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Hands-On with the 6.1-Inch Huawei Mate Android Smartphone

I don’t think we ever thought we were ever going to get here, but the natural progression has spoken for itself. The iPhone has had a 3.5-inch display through a number of generations. Then, we started to see Android smartphones gain in popularity and they also gained in size.

I like to use the Galaxy series as a prime example: the original Galaxy S Captivate had a 4-inch display. The Galaxy S II got up to the 4.3-inch range (with some variations) and the Galaxy S III is in the 4.8-inch range. Then, the Galaxy Note and Note II arrived, pushing screen size to 5.3 and 5.5-inches respectively. A device like the Huawei Mate was inevitable.

Announced here at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Huawei Mate is a beast of an Android smartphone. It has really pushed the envelope by offering a huge 6.1-inch display. This is getting awfully close to the 7-inch range where “true” Android tablets begin their range. Interestingly, although there are now a few 5-inch offerings with 1080p displays, the Huawei Mate has stuck with 720p. I suppose this will help with battery life, but in using it in person, its display doesn’t quite look quite as crisp, given the lower pixel density.

That said, it is still a very nice display. Huawei went with a HD IPS+ panel for great viewing angles and, not surprisingly, it’s protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. I still feel that it doesn’t quite get the same kind of color saturation as an AMOLED family display, looking more like a blown up version of the screen you see on the Optimus G for example, but it certainly does the job.

You can tell that Huawei has borrowed some design inspiration from Samsung with a rounded smooth back and the overall slate style, but it’s really hard to differentiate the core design of a slate-style smartphone these days. So, Huawei decided to go big. In fact, the marketing materials that accompany it proudly proclaim it to have the “world’s largest screen.” Did this make it unwieldly? I think it depends on the size of your hands. I thought it was perfectly comfortable as a two-handed experience, but trying to do much of anything one-handed is going to be a challenge. You can hold it up to your face for a phone call, but you can’t really expect to reach around much of the screen when you’re only holding it with one hand. The larger display, though, is great for GPS navigation, video watching and other multimedia functions.

The performance should be up to spec with most higher end smartphones these days, given that it is powered by a quad core 1.5GHz Hi-Silicon K3V2 processor, backed with Intel XMM6260. It wouldn’t really be fair for me to completely gauge its performance at this time, seeing how it’s not quite ready for market and I only had it in my hands for a few minutes, but it did seem to lag and hang a little when switching between apps or opening new apps. It’s not slow, per se, but it’s not quite as fast as what we’ve seen on other high-end Android devices.

At the end of the day, a device like the Huawei Mate isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s huge, but it should still fit in larger jacket pockets without too much trouble. As with the Galaxy Note II, it may also appeal more to women as it can easily fit into a purse, though there are plenty of guys who carry around bags too. It doesn’t have the “S Pen” stylus of the Galaxy Note II, but I don’t think too many people use that anyway. For now, the Huawei Mate makes a firm statement about where the industry is heading. I remember when I thought the 4.3-inch smartphones were big. Now, compared to the something like the Motorola RAZR HD, those 4.3-inch phones just seem so tiny.

About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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