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Huawei Mate 10 Lite Review

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Introduction Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Lite is the new Mini, and that has ringed true for a few years now. If you’ve been following the mobile space long enough, then you probably remember Samsung’s Galaxy S5 mini and its predecessors, fondly or less so. That was the phone unofficially referred to as ‘the S5 for people who couldn’t afford an S5’. While the Korean company has since given up on using a flagship’s brand for a mid-ranger, Huawei has stepped in and carried the torch with its Lite models.

The Mate 10 Lite is the latest in that series of devices. Its name wants you to believe it’s closely related to the other members of the Mate 10 family, but even a cursory comparison of specs will reveal it not to actually be the case. The branding is there just to give the Lite a better perception. What about the experience of using it, though? Is that as far removed from a Mate 10 Pro as the Mate 10 Lite’s pricing?

That’s what we wanted to find out in this long-term review. The Mate 10 Lite should obviously pack quite a few compromises in order to reach its price point, yet it intriguingly has more cameras than its expensive relatives. So what does it deliver if you use it for weeks on end, as your one and only day to day smartphone?

Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Here’s a Mate 10 that is less than half the price of any other Mate 10. Yet it looks similarly modern with its tall screen, and even comes with four cameras. So what’s going on? Can you really get flagship-like features for a fraction of the price?

Design And Camera Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Camera app

Before we show you an assortment of photo samples so you can judge for yourself how good the Mate 10 Lite’s snaps are, let’s talk about the handset’s camera app.

First, starting it. This is a mixed bag, to put it nicely. If you ‘cold start’ it from the app drawer or home screen (meaning you haven’t used it in a while so it wasn’t already loaded in memory), the process can unfortunately take anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds in our experience, probably depending on what else you were doing beforehand. And sometimes it only shows a black screen even a minute in. We didn’t wait past that point to see what would happen, instead opting to close it and then re-open – at which point you’ll once again encounter that 5 to 30 second wait.

Camera app on Huawei Mate 10 Lite

On the other hand, you can use the shortcut of double-tapping the volume down key to start the app when the screen is off. By default this will also capture an image once the camera app has loaded, without you needing to do anything else. When started like this, the camera app loaded in under two seconds around 90% of the time, while the maximum amount it took to open and capture a shot was 12 seconds.

If you change this behavior from the Camera app’s Settings so the double-tap on the volume down key only loads the app and doesn’t instantly snap a picture too, then start-up performance takes a hit, though most times it’s not as long a wait as if you would use the app icon on the home screen.

The problem with Huawei choosing the volume down button for this function instead of the power key like other Android device makers is that the shortcut simply won’t work when you have music playing with the screen off – in that case, all that happens is that the volume is lowered.

Anyway, if you’re the type to want to very quickly capture a moment, you should probably try to always use that shortcut. Otherwise you may find you miss a lot of shots while you’re waiting around for the camera app to be ready. The good news is that if you’ve recently used the app it will come up quicker when you go back to it, almost instantly sometimes.

In terms of resolution options for the main dual camera array, there’s interestingly no 16:9 setting, you can go with the 4:3 aspect ratio (at either 16 MP or 8 MP) and live with huge black bars on the sides when viewing your images on the phone’s screen, 18:9 (11 MP or 5 MP), or a square 12 MP format. The future may or may not bring 18:9 to all the things, but right now TVs are still 16:9 so viewing pictures shot with the Mate 10 Lite on one will always result in black bars being shown somewhere.

The only problem with the Mate 10 Lite’s design has to do with handling, and specifically the fact that it’s a bit top heavy. This is by no means an issue that’s only found on this device – the top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy Note8 is even worse in this regard.

Combined with how slippery the Mate 10 Lite’s sides are (thanks to the rounded aluminum used), this top-heaviness might make for some awkward handling. You can grab it from further up, of course, but then it will be quite a hassle to reach the navigation keys without adjusting your grip.

The 18:9 aspect ratio of the screen makes the Mate 10 Lite look very modern, even if it still has top and bottom bezels – the latter so spacious that it even fits the Huawei logo with some room to spare.

