iPhone XS vs Huawei Mate 20

Huawei took the wraps off two new phones at an event in London on 16 October, the Huawei Mate 20 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. We’re going to look at how the Mate 20 Pro compares to the iPhone XS Max in another article, here we will look at whether the iPhone XS can compete with the Huawei Mate 20.

The Mate 20 already has a few disadvantages in as much as it lacks wireless charging and doesn’t have a 3D-sensing front camera like the iPhone does for Face ID - not that that stops it from being able to recognise your face (but it does mean that it doesn’t have a humungous notch like the iPhone XS - and incidentally the Mate 20 Pro). It also has a lower water resistance rating than the iPhone XS. Perhaps its biggest disadvantage though is that it can’t actually be bought in the UK or the US - although that won’t stop determined UK and US shoppers from getting their hands on one.

However, there are a lot of features that make the Mate 20 stand out in comparison to the iPhone XS. It has a bigger screen, three rear facing cameras, a fingerprint sensor (for when you don’t fancy using face recognition), and it has a headphone jack, just to name a few, so we’re going to weigh them up to see whether Huawei really can give Apple a run for its money.

Price & Availability

Speaking of money, we’ll start with how much the two phones we are considering here will cost.

As we said above, the Huawei Mate 20 won’t officially be sold in the UK or US, but we do know that the prices start at €799 for 4GB RAM and 128GB storage while it’s €50 more for a 6GB/128GB version will cost €849. So that’s around £704/$918 give or take import duties and so on for the 4GB RAM option.

That’s a lot cheaper than the entry level iPhone XS which starts at £999/$999 for the entry-level 64GB version, while the 256GB version costs £1,149/$1,149 and the 512GB version costs £1,349/$1,349. Of course you can always opt for the iPhone XR which starts at a comparable £749/$749. We’ll also look at how those phones compare in another article.

There are also a couple of alternative Mate 20 handsets. There’s the Mate 20 X, which is similar to the Mate 20 but has a larger 5000mAh battery and a new cooling system - that will cost slightly more at €899. Then, if you are particular flush with cash, there is the Mate 20 Porsche edition which comes in at €1,695 for 8GB RAM/256GB storage, or €2,095 for twice as much storage.

If you really want to buy a Mate 20, GeekBuying has one in Emerald Green, and we advise that you keep an eye on GearBest, the new handset isn’t currently available there but we expect it to be.

The iPhone XS is available from Apple as well as from the major carriers. Be sure to read our Best iPhone XS deals page for the latest bargains.

Design

The iPhone XS is pretty much identical to the 2017 iPhone X, with it’s almost edge-to-edge 5.8in OLED display, notch instead of a Home button (for Face ID, Animoji and selfie portrait mode), stainless steel chassis, and glass back for wireless charging. In contrast, the Mate 20 is a much more attractive handset than the Mate 10 was last year. The Mate 20 having far smaller bezels than last year’s model, for starters.

The Mate 20 is bigger than the iPhone XS, in fact it’s bigger than both the iPhone XS Max, and interestingly the Mate 20 Pro, which is a fraction shorter and less wide than its junior sibling.

The Mate 20 dimensions are 158.2 x 77.2 x 8.3mm and it weights in at 188g. It has a 6.53in display.

The iPhone XS dimensions are 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm, while it weighs 177g. It has a 5.8in display.

iPhone XS notch

Incidentally, the iPhone XS Max is slightly shorter (157.5mm) but a tad wider (77.4mm) than the Mate 20 but it weights a lot more at 208g, despite being 7.7mm thin, like the XS.

So, in terms of size and weight the iPhone XS is both smaller and lighter, and if that matters to you then it’s a good reason to avoid the Mate. Of course if you want a larger phone then you have the choice of the iPhone XS Max, which is heavier than the Mate (and a lot more expensive - but we’ll leave those comparisons to our other article).

The Mate 20 is a thicker handset, whichever iPhone you compare it to. The difference is only about half a millimetre though, so don’t expect it to be that noticeable.

Moving on from the size of the handset, looking at the front of the device, as you’d expect from todays smartphones, it’s an all-screen design with very small bezels at the top and bottom. The big difference is that the Mate 20 has a tiny dip at the top of the screen for the front-facing selfie camera, unlike the iPhone (and most of the smartphones out there) which has a large notch concealing all the kit required for Face ID.

Mate 20 notch

As we’ll discuss later in this article, that doesn’t mean that the Huawei phone lacks face recognition, it does offer that feature, but it does lack some of the capabilities of the XS camera (which incidentally are shared by the Mate 20 Pro).

Looking to the back of the Mate 20, there are three cameras grouped into a neat square design with the flash. That’s three cameras to the iPhone XS’s two cameras. We’ll talk more about the cameras later on, but their placement certainly makes them noticeable, and if you wanted everyone to know you have a Mate 20 then it will be a big giveaway.

