MANILA -- Buying a flagship phone minus the "pro" or "plus" branding is like flying premium economy instead of business class, such is the case of the Huawei Mate 30.
The pocket-friendlier sibling of the Mate 30 Pro packs the same Kirin 990 processor, Leica-engineered cameras and EMUI 10 as on the Mate 30 Pro. All but the fourth depth-sensing rear camera and the fancy curved sides.
This year, Apple differentiated its 2019 models with a "pro" branding for the higher-end model, which costs as much as its base model MacBook Pro. It's a recognition that consumers are growing more cost conscious as manufacturers, especially the Chinese like Huawei, Vivo and Oppo are offering flagship features for less.
NON-PRO AT WHAT COST?
On paper, the size difference between the Mate 30 (6.62 inches) and the Mate 30 Pro (6.53 inches) seems small, but are more pronounced in the hand thanks to the less expensive model's flat panel and smaller notch. Both OLED displays are sharp with vivid colors, especially reds.
The Mate 30 Pro's notch is bigger to accommodate the face unlock cameras, but not as obtrusive as the iPhone 11 series or the Google Pixel 4, which is huge.
The Mate 30 has a 4,200 mAh battery compared to 4,500 mAh on the pro, but both can go from sunrise to late night comfortably without a midday top-up. This includes browsing on Instagram and Chrome, taking photos, watching YouTube videos and answering emails and messages.
Minus work correspondence on weekends, the Mate 30 can go from Saturday to Sunday. For the first time, too, the non-pro Mate charges wirelessly.
Like the Mate 30 Pro, the Mate 30 runs on Huawei's Kirin 990 with 8GB of RAM, but on board storage is at 128GB, half the 256GB on the Mate 30 Pro.
HOW ARE THE CAMERAS?
The Mate 30 has 3 cameras on the back, a 40-megapixel "super sensing" main camera with f/1.8 aperture, a 16-megapixel ultra wide with f/2.2 aperture and an 8-megapixel telephoto with f/2.4 aperture.
The Mate 30 Pro has two 40-megapixel cameras on the rear: a "cine camera" with f/1.8 aperture and a "super sensing" camera with f/1.6 aperture. It also has an 8-megapixel telephoto with f/2.4 aperture and a fourth depth-sensing lens, like the P30 Pro from earlier in the year.
The circular camera array on the back of the Mate 30 mimics that of the Mate 30 Pro, but it has 3 lenses instead of 4. The performance is also close, especially in the dark, where Huawei has performed well since the P20 series from 2018.
More than the camera specs, what differentiates the current crop of smartphone cameras is how their computational photography software works. Huawei's Master AI tends to make red, blue and green hues pop, ditching the need for an Instagram filter.
In these dusk shots of the Rockwell skyline in Makati, a zoomed in shot heightened the red while the wide shot differentiated the blue from the red.
When the on-board AI detects more pavement and concrete than sky, like in this wide shot of EDSA, it sharpens the head and tail lights of the crush of cars and buses.
The Mate 30 took bright and clear shots of Christmas displays around the city, albeit cooler than the night modes on the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Galaxy Note 10+.
The Mate 30 can zoom up to 30 times like the Mate 30 Pro, but the zoomed images on the pro had less noise.
Wide shots have less distortion compared to the Mate 20. Close up shots of objects and food are clear and bright.
WHO IS IT FOR?
The Mate 30 is a solid phone, both on its own, and as an alternative to the Mate 30 Pro. It's fast, lasts all day and packs the Leica cameras that consumers look for in a Huawei smartphone.
The P16,000 savings from the Pro is also enough to save, or splurge on a Huawei Watch GT 2 with some P5,000 left to spare, or a nice pair of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds.