The Mate S is Huawei’s best-looking phone, but the price is steep

The Mate S from Huawei Technologies has a design that rivals any other Android-based smartphone, but the price is equally awe-inspiring.

The Mate S from Huawei Technologies has a metal design that rivals any other Android-based smartphone, but the price is equally awe-inspiring.

The company launched its latest flagship device at the IFA trade show on Wednesday. Huawei has continually been improving the design of its more expensive products during the last couple of years. The Ascend Mate 7 from last year was progress and the Mate S shows it can now compete with any vendors on design.

This year has seen two major trends in expensive high-end Android design; the all-metal look of the HTC One M9 and now the Mate S, or mixing glass with a metal frame, which Sony has stuck with and Samsung has chosen on the Galaxy S6 smartphones and the Galaxy Note 5.

Just like the HTC and Samsung devices, the Mate S isn’t cheap with a price tag at around €650 including sales tax for the standard version. That compares to €599 for the Galaxy S6 from Samsung’s German website.

It’s an emboldened Huawei that's launching the Mate S. The company was the third-largest smartphone maker in the world during the second quarter thanks to strong domestic and European sales that led to an impressive 48.1 percent year-on-year growth, according to IDC.

That success the company hopes it can build on with the Mate S.

The design arguably justifies its cost. But the hardware specification, which includes a 5.5-inch screen with a full HD display, isn’t as impressive. Huawei skipped a 2K screen because it was too tough on the batteries. That may very well be the case, but when competing smartphones have the higher resolution, it can become a problem.

While the size and resolution doesn’t differentiate the screen, the support for force feedback does. Users can press on the screen to zoom in on images and configure their own shortcuts in the two top corners. The screen can also be used as a scale. The use of force touch is expected to be the next big thing in how smartphones are controlled thanks to Apple’s rumored use of the technology on its next iPhones.

The octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor, which has four cores running at 1.5GHz and another four at 2.2GHz, powers the Mate S. There is 32GB or 64GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. The battery has a 2,700mAh capacity, which helps keep the weight down to 156 grams. The fingerprint sensor is placed on the back.

Just like many other vendors, Huawei is betting on camera improvements to get consumers to upgrade. The Mate S has a 13-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilization and an 8-megapixel camera on the front. In additional to the usual automatic settings, Huawei lets users manually set ISO, exposure compensation, exposure time and white balance.

The Mate S will be initially available in more than 30 countries including China, Germany, Israel, Japan, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa and the United Arab Emirate, but there are no US launch plans. The Mate S will also be available for pre-order in Western Europe on Vmall.eu on Sept. 15.

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