This time last year, Huawei was laboring behind the scenes to secure its first carrier deal in the United States for its freshly unveiled Mate 10 Pro flagship phone. The plan was that Huawei would re-announce the device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, with AT&T as its star partner. Except, at the very last moment, pressure from the US government convinced AT&T to pull out of the deal, leaving Huawei embarrassed and frustrated. Things got worse a month later, when the FBI, CIA, and NSA collectively warned US citizens off Huawei phones, arguing they pose a security and privacy risk due to the company’s ties to the Chinese government.

Whether you invest faith in the unproven allegations against Huawei or not, the fact is you won’t be able to buy the company’s new Mate 20 Pro at all in the United States, not even unlocked. And that’s a damn shame because it means Americans will be missing out on one of the most powerful, fully featured, and fascinating devices of the year. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro isn’t the best overall Android smartphone, but some aspects of it are indeed the best anyone can get right now.

In Europe, this super-specced Android device costs a knee-wobbling €1,049 (around $1,200, including tax), which puts it at the very top of the premium phone pile. For comparison, the Galaxy Note 9 has already been discounted from its €999 starting price, and Amazon is currently running a deal that offers it with a 128GB microSD card and 128GB of onboard storage for €799. So I’m going to forgive absolutely no follies with this Huawei phone. Only a couple of years ago, Huawei was the budget alternative to Samsung and Apple, and the shortcomings of its devices could be justified by a lower price. Today, Huawei wants to fight its biggest rivals on the same, expensive playing field.

Pros

  • Battery lasts and lasts
  • Blistering performance
  • Gorgeous display
  • 3D face unlock is fast and reliable
  • Textured rear glass improves grip, resists scratches and fingerprints

Cons

  • Camera lacks the dynamic range of the Google Pixel
  • Master AI image processing isn’t yet consistent enough to be trusted
  • Some software bugs and annoyances

As the most expensive mass-market Android flagship right now, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro needs some unequivocal wins to justify its positioning. I count two such victories: battery life and performance.

First, about that 4,200mAh battery. I’ve never known a phone to have a battery this big and yet feel this light and easy to use. Huawei is doing some marvelous power optimization work, too, because I can’t do anything to run down this battery quickly. Two hours of constant gaming in Alto’s Adventure cost me only 18 percent of the battery, which suggests I’d need a true marathon session to drain the phone completely. And the times when I leave the Mate 20 Pro idling, the battery percentage barely moves.

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