Huawei bundles a transparent case in the box with the Mate 10 Lite, and that helps – to make you feel better about the times you eventually drop the phone, but it also does away with the slippery feel since you aren’t touching the smooth aluminum anymore.

Design, handling

The Mate 10 Lite comes with an aluminum unibody construction, which has been the most prevalent option among mid-rangers ever since plastic was relegated to only the cheapest tier of smartphones. It wears the metal well, feeling incredibly solid in the hand, and the front is covered by one continuous sheet of glass that’s only interrupted by the small earpiece grille.

While it may be starting to look a little bit dated in today’s world filled with glass-backed flagship devices, the design is well executed and the LED flash being placed inside the top antenna band helps make the Mate 10 Lite stand out a bit in a sea of very similarly looking competitors.

The fingerprint scanner is in a perfect position, but the dual rear camera island protrudes quite a bit and won’t allow the phone to sit flat on a table when you place it on its back. Unless you slap a case on it, because then it all levels out.

Design Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Performance And Battery Life Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Performance

The Mate 10 Lite is a rather affordable mid-ranger, so it goes without saying that its performance will never match the flagships, including the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro. In general use, the phone is reasonably fluid, but even from the moment you set it up it does feel slower than the top of the line options.

While that’s quite easy to get used to, especially if you don’t have another phone around that happens to be a flagship from the last couple of years, the problem with the Mate 10 Lite’s performance is consistency.

At the best of times it will give you 90% of the perceived speed and ‘smoothness’ of a Huawei P10, for example.

But at any point those times may be abruptly ended by a wave of stutters, or even worse – a freeze. The former are easiest to accomplish if you update an app in the Play Store and then try and do anything else at the same time. And if you want to freeze the Mate 10 Lite for at least a couple of seconds, add some Bluetooth music streaming on top of that. In such a scenario, we’ve had everything from a 2-4 second freeze to a one minute period in which the device simply stopped responding to our touches.

Performance Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Battery life

While some mid-range smartphones do ship with bigger batteries, the Mate 10 Lite’s 3,340 mAh cell isn’t small by any definition of that term. And yet we were not very impressed with the battery life we managed to get out of it. It’s definitely not a record-breaker in this regard, not even close.

What’s more, we’ve seen some pretty erratic battery life unfortunately, for which we haven’t been able to pinpoint the culprit(s) despite EMUI having a pretty detailed Battery section in Settings.

Standby battery life seems to take a pretty big hit when the handset isn’t connected to Wi-Fi but only to 4G, and streaming music via Bluetooth appears to consume much more than it does on devices using other chipsets. The same goes for GPS positioning, which takes quite a toll on the Mate 10 Lite, with the battery level dropping fast if you’re navigating somewhere.

Battery life Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Display Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Display

The Mate 10 Lite gets a few of the currently prevailing trends of the mobile space right, chief among which is the tall aspect ratio display. It has an 18:9 touchscreen with 1,080×2,160 resolution, and those are great specs for the price you’re paying. The panel is still surrounded by obvious bezels, but they are smaller than what we’re used to seeing from mid-rangers sporting the older 16:9 aspect ratio, so that’s a plus. Yet trimming the bottom bezel meant the fingerprint sensor has to live on the back, a decision that is surely going to please some and annoy others.

The screen can be seen well in bright sunlight, and the automatic brightness is adequate for the most part. However, the lowest possible brightness setting still seems too high for our eyes when using the phone in pitch darkness.

That isn’t helped by the fact that the device’s Eye comfort setting is a bit weird compared to other blue light filter implementations we’ve seen. It is quite green, while solutions from competitors are more yellow, orange or red.

Display Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

And when you turn it on, even in complete darkness, the perceived brightness of the screen remains exactly the same as before – that’s different from what we’ve encountered on other phones, where when you apply the blue light filter the display seems to get every so slightly less bright too.

The Mate 10 Lite’s software comes with a strange bug that will dim the screen somewhat when you enter certain apps. This doesn’t move the brightness slider at all, it just happens and it’s easiest to notice when the brightness isn’t all the way up – so like the aforementioned yellow tint, you’ll probably be annoyed by this more indoors than outdoors. Searching online for the issue has revealed that it isn’t the only Huawei device with this problem, which has been going on for a while. In fact we have already received two software updates on the Mate 10 Lite since we got our review unit and the dimming in apps is still there.

