While it’s not quite a household name yet, Huawei recently became the third largest smartphone vendor in the world behind Samsung and Apple. But market share isn’t everything, and Huawei is now dressing the part with the Mate S: its most luxurious smartphone yet.
The Mate S sports a super-durable 1920 x 1080 5.5-inch Gorilla Glass 4 screen with rounded edges that give it a 2.5D look and feel. The all-aluminum body has a lovely brushed texture and a rounded back that tapers away as you get near the sides, making it feel thinner than its listed 0.28-inch thickness. There are three classy metallic color options, each with an upscale sounding name: Titanium Gray, Mystic Champagne and Luxurious Gold.
Inside, the Mate S shares the same HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor as Huawei’s previous flagship, the P8, along with 3GB of RAM, your choice of 32GB of 64GB of storage and a microSD slot, with a price of 649 and 699 Euros, respectively. Huawei also teased an even more expensive model featuring 128GB of storage and what Huawei is calling Force Touch, which allows the screen to detect multiple levels of pressure when touched. The latter addition seems like a particularly smart move, considering Apple's own Force Touch technology is expected to come to the iPhone 6s next month.
When I tried this feature out at Huawei’s booth at IFA, the phone was connected to a water fountain; The harder I pressed the screen, the higher the water shot out of the fountain. It worked liked a charm and didn’t feel like it was limited to just a few breakpoints. Huawei also demoed the Force Touch screen's ability to zoom based on pressure sensitivity, and even showed an app that used to the screen to measure the weight of an object. The feature is still in development, however, so it’s difficult to say how accurate the Mate S will be at launch.
The back of the Mate S reminds me of some previous HTC phones, but with the addition of a square fingerprint reader below the 13-megapixel rear camera. On the sides, you get the standard volume rocker and lock button, with a headset jack located on top. The 5-MP camera in front gets a little help with the inclusion of a soft white led, which provides nice even lighting to smooth out selfies in dimly lit environments.
In the end, the Mate S unquestionably feels like the most premium device Huawei has made, and it will be interesting to see how customers react to such a high-priced device from a maker better known for its mid-range handsets. The 32GB and 64GB models should be available later this fall, but if you’re hoping to score the 128GB model with Force Touch, you’ll have to wait until 2016.