LONDON -- When unveiling flagship phones, Huawei comes armed with comparative specs to show by how much it outdid Apple's latest, at least on paper. The Mate 20 Pro's global debut here is no different.
Triple cameras with artificial intelligence, a 4,250 mAh battery, a smaller notch, and on the Mate 20 X at least, a giant 7.2-inch screen.
Comparisons with the iPhone are inevitable for Android. Manufacturers either copy Apple (down to the polarizing notch since the iPhone X), or stick to their aesthetic (Samsung's notch-free Galaxy Note 9 has a stylus).
The Mate 20 Pro is somewhere in between, aesthetically similar but the differences lie beneath the shiny glass backs. We tested Huawei's latest and the iPhone XS Max a week for this head-to-head.
The iPhone XS Max is 20 grams heavier than the Mate 20 Pro, though the screen sizes are nearly identical at 6.5 and 6.4 inches, respectively. It will hurt when the iPhone falls on your face if you use it while lying in bed.
It's heft, however, makes the iPhone XS Max feel more solid in the hand. The Mate 20 Pro is easier to hold and use with one hand due to its curved sides, but only by a slight margin.
The flat screen on the iPhone XS Max makes the screen look much bigger than the 0.1 inch size difference it has with the Mate 20 Pro.
The Mate 20 Pro has a higher screen to body ratio at 86.9 percent compared to 83.67 percent on the iPhone XS Max. Huawei claims the Mate 20 Pro's notch is smaller, but you will need to look hard to see the difference when the two phones are placed side by side.
Huawei said the Mate 20 Pro is symmetrical. Apple fans have criticized the asymmetry of the iPhone XS Max's bottom design, with fewer holes to the left of the lightning port compared to the right side.
Apple reserved the additional color variants for the cheaper iPhone XR. The iPhone XS and XS Max are available in black, gold and grey. The Mate 20 Pro comes in a textured green and blue finish, a gradient "twilight" that shifts from black to blue to purple, and a standard black.
The iPhone XS Max runs on iOS 12, with an Apple-first grouped notifications, a usage tracker for digital health and gesture navigation across all models. It is powered by Apple's own A12 Bionic hip.
The Mate 20 Pro, on the other hand, runs on Android 9, overlaid with EMUI 9. Like we said in our full review, EMUI 9 is the most refined version of Huawei's skin yet, but not without its quirks.
Huawei harnessed the power of its Kirin 980 chip to bring additional features like a calorie counter that kicks in when the camera is pointed at food.
The new 40-watt super charge is also blazing fast, bumping the battery to 95 from 69 percent in 18 minutes during our test. Despite its price, a fast charger doesn't come bundled with the iPhone XS Max.
Both are wireless charging-capable but only the Mate 20 Pro can reverse charge other devices, including all glass-backed iPhones.
Huawei's "natural tone" is less aggressive in warming up the screen temperature under fluorescent light, compared to Apple's "true tone," which tends to make the screen look a tad too yellowish.
The two devices, as expected, are fast with almost no lag.
Huawei relies on the AI power of its Kirin 980 chip, now with 2 neural units, to equip the Mate 20 Pro with scene recognition. The 3 lenses also allow ultra-wide capture.
Both features are absent on the dual lens iPhone XS Max, but photos on the Apple device look more natural if that's what you prefer.
The night mode on the Mate 20 Pro is arguably the best among smartphones today, but low-light shooting on the iPhone XS Max has improved from last year's iPhone X.
The details on the ship sailing by Tower Bridge in London, as well as the reflections on the River Thames are clearer on the Mate 20 Pro's shot.
The sign "Bin it for a #CleanerThames" on one of the barges was also readable on the Mate 20 Pro shot when it was almost invisible using the iPhone XS Max.
The ultra-wide mode also captured a larger view of the British capital's skyline from the London Eye. The colors on the iPhone's shot, however, looked more vivid.
Details on buildings that frame London's "Shard" skyscraper are more pronounced on the Mate 20 Pro's shot. The sky on the iPhone shot also has a reddish tint which was not there during the original scene.
Without ultra-wide and taken from the ground, the iPhone XS Max photo had more contrast and brighter reds.
The AI scene recognition on the Mate 20 Pro made the yellow and orange hues on this plate of fish and chips pop more, compared to the iPhone XS Max.
WHICH ONE IS FOR YOU?
The two phones are the most expensive ever for each manufacturer. The base model iPhone XS Max with 64 GB of storage starts at P74,990, while the Mate 20 Pro with 128 GB of storage is priced at P49,990. The regular Mate 20 with a slightly downgraded camera resolution and without 3D face unlock is cheaper at P40,990.
Despite being cheaper by P25,000, the Mate 20 Pro offers more in terms of camera features, a fast charging battery, reverse wireless charging and more color options.
The iPhone XS Max, however, ticks all the right boxes for the Apple faithful who found last year's iPhone X a little short on screen real estate, camera refinements and software improvements.
It's a tough choice for those looking to buy the best piece of smartphone tech for Christmas. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is as much a powerhouse and sells for less in some stores. Google also recently released the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.