Hands-on with the $800 US model Huawei Mate 10 Pro: Fantastic hardware, software still needs work

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is now available in the US and challenges Apple and Samsung flagships at a slightly lower price. There are still a few software issues to solve, and it's going to be tough to succeed without carrier support.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Video: Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro phones (first-look)

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has been available outside the US since November 2017 and will start arriving in US pre-order customer hands this week. I've been using a midnight blue US model for a couple of weeks and wanted to add to Sandra Vogel's full review with experiences related to the US single-SIM model.

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Hardware experiences

The model number for the US version is BLA-A09. The global one I've been testing for months is BLA-L29. Another international model is BLA-L09.

The physical hardware between the global model and the US model is the same, except for the SIM card slot. The tray in the US model has an opening for a single SIM card, while the international model supports dual SIM cards.

There are also some band difference between the L29 and A09 models. Since the L29 is a global model, it has more band options, in general, but the US one also has different FDD bands. The Mate 10 Pro does not support the new T-Mobile 600 MHz frequency (Band 71) that is actively rolling out, but it does support the other key T-Mobile bands. According to this PhoneArena cheat sheet, main bands for T-Mobile (4/12) are supported, but AT&T's band 17 is not included, while Sprint and Verizon bands are also not included. The global model may actually be a better fit for AT&T customers. I was only able to test the phone with a T-Mobile SIM.

  • L29-FDD bands: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/32
  • A09-FDD bands: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/14/18/20/28/29/30/66
  • L29-TDD bands: 34/38/39/40
  • A09-TDD bands: 39
  • L29-3G WCDMA bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
  • A09-3G WCDMA bands: 1/2/4/5/8

The US model has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, while there is a global variation with 4GB and 64GB.

The US retail package includes a US A/C adapter, along with the clear soft shell case, USB Type-C cable, USB Type-C to 3.5mm headset jack adapter, USB Type-C headphones, and SIM card extraction tool. Everything you need is included.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has a neural processing unit and integrated AI. At this time, we have some enhanced camera functionality, but have yet to see more regarding the NPU in practice. There is some promising capability in the Mate 10 Pro, and I look forward to seeing what Huawei is capable of doing with its own chips.

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Software experiences

EMUI, Huawei's custom user interface, doesn't bother me like so many other smartphone reviewers. It is even less obtrusive with Android 8.0 Oreo on the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and you can always install a different launcher to tweak the user experience. That said, it's also not perfect, and there are software issues beyond EMUI that concern me more.

I generally tend to use the default launchers on phones and was very pleased to see the Google Now cards appear with a swipe from left to right. This is the way stock Android works, and IMHO, is the best for Android. I hate the customized home screen panels we see from the likes of OnePlus, LG, and Samsung.

Weather is an important piece of information for me in the Puget Sound area where it changes a lot, and I experience different weather conditions where I live and work, which are separated by 45 miles of terrain. Over the years, I have come to prefer using the handy weather widget provided by Google Now. On most Android phones, you simply open Google Now's weather area and then tap to add a shortcut to the home screen. However, on the Mate 10 Pro, this shortcut is broken and tapping the weather icon that appears on your home screen panel simply takes you to the top of the Google Now cards list.

Android/Google Pay is the universal payment system for Android phones. It launches just fine on the Mate 10 Pro, but then, when I go to add in a credit or debit card, a pop-up appears -- stating "Android Pay can't be used on this device" -- along with text stating the device is rooted, has an unlocked bootloader, or is running a custom ROM. It is not doing any of these things, but it fails to function.

Over the past couple of years of testing Huawei phones, I have seen a terrible track record for maintaining the monthly Android security updates, and I'm not sure that trend is going to change anytime soon. Google Nexus/Pixel, Essential Phone, and BlackBerry devices are now current with the February 2018 update. Even Samsung devices are up to January 2018. However, this new Huawei Mate 10 Pro has the Dec. 1, 2017 security software installed with no updates currently available. Given Huawei's challenges entering the US market and its statements on security and privacy at CES, it needs to get in the game with timely monthly security updates.

Read also: Huawei: National security concerns not a blank cheque for public policy decisions

To buy or not to buy

The Mate 10 Pro hardware is fantastic, and there are many great aspects that make it a good phone for business. However, there are many other great phones as well that do not have software issues, provide timely security updates, and don't come with warnings from the US government.

The 4,000mAh battery will get just about anyone through at least one day of extreme use; the dual cameras help you take some great shots (not great selfies); there is water and dust resistance; Android 8.0 Oreo is installed out of the box; and it is a fast performer. In comparison to other flagships, the display is 1080p, there is no wireless charging despite the glass back panel, and there isn't really any unique feature or function that makes the Mate 10 Pro stand out from the crowd.

The $800 price is reasonable, especially considering you get a $150 store gift card with your purchase at one of the official launch partners. As for me, I'm not buying one at this time.

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