You really cannot argue with these numbers. In November, research firm IDC released the quarterly smartphone shipment data. The Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker testified that it was a race for the top spot in the global smartphone stakes. Samsung, the leader for so long, now seems to be barely clinging on while the lead. That is because Huawei, the fast charger, is closing in rapidly. The Q3 2018 shipment data pegged Samsung at 72.2 million units shipped, while Huawei was second with 52 million units shipped. Apple followed in third, with 46.9 million units shipped in the same period. However, it is the change in percentages that you should be focusing on. The units Samsung shipped in this period were 13.4 percent lesser than the same quarter last year. However, the units that Huawei shipped were instead logging a growth of 32.9% compared with the same quarter in 2017.
This should not come as a surprise.
It was back in 2016 when Huawei announced their partnership with Leica, the German photography specialists. It seemed like a big deal at the time, but then not so much as things seem to stall in 2017. That year, it was more about phones that took inspiration from its rivals, and then added a dash of Huawei (or Honor, if you wanted a youthful phone) to it. Then there was the MacBook-like MateBook, some Google Home inspired smart speakers and blending was complete. At the same time, no one was really sure where that partnership with Leica was going. The answer arrived earlier this year, with the P20 Pro. And with it came the strong winds of change. Actually, winds would be an understatement. We might as well call it a gale force.
The P20 Pro was gorgeous to look at, with the Twilight colourway that really got your attention. It had a vivid OLED display too. The P20 Pro also bought to the table a triple-camera setup that relied heavily on artificial intelligence (AI), something that other phone makers have implemented in detail since and are proud to talk about it too. This phone measured up to its Android flagship rivals effortlessly, and really set the new benchmark for photography performance.
Then the rivals got into action. Samsung got in the Galaxy Note 9, Apple announced the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XS while Google launched the Pixel 3 XL and the Pixel 3. All fantastic phones, each having its own personality and all being significant improvements over their predecessors.
But still stuck in the past, in many ways.
Once everyone had revealed their cards, Huawei smartly launched the Mate 20 Pro, and reset the Android smartphone benchmark once again. The latest and greatest Kirin processor ever, running under the hood—the only other 7-nanometer chip apart from the Apple A12 Bionic in the newest iPhones. It has an in-display fingerprint sensor, while Samsung and Google still use traditional fingerprint sensors. The Mate 20 Pro also does reverse wireless charging of phones that support wireless charging—great if you have a second phone too. This is also the first phone with the LTE Cat.21 support, which means it can support LTE speeds up to 1.4Gbps. The Mate 20 Pro has the speediest wireless quick charge too, rated at 15-watts. For perspective, the Google Pixel 3 XL charges at 10-watt with the Pixel Stand, and only 5-watts with any other Qi-enabled wireless chargers. And then we have the 40-megapixel RGB sensor, 20-megapixel ultra-wide sensor and an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor all working in tandem for photographs which pretty much leave most Android phones far behind—barring the Pixel 3 XL, which relies on Google’s excellent artificially intelligent image processing algorithms.
The Mate 20 Pro, once you get to know it, is well and truly like no other Android flagship phone you can buy at the moment. It is a phone that makes you fall in love with it, and Huawei better match this level of geekiness in the successors too—else you risk running headlong into serious anxiety issues.
Then there is the matter of the price. The iPhone prices start around Rs99,000 while the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is priced upwards of Rs67,900. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is priced at Rs69,990. For all the extra stuff that you get, the Mate 20 Pro isn’t exactly charging a premium for it—when you consider the prices of the rivals.
Huawei truly has made more than a mark in the Android smartphone space this year. Significant inroads have been achieved in the flagship space, in great style while at it. That has also had a cascading impact on the more affordable phones that Huawei and its sub-brand Honor sell. This is the sort of momentum that smartphones companies, in this day and age of cut-throat competition and ever receding margins, pray for. Imperative then, that Huawei builds on this as they head into 2019. The Mate 20 Pro will remain the leading Android flagship phone to buy, at least till the time the rivals make their next move. And if two flagships in a year is the strategy that Huawei wish to follow next year too, the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro will be tough acts to build on. Which can only be great news for us lot.