A brand new smartphone will probably be at the top of most tech lovers’ Christmas lists this year, especially with the recent arrival of the most powerful devices to date.
With its ability to function both as a smartphone and a must-have accessory, the new iPhone XS and XS Max will be popular choices this year.
As fans have come to expect from Apple’s annual updates, the ￡999 XS and ￡1,099 XS Max feature a handful of improvements over last year’s flagship device, the iPhone X, including better cameras and faster processors.
But a surprise contender has emerged in this Christmas’s smartphone race – the ￡899 Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
The Chinese company, which has a larger slice of the global smartphone market than Apple, has been going from strength to strength in recent years. The Mate 20 Pro is its new range-topping device, boasting a host of cutting-edge features that have never been seen on the company’s phones before.
While the iPhone XS and XS Max are almost identical in terms of hardware, we decided to compare Apple’s larger phone to the Mate 20 Pro as their screen sizes are closely matched.
Here’s how the two stack up against each other:
Starting with the iPhone XS Max, Apple’s range-topper sports an edge-to-edge 6.5in OLED display with a resolution of 2,688 x 1,242 - the most pixels packed into an iPhone screen to date.
The screen is noticeably crisper compared with the likes of the iPhone XR and iPhone 8, both of which have LCD panels, while colours are more vibrant than Apple’s older models. The latest batch of iPhones also offer the company’s True Tone feature, which automatically adjusts the screen’s white balance depending on lighting conditions.
On paper, the Mate 20 Pro has a slight edge over its iPhone rival. The Chinese smartphone’s 6.39in OLED display with a 3,120 x 1,440 resolution is technically sharper than the XS Max, yet both screens are so impressive that it’s difficult to notice a difference.
The Mate 20 Pro is thinner than the XS Max, which makes it easier to hold with one hand. It also has smaller bezels, too, and users can mask the small “notch”, an indent at the top of the screen that houses the phone’s front-facing camera, in the settings menu — an option that’s frustratingly absent on the XS Max.
However, the Mate 20 Pro’s display can look unnaturally vibrant at times, and images with strong blues and greens appear oversaturated. This isn’t an issue on the XS Max, though long-time Android users may find Apple’s OLED panel lacking in visual flair.
Winner: it’s a draw
The idea of a triple-lens camera system seemed a little far-fetched a few years ago. But Huawei has managed to pack three Leica lenses into the back of its Mate 20 Pro without compromising the phone’s sleek form.
The camera set-up ranges from a wide-angle lens to a telephoto lens offering 10x zoom, with quality ranging from 40 megapixels (mp) to 20mp depending on the lens. Images are sharp on all but the most extreme zoom, while video quality can be captured at a smooth 1080p at 60fps or 4K at 30fps.
It’s the wide-angle lens that impresses here, though, as it allows photographers to capture more detail in busy environments.
Apple’s rear-facing camera set-up, meanwhile, consists of two 12mp lenses. The quality of the images is slightly higher than those on the Mate 20 Pro and the ability to shoot in 4K at 60fps will no doubt be a hit with filmmakers.
Still, the widest lens is nowhere near the wide-angle camera on the Mate 20 Pro, while Huawei’s camera settings allow users to adjust features such as exposure and attach watermarks.
Apple may have a slight edge in quality, but the Mate 20 Pro pulls ahead with the sheer versatility its triple Leica lenses offer.
Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Performance and security
What has made the iPhone so popular among both gadget lovers and technophobes is how simple it is to use.
Face-scanning is as fast as it has ever been on the XS Max and Apple seems to be finding intuitive ways for users to navigate the device with swiping gesture controls, as the phone no longer has a physical button at the bottom of the display.
Yes, the iOS 12 operating system doesn’t offer the same level of customisation as Android does, but the iPhone XS seems to blend speed and accessibility in a way that few of its rivals can match.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro puts up a good fight and seems as though it can handle anything a user throws at it with ease. It’s particularly handy for those wanting to game on their smartphone, as titles such as Fortnite: Battle Royale run seamlessly on the device.
However, there are a few areas where the Android phone falls short. It’s face-scanning feature, for instance, simply isn’t as reliable as the equivalent on the XS Max, and some apps are not as well optimised as they are on the iPhone.
One plus point for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is that it comes with a fingerprint scanner built into the screen. It’s a handy feature, though it’s not as accurate as dedicated fingerprint readers are on other devices.
Winner: iPhone XS Max
You certainly won’t be disappointed if either one of these smartphones ends up under your Christmas tree this year.
The iPhone XS Max isn’t radically different to the iPhone X that came before it. While the handful of upgrades have made the XS Max Apple’s most complete iPhone to date, it’s unlikely that it will win over diehard Android fans.
Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air in what has become quite a stagnant smartphone market. It’s triple lens camera system is brimming with options for photographers of all skill levels, while its ultra thin and light form means it fits perfectly into the user’s hand.
The Chinese smartphone may have a few rough edges compared with its American rival, but the Mate 20 Pro is simply a joy to use.