: "As we enter the age of intelligence, AI is no longer a virtual concept but something that intertwines with our daily life. AI can enhance user experience, provide valuable services and improve product performance.

“The Huawei Mate 10 Series introduces the first mobile AI-specific Neural Network Processing Unit, launching a new era of intelligent smartphones.”

Here's the new video embedded below, the full keynote presentation is also embedded below further in this article: 

 Key features include:

  • Kirin 970, the world’s first AI processor for smartphones with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit.
  • A 3D Glass Body featuring a barely-there-bezel, HUAWEI FullView Display and HDR10 supported technology for intensely vivid and brighter colours.
  • cTÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge and 4000 mAh battery with AI-powered battery management.
  • New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses, with both featuring an aperture of f/1.6, and intelligent photography including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and AI-powered Bokeh Effect.
  • An all-new, simplified EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0.
  • A new, Mobile AI computing architecture for intelligent mobile experiences.
  • The Kirin 970 processor is built on TSMC's 10nm semiconductor manufacturing process, delivering an octa-core ARM Cortex CPU, a first-to-market Mali G72 12-core GPU and the first NPU designed specifically for a mobile device.
  • The Kirin 970 also boasts a new dual ISP for AI-powered intelligent photography.
  • The specialised NPU is combined with Huawei’s innovative "HiAI" mobile computing platform, which allows the Kirin 970 processor to deliver "25x better performance and 50x greater energy efficiency for AI-related tasks, compared to four Cortex-A73 cores".
  • The Mate 10 series also offers 1.2Gbps Cat 18 4.5G LTE speeds on telco networks that can support this new standard.

The AI features are a huge part of the phone, with Huawei explaining that by combining individual and collective intelligence for on-device AI, its new Mate 10 Series "delivers real-time responses to users, including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and an AI Accelerated Translator".

And, as Kirin 970 is billed as an "open, mobile AI computing platform", it also "third parties to create new and imaginative AI applications and which extends Huawei’s processing capabilities to the entire value chain".

When it comes to the display, the Mate 10 model features a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio screen at 5.9-inches large using LCD technology, but nevertheless still has a "barely-there-bezel" and HDR10 to support vivid colours.

On the Mate 10 model, Huawei was able keep its fingerprint reader on the front, despite the shrunken bezels.

Meanwhile, the six-inch Huawei Mate 10 Pro features an 18:9 OLED display, as seen on devices like the LG G6, Samsung S8, S8+, Note 8 and Google Pixel 2 XL, but on this Pro model the fingerprint is at the back of the device, in a logical "middle of the back" position, rather than to the size of the camera lenses as is the case with the Samsung's S8, S8+ and Note 8 models.

Fast charging

While both feature a glass back, which when coupled with the naturally glass front means a glass body, there's no wireless charging with either device, but instead, super fast wired charging that's claimed to be 50% faster than the iPhone 8's super fast charging capability, four times faster than wireless charging and delivering 58% charge in just 30 minutes.

If you're shorter on time, you can get to 20% charge in just 10 minutes, and given both models have a whopping 4000 mAh battery, that 20% charge is actually quite a lot more than with competing phones.

The aforementioned TuV world-first certification for super fast charging also seeks to guarantee the battery won't do a Samsung Note7 and explode.

IP67 on Mate 10 Pro only

Besides the 16:9 and 18:9 aspect ratio differences of the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro, there is another, which is that only the Mate 10 Pro is IP67 Water and Dust Resistant.

It is a shame that Huawei was only able to manage this capability for the Pro model, as there exists the possibility of confusion for people to simply assume both models are IP67 capable when this isn't the case.

Huawei's presentation effectively jumped between both smartphone models at will, so it's a shame that, at least in this regard, IP67 wasn't possible for both, although you'd have to imagine that any future Mate 11 and Mate 11 Pro set for this time next year would have to both have this capability.

Then we get to the new Leica Dual Camera.

Huawei has again partnered with Leica to co-engineer the dual lens camera for both new Mate 10 models.

We're told they combine "12-megapixel RGB + 20-megapixel monochrome sensors, Optical Image Stabilisation, dual lenses with the world’s largest aperture of f/1.6, AI-powered Bokeh Effect and AI-powered Digital Zoom".

Whether the OIS was available on both camera modules wasn't made clear, but when coupled with both models new AI-powered "Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition," the camera can automatically choose camera settings based on the object and scene."

The camera also supports an "advanced AI-powered Digital Zoom function with AI Motion Detection for clearer and sharper pictures".

After this comes "AI-powered Battery Management for the Next Era of Smartphone Use"

As both models pack the aforementioned 4000 mAh high-density battery, this is coupled with a "smart battery management system that understands user behaviour and intelligently allocates resources to maximise battery life".

It supports "4.5V / 5A low-voltage fast charging, powering the device from 1% to 20% 10 minutes, and 1% to 58% in 30 minutes (in lab tests)". Obviously your mileage will vary, but with such a huge battery, heavy users are billed as getting over one day of use, while normal users are expected to be able to go without battery for up to two days.

Powered by Android 8.0 Oreo and Huawei's own brand new "EMUI 8.0" skin, the AI Engine "fully leverages the capabilities of the Kirin 970" with yet more AI examples being Microsoft-powered and Huawei-optimised "AI Accelerated translator" to deliver faster and more accurate interactive translation for a smoother communication experience.

