KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — It's 2017 and Huawei, of all brands, is perhaps the biggest threat to Samsung and Apple's dominance in the high-end smartphone game.
Huawei's even announced it's not going to bother making phones in the low-end segment anymore.
Instead, it's going to concentrate on making mid- to high-end smartphones and where Android phones are concerned, Huawei offers a lot of performance for very reasonable prices.
Take the Honor 8 Pro, for instance. I had two weeks with the phone to find out whether it truly deserved the buzz it was getting — that it managed to be a high-end phone without a high-end price tag.
If you were to get this phone, I would suggest it in blue. The black edition is nice, but there's something about the blue tone that stands out — it's not a pastel blue, nor is it a true navy, but a deep blue with a subtle metallic sheen.
As for the packaging, it's very polished. No tacky promo photos on the outside; Huawei instead keeps the box simple. Just a deep blue, with the phone's model emblazoned on the outside in silver.
It's fairly slim, and is very thin at just under 7mm. Though the 5.7-inch LCD display seems large on paper, when actually holding it in the hand, the Honor 8 Pro doesn't feel big at all.
It makes phones like last year's Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 Plus seem giant in comparison.
If a phone's looks matter to you, the Honor 8 Pro isn't the flashiest but its sleek, understated design and unique colour would appeal to people who want something that stands out.
What was the phone like after turning it on? I admit my expectations were fairly high as it had Huawei's own very powerful Kirin 960 processor, said to be as good as Qualcomm's 835 processor and faster than Apple's A10. It also had a massive overkill of 6GB RAM, more than my laptop.
Still, specs are only numbers. How did it perform? Of course, it took mere seconds to boot up (I would be worried if it didn't) and switching between apps was butter-smooth. I didn't experience lags or stuttering while using the phone and playing both games as well as video was a trouble-free experience.
There was one thing that bothered me. With all the power inside its chassis, the Honor 8 Pro had a tendency to get quite warm. Within a few minutes of turning the phone on and flicking through apps, as well as taking a few photos, the phone would warm up more quickly than I'd like.
It didn't affect the performance and leaving the phone idle, temperatures would normalise fairly quickly especially in an air-conditioned room.
Arguably, Huawei's rise to smartphone prominence has to do with the cameras it's been putting on its phones. The brand popularised helped make dual-lenses a standard on high-end phones and by partnering with renowned camera makers Leica, furthered the brand's reputation for phones that took great pictures.
How is the Honor 8 Pro doing in that respect? Yes, it has dual-lenses at the back and what Huawei does is interesting: It has its own monochrome sensor. How does that matter? In a dual-cam setup, each camera has its own function.
Apple's second camera sensor is used for optical zoom but Huawei's added monochrome sensor prioritises aspects not related to colour in an image.
Combining that monochrome sensor with the other sensor is said to produce images with better contrast, allowing for better depth-of-field shots. In other words, getting that pretty, blurred out background is easy to achieve.
While the pictures are decent, thanks to a fast-focusing lens and a nice dual-LED tone flash for nicer flash lighting, you need a steady hand as there is no optical image stabilisation (OIS). In low light, the camera will struggle a little, even with night mode but the flash will be a help in this situation.
Still, the phone tries to compensate by sharpening your photos after you take them. Thanks to the two cameras with 12MP sensors, there's a nice amount of detail and in outside or bright light, you get some very pretty photos.
The 8MP camera in front also produces nice pictures though the Beauty Mode will make you wonder about the obsession Android phonemakers have with making you everyone look like Korean dolls in selfies.
A decent package
It looks nice, has a fairly decent camera, is very powerful — what else is there? There's a massive 4,000mAh battery, which runs out faster than I'd like.
I'm also not a fan of Huawei's UI but it's not hard to figure out, just a matter of preference. It helps the phone comes with a decent amount of themes for you to mess with until you find something you like.
What's a shame is that the phone offers a Type-C port but there's no fast charging option, which makes charging the battery a longer affair than I'd prefer. It's also not water-resistant, which is a shame considering Samsung's midrange A-series managed to include that feature.
Still the niggles are fairly small compared to the phone's strengths: a year ago, you'd have to pay nearly RM1,000 more for what the Honor 8 Pro gives you for RM1,999.
It's a phone that could last you at least of couple of years thanks to its high-end specs and if you're desiring a performance phone without draining your wallet.
The phone is already sold out on Huawei's Vmall store, but you can pick it up at official retailers or on sites such as Superbuy, Lazada and 11street.