Back of the Mate

This camera arrangement is the same on the Mate 20 Pro, but the standard Mate 20 also offers a read fingerprint scanner for the times when you don’t want to use facial recognition. If you aren’t that sure you want to be forced to rely on Face ID with the iPhone, perhaps you were a fan of Touch ID, then the inclusion of both fingerprint and facial recognition in the one handset might appeal to you. (One of the key differences between the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 Pro is the fact that the latter has a fingerprint scanner technology built into the screen - something we at Macworld had hoped Apple might do one day but now we think is unlikely to ever materialise.

Back of the iPhone XS

One major difference when it comes to design is the colour options. The iPhone XS comes in Gold, Space Grey and Silver. If you want more colour choices for your iPhone then you need to look at the iPhone XR which comes in Red, Yellow, White, Coral, Black and Blue. (We compare the iPhone XR and the Mate 20 here).

The Mate, on-the-other-hand, come in five colours - Black, Pink, Twilight, Midnight Blue and Emerald Green. Twilight is a shimmery gradient of purple to blue likely to appeal to a lot of people.

We have to say we prefer the metallic colour choices for the iPhone XS, which we think gives the handset a more professional feel, but obviously these things are a matter of personal preference.

Display

There’s one glaring difference between the two phones and that’s the size of the notch. The Mate 20 has a small dip in the display that reveals the front facing camera. The iPhone has the now-famous notch (which you’ll see on most smartphones that have features like facial recognition - including the Mate 20 Pro).

Don’t assume this means the Mate 20 doesn’t have facial recognition, it does, it just isn’t as high-tech as the facial recognition capabilities on other phones, and we would suggest not as reliable because of that, although we haven’t been able to test that fully ourselves. Perhaps it doesn’t matter how reliable it is though, as you have the fingerprint sensor too.

The notch on the iPhone houses the various sensors that make Face ID, animoji, and portrait mode possible. If these are features that matter to you, then the notch is an acceptable disadvantage, we think. The alternative would be a shorter screen.

iPhone face ID

In terms of the screen size, the Mate 20 has a 6.53in screen (and as we mentioned above, that’s bigger than the Mate 20 Pro). The iPhone XS has a screen that is 5.8in. If you really wanted a bigger screen you could of course opt for the iPhone XS Max, which has a 6.5in screen, or the iPhone XR with its 6.1in screen.

We think that the whole screen size thing can be a bit of a misdirection though, a lot of these phones with big screens are long and narrow, while an iPhone 8 Plus, for example, still feels big, despite having a smaller 5.5in screen. Incidentally, earlier this year we looked at how the Mate 20 Lite compared to the iPhone 8 Plus

We discussed the dimensions above, and the difference is just over 1.5cm in length and 6mm in width, so, basically most of the difference is in the length, although the Mate 20 has a 18.7:9 aspect ratio while the iPhone XS has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio.

The other key difference between the two phones is the screen quality. Where the iPhone XS has a Retina OLED display, the Mate 20 has a LCD display. That might not make a big difference in real terms though, as the Mate 20 display has red, green, blue and white pixels to aid its colour reproduction. An OLED makes for better colour saturation and better colours though.

The pixel density on the iPhone XS is 458ppi, 2,436x1,125 pixels while the Mate 20 has 1080 x 2244 pixels and a 381 pixel density.

You’d need to view both phones next to each other to get a real feel for the difference and how much it matters to you.

Cameras

When it comes to cameras on smartphones it’s getting a bit like mens razors, with more megapixels and new filters being added as the differentiators. In the case of the Mate 20 there are three cameras on the back as opposed to the two cameras on the back of the iPhone XS.

The primary lens on the Mate 20 is a 12Mp f/1.8 (27mm equivalent), there is also a the 8Mp f/2.4 telephoto (52mm equivalent) with 3x optical zoom (which has optical image stabilisation - OIS) and a 16Mp f/2.2 wide-angle camera (17mm equivalent) with autofocus. 

Lenses Mate 20

The iPhone XS has a 12Mp, f/1.8 wide-angle (26mm equivalent) and a 12Mp, f/2.4, telephoto (52mm equivalent) with OIS and 2x optical zoom.

The selfie camera on the front of the iPhone XS is 7Mp, f/2.2 (32mm equivalent) while the front camera on the Mate 20 is 24Mp, f/2.0 (26mm equivalent). As we already discussed, the iPhone front-facing camera offers more than unlocking and creative self-portraits.

If you were to compare on the basis of megapixels alone you’d conclude that the Mate 20 is the better camera. But the idea that more megapixels means better photos is a bit of a myth. Other things that matter are pixel size - that’s 1.4µm and 1.0µm on the iPhone XS. We haven’t been able to find the equivalent measurement for the Mate 20, but both the iPhone and Mate 20 have a 1/2.3” sensor measurement.