It’s not all apps, but you will encounter this when going into Chrome, Gmail, Medium, and even the built-in Dialer and Messaging apps, among others. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram aren’t affected at the moment, running the latest software (B133). When you leave an app that suffers from this issue the brightness immediately goes up to the level it used to have before you entered it.

Display Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Another problem with the Mate 10 Lite’s panel is an odd one that we didn’t expect to encounter. It has severe contrast shifting when you’re not looking at it straight-on, with the top or bottom half appearing normal while the other half would take on a rather weird, less contrasty look. This happens in all lighting conditions but it’s harder to notice when you’re out and about in bright natural light – it will be most obvious indoors.

All you have to do is visit a website or use an app with a white background and a lot of text (or just go into Settings), look at the phone, and then tilt it up/down somewhat. It’s one of those things that are hard to unsee after you first notice it, but how disturbing it will be to you depends on your tolerance for such things.

Software Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

Software

The Mate 10 Lite runs Android 7.0 Nougat with Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 on top, despite launching pretty much at the same time as the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which have Android 8.0 Oreo and EMUI 8.0 on board. This is one of the differences you’ll have to live with, unless Huawei ever decides to grace the cheapest member of the Mate 10 family with the latest tasty treat.

We’d call this yet another cost-cutting measure meant to enable the Mate 10 Lite to reach its price point, but we’re not sure that would be accurate. It may just have been a matter of prioritizing development of EMUI 8 for the flagships, but as Huawei is a huge corporation we’re baffled as to why it wasn’t able to find more software developers to work on that for the mid-range Mate 10 Lite as well.

Software Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

To consider EMUI 5.1 iOS-inspired would definitely be an understatement. The skin is heavy and you’re not likely to recognize Google’s vision for Android underneath it unless you specifically go looking for the smallest of things. The entire Settings menu has an iOS feel to it, and the Share function seems to have been deliberately made worse in terms of usability just to remind you of Apple’s software. Oh, and by default there is no app drawer, with all of your apps being laid out on the home screens themselves – sound familiar?

All of this ‘inspiration’ from that other popular mobile operating system is paired with neon blue quick settings icons that take us back to a time when Google loved that color scheme too. It was introduced in Android Honeycomb, perfected in Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, and altogether forgotten starting with Lollipop. Huawei’s quick settings panel might thus instill you with some fond (or otherwise) memories of days gone by.

The software’s design is a matter of personal preference, of course. You may or may not like what EMUI looks like, or you might decide to live with it in spite of its looks. It comes with some interesting features and loads of gimmicks too. In the former category let’s put the optional heavy restrictions for what apps can do in the background and the built-in screenshot editor (which is only making it to Google’s iteration of the OS with Android P). There are a bunch of Huawei apps either alongside Google’s or replacing them.

The Chinese company doesn’t have its own app store like Samsung, but you will get its Calendar, Clock, Calculator, Contacts, Dialer, Gallery, Messaging, and Email apps, for example. A handy file manager is included too. There are also some preinstalled games such as Asphalt Nitro, Kingdoms, and Spider-Man: Ultimate Power, alongside the Quik video app. How annoyed you’ll be by these depends on how useful you find each one, of course. Generally speaking, though, we prefer not to see bloatware at all on a smartphone, but let’s not to get into the whole “what is bloatware” discussion that leads some people to say that even Google’s apps count as such.

EMUI on the Mate 10 Lite is as far from a stock Android experience as you can get nowadays, which is definitely something to keep in mind if you’re considering this as your next smartphone. The Xiaomi Mi A1 is cheaper and delivers an Android purist’s dream in terms of software, so that’s a better fit if having the OS ‘as Google intended’ is high on your priorities list and you don’t mind some downgraded specs. If you don’t care about that, EMUI brings you plenty of customization options, including built-in theming with an associated theme store.

Software Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite

It also seems to give you a much better idea of what’s going on in the background at all times, including which apps are draining your battery more than others. These “Power-intensive apps” are listed in a special section of the Battery settings, and you can choose to let them keep the phone awake or close them. There’s also the option to close all apps when the screen locks, or just a subset.

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