USB-C to HDMI cable instead of a dock

Instead of using a dock like Samsung's DeX, either Mate 10 model lets you access an easy projection feature to connect to a larger screen for "a full desktop experience – either mirroring or extending the smartphone display like a PC".

The cable is a USB-C to HDMI cable, which can also include additional USB C or USB 3.0 ports, and you can either mirror your smartphone's screen to the external monitor, TV or projector, or you can have a Windows-like desktop that is separate to the smartphone screen you're accessing on a larger screen.

Connect a wired or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for easier access, or you can use the screen of the Mate 10 or Pro as a trackpad, with the on-screen keyboard of your smartphone to make things even easier still.

Pricing and availability in Australia

  • The Mate 10 with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage will retail for $899, launching at Vodafone and the open channel from 15 November in black.
  • The Mate 10 Pro with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage with retail for $1099, latching at Optus from 4 December in blue.

Full specs: 

  • Full specs and other details for the Mate 10 are here
  • Full specs and other details for the Mate 10 Pro are here

Keynote stream and presentation thoughts:

In the presentation itself, Yu made various references to the iPhone X, 8 Plus and Note 8, and the ways that either of the Mate 10 Series were able to beat these models.

Here is the presentation in full, where you can see for yourself the points I made below are absolutely accurate: 

This included a greater screen size than iPhone X without the notch on both models, while including much smaller bezels than the iPhone 8 Plus.

When it came to AI recognition of photos, a demo on screen showed a Mate 10 model completing the test to identify a large amount of images completing the task in 5 seconds. The iPhone 8 Plus took 9 seconds while the Galaxy Note 10 took 100 seconds.

An example of the "better screen-to-body ratio" percentage was 81.79% for Mate 10. 81.61% for Mate 10 Pro yet only 81.36% for iPhone X - and without the notch.

The Mate 10 series has its 4000 mAh battery, claimed as 48% larger than the 2716 mAh battery on the forthcoming iPhone X.

Yu was able to boast his phones were narrower than the Note 8, but still with a bigger battery, and for both Mate models, much better fingerprint reader positions.

Another feature of Huawei's fingerprint sensors is a 0.33s wait time for reading the fingerprint to displaying the home page.

This was compared with the iPhone X, which Yu explained you needed to raise, look at the device, and then swipe to get to the screen, which was a longer and slower process.

As I type, Huawei's site isn't properly responding, but I believe both the Mate 10 and 10 Plus have, at least in their dual-SIM variants, two SIM slots, with both able to be due 4G and dual VoLTE at the same time. I'll update this sentence when I know more.

One thing of note – almost none of the presenters were native English speakers, which like at a Samsung launch, makes listening to the main speakers a little challenging for viewers, whether that viewer uses English as their first language, or not.

There were two or three presenters who did speak English natively, but the excitement of the main presenter, Yu, was evident, although it seemed clear that he did not prepare in the fanatical way Steve Jobs was supposed to have prepared for his keynotes.

Where an Apple keynote event is meticulously planned, with any missteps extremely rare, and generating an almost religious fervour coupled with rapturous applause, Huawei and Samsung haven't quite mastered Zen and the art of keynote euphoria, although it has to be said that the Note 8 presentation for Samsung was its most spectacular yet.

Huawei relied on the sheer horsepower and feature set of its Mate 10 and 10 Pro models to add the sparkle and shine.

Who knows? Now that Huawei's new smartphones are AI powered with a Neutral-Network Processing Unit inside their SoC (system on a chip) internals, perhaps a future AI-powered on-screen or even holographically projected Huawei presenter will showcase a future Mate 12 range in pitch perfect English.

It was indeed funny to see a young German lady interviewing people after the event; she interviewed Yu again in an "exclusive interview"; he mostly repeated a few of the key features. She asked a keynote attendee from Norway if he "used smartphones privately," to which he replied yes, suggesting something was lost in translation. I mean, who in 2017 doesn't use smarphones privately?

I guess it would be hard to find a native English speaker able to capture and convey the same enthusiasm as Yu did, but if you are doing a launch in English, why not engage the most polished English speakers you can find, even if this means replacing the CEO for the presentation?

Sure, have the CEO or other important people on in short guest spots, but have a true professional launch your products with as much genuine zeal and passion as possible, rather than forcing a global audience, for whom many are not having English as a first language, to struggle to fully and easily understand what a non-native English speaker is themselves struggling to explain.

I was able to cope very well, but I know for certain plenty others wouldn't, so...  it's just an idea. Like I said, maybe a future AI-powered Huawei smartphone can introduce itself next time – maybe in 2020?

And yes, there is no doubt that if I tried presenting something in Chinese, or Russian, I too would not sound polished compared to a native speaker of those languages. That said, you could have put me there after letting me learn about all the new features for a few hours, let alone a few days, and you would have had a very dynamic presentation from me – in excellent English!

Well, as I noted in my headline, Huawei wants to checkmate Samsung and Apple with these two competitively priced flagship smartphones.

Whether Huawei can claim checkmate is another matter entirely, for both Samsung and Apple are fiercely fighting back with their own best-ever models, but with its two flagship models looking very impressive, this Christmas sales shopping season will presumably be Huawei's biggest yet!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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