Other photography features include various modes on both phones. In the case of the Mate 20, it can recognise around 1500 scenes and tweak the settings for the photos video, while the Neural Engine in the iPhone XS also uses AI to improve photographs. On the iPhone, it’s possible to adjust the background of Portrait mode shots after taking the picture. There’s a similar bokeh effect on the Mate 20. The Mate 20 also has a Night Mode that combines a long exposure with image stabilisation, while the Smart HDR in the iPhone goes some way to address low light conditions.

Specs

We’ll round up the specs below in a table to make it easy to compare the two phones but we’ll quickly draw attention to a few specifics:

Processor

The processor inside the Mate 20 is Huawei’s own chip, the Kirin 980 processor. This is the first 7nm chip to appear in an Android phone.

Apple also makes its own chip. The A12 Bionic is also a 7nm chip. The A12 Bionic is Hexa-Core (6-core), while the Mate 20 is Octa-core (8-core).

RAM

Like megapixels, as mentioned above, RAM can be a big differentiator between handsets, but there is a big question about whether it really matters how much RAM is inside your phone. The Mate 20 comes with either 4GB and 6GB RAM, the iPhone has 4GB RAM. We’ve always thought that there is no need for tons of RAM if the operating system works well with the phone as the memory management shouldn’t be a problem if that’s the case.

Storage

The Mate 20 comes with 128GB of storage, but that is expandable up to 256GB. You can get the iPhone XS in 64GB, 256GB or 512GB flavours.

Battery

There’s a 4,000mAh battery in the Mate 20 while the iPhone has a smaller 2,658mAh battery. The Mate 20 does offer 22.5W SuperCharge support, which should mean you can get a decent charge pretty quickly, but it lacks the wireless charging features that the iPhone XS has.

Ports & connectivity

One feature that the Mate has that the iPhone XS lacks is a headphone jack, something that is disappearing from smartphones (the Mate 20 Pro doesn’t have a headphone jack either). If you don’t have wireless headphones yet this might be a selling point for you.

The iPhone is more water resistant than the Mate 20. The Mate 20 is basically only splash proof while the iPhone could be submerged in water for around half an hour - although we wouldn’t recommend you do so!

And the iPhone has the ability to host more than one SIM, if that matters to you - apparently its a big deal in China.

Specs comparison

Specifications Huawei Mate 20 iPhone XS
iOS EMUI 9 & Android 9 Pie iOS 12
Colours Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold and Black Gold, Silver, Space Grey
Display 6.53in RGBW FHD+ Dewdrop display 5.8in Super Retina Display (2436x1125, 458ppi) OLED
Processor Kirin 980 and Mali-G76 A12 Bionic
Storage 128GB/256GB 64GB/256GB/512GB
Rear camera Triple rear camera with 16Mp ultra-wide lens, 12Mp wide angle lens and 8Mp telephoto lens. Night Mode, Beauty Mode, Bokeh and Manual mode 12Mp wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS + 12Mp telephoto, f/2.4, OIS, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, Portrait Mode, quad-LED flash
Front camera 24Mp camera. 7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video
Video recording 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30/60fps, 720p at 960fps 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps
Biometric security Fingerprint sensor and Face recognition Face ID
Wireless charging No Yes
Waterproofing IP54 IP68
Dimensions 158.2mm x 77.2mm x 8.3mm 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm
Weight  188g 177g
Price  €799 & €849 (not sold in UK or US) £999/$999 & £1,149/$1,149 & £1,349/$1,349

Software

The iPhone XS runs the latest version of iOS - iOS 12, as you’d expect. If you are already using iOS then that may well be a good enough reason to stick to iOS. If you aren’t already using iOS, then you should take a look and see what you think, we prefer it to Android by a long shot, but iOS is what we are used to. If you do want to make the move from Android to iOS there’s an app you can download that makes it really easy, find out how to move from Android to iOS here.

We think that the fact that Apple makes both the operating system and the hardware is always going to be a benefit to how the phone performs.

On the other hand, the Mate 20 runs Android 9 Pie and has Huawei's EMUI 9 interface on top. EMUI 9 boosts app opening times and offers a number of other features compared to Android alone. We hear it’s a lot less frustrating to use than older versions of EMUI.

Mate OS

Picture shows: Mate 20, When it comes to it, just how different is Android and iOS?

OUR VERDICT

We'd always choose an iPhone over an Android phone, but you'd expect that from Macworld. However, in a straightforward comparison of the Huawei Mate 20 and the iPhone XS, the Mate 20 does win in a lot of areas. There are other iPhone options that would offer a more favourable comparison - the iPhone XR in terms of price and screen size, for example. Or the iPhone 8 if you really want to keep using fingerprint ID. We are a tad jealous of the stack of cameras on the back of the Mate 20, although we're not sure that we'd actually use the wider-angle option, maybe if we had a large group of people we were photographing.

The Mate 20 certainly gives Apple a run for its money, and shows that when it comes to smartphones there is a lot of decent competition out there and Apple certainly shouldn't rest on its laurels.

Of course, the main disadvantage of the Mate 20 is the fact that you can't actually buy one in the UK or US...

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