Huawei's Mate S flagship has some interesting functionality in the form of Force Touch and "Knuckle Sense," but it also looks like a sweet all-around handset in its own right. Read on for Gizmag's hands-on impressions of the smartphone from IFA 2015.
When you pick up the Mate S it feels light, solid and thin. It has a premium-looking metal casing and the 5.5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 panel looks sharp and vibrant. It also curves down very slightly at its edges, adding to the high-end feel. Its fingerprint sensor is located on the back of the device (something HTC tried a couple years back), but this one sits right under your index finger when you pick the phone up.
At 13 MP, you'll be able to find higher resolution rear shooters on other devices, but the results during our testing looked sharp and bright (though of course we'll need to wait for a full review before making any solid evaluations on that front).
The device runs a skinned version of Android 5.1 Lollipop. If you gravitate towards the "pure" experience of stock Android, then you're unlikely to love Huawei's treatment of the OS. Other than the stylistic changes, the biggest difference here is that there's no app button, with the home screens acting as the app menu, similar to iOS (like we saw when we reviewed Huawei's P8 Lite earlier this year).
Similar to what you'll find on the Apple Watch and new MacBooks, Huawei's Force Touch provides users with another method of interaction; by pressing down harder on the display, the phone responds differently than it would with a normal touch.
You can use Force Touch to zoom in on photos in the phone's gallery, with more pressure equaling a closer zoom. The company also showed us a "scale" app designed to show off the feature, registering up to 400 g (0.88 lbs) of weight.
We got the impression that Huawei hadn't quite worked out the best way to use the tech, which is only included on the top-tier version of the Mate S, but it does look like a cool extra on a phone that's already fairly compelling (and Force Touch tech will certainly get a lot more attention starting next week).
The other unusual feature on the Mate S is the ability to execute certain actions with your knuckles. If you're thinking that that sounds a little odd, then you'd be right on the money, but hey, Knuckle Sense it is. It lets you draw the first letters of certain apps like the camera and music player to open them instantly, or draw a closed shape to take a screenshot.
We appreciate Huawei's unique thinking here, but we also aren't sure if we'll make much use of it, as dragging your knuckles across a screen doesn't feel particularly intuitive. But we'll give it time and reserve judgment for our full review.
The Mate S will land in Europe later this month, starting at €649 (US$722). There's no word yet on whether a US release is on the cards.