The South African launch of the Hauwei Mate S happened on Thursday last week and I can truly say that they know how to throw a party! The Chinese company recently became the 3rd largest smartphone manufacturer in the world (behind Apple and Samsung) and they intend to keep that momentum with their recent line-up of high specs, good looking and affordable devices. The latest device to come to our shores is the Huawei Mate S. Much famed for being the first device produced with force touch technology. The launch of the Mate S took place on the roof of Hyde Park corner, a stone‘s throw away from Sandton CBD ““ the richest square mile in Africa.

A classy evening“¦

As with the launch of the Huawei P8 (see event coverage here) the company spared no expense in making it a night to remember for everyone. Bandwidth Blog was lucky enough to receive an invitation and I pitched up in my Sunday best to get my hands on the new Mate S. I arrived on the rooftop (at The Park venue) and was greeted by several ladies dressed in Greek-styled white dresses with huge smiles on their faces. After registration I received a NFC bracelet which I was to use at all the “œscan-me-now“ points in order to be entered to win a brand spanking new Huawei Mate S (no I did not win“¦).

After perusing the snack tables and picking up a beer from the bar I started striking up conversations with some familiar faces from the SA tech community. I tried to get an idea of what the current perception of Huawei is in South Africa and around the Mate S itself. Almost everyone agrees that the quality products Huawei bring at a really affordable prices will soon gain them a great foothold in not only SA but also the rest of Africa. The Mate S according to most is very similar to the P8 (see our review), only a bit bigger with a few more features and hardware upgrades. The Huawei device aims to compete against other Android heavyweights such as the LG G4 and Galaxy S6 (see or P8 comparisons here and here)

On to the formalities“¦

Once all the guests arrived we were ushered into the venue. I immediately recognised a few other faces among the crowd. As with the launch of the P8, Huawei likes to invite several celebrities to their launch events. Filtering through the crowd was members of the Ajax Cape Town team as well as their coach Roger de Sa. I also noticed the ever present J Something (Creative art director for Huawei Africa) having an animated discussion with Zolani from Freshly Ground.
Huawei-Charlene MunilallThe formalities for the evening kicked off with an incredible display of acrobatics. Peter Hu (MD, Huawei Consumer Business Group) welcomed everyone and promised that we would be awed by what they plan to reveal. He in turn introduced Charlene Munilall (GM, Huawei Consumer Business Group) who introduced the Mate S. Here is a breakdown of the smartphone‘s specs and features:

  • Four colors ““ Prestige Gold, Mystique Champagne, Titanium Grey, Coral Pink
  • Three models – capacities of 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB (only available next year)
  • 5 inch AMOLED screen
  • 13MP main camera, 8 MP front-facing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 2,700 mAh battery
  • 2 GHz Hi-silicon Kirin 935 chip running off a 64-bit octa-core processor (3GB RAM)
  • Knuckle Sense 2.0 (lets you draw shortcut gestures using your knuckles)

After the hoo-hah presentation of the Huawei Mate S we were caught by surprise when Charlene indicated that they were not done yet. She introduced J Something who had another surprise in store. Out came the brand new MediaPad M2 8.0. No one expected them to introduce the MediaPad, but we sure were glad that they did! Here is a rundown of the MediaPad‘s specs and features:

  • Full metal 8-inch tablet runs Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Kirin 930 octa-core CPU (with app scaling technology)
  • 8-inch AMOLED screen with maximum brightness of 400 nits.
  • 8MP camera, records 1080p video at 30 frames a second.
  • 4,800mAh lithium polymer battery
  • Two 1W speakers tuned by Harmon Kardon (produces amazing sound quality)

After Mr Something presented his new music video (shot with several Mate S devices ““ quite cool) he introduced Zolani from Freshly ground to perform the Huawei‘s design philosophy in the form of a “œtheme song“. It was a very catchy tune, not really my cup of tea but Zolani truly is one talented lady. Afterwards we were “œtreated“ to a short technical discussion on BYOD (bring your own device) with representatives from the media, Vodacom and Huawei ““ important stuff, just not all that interesting.

Let‘s get handsy“¦

After the formalities were concluded we were allowed to get our hands on the Mate S and MediaPad. First impression of the Mate S was the weight. The phone is extremely light, which I don‘t really like. I need to feel some weight when I stash my phone in my pocket. The device itself has a fantastic screen as well as a very thin bezel ““ using every inch of real-estate for the display. The UI is very responsive and a quick text test proved that (with several apps running). The Knuckle feature is cool but a bit of a gimmick if you ask me (will test it out in the full review). The force touch technology worked well but I need to spend some time with it to find out if it truly is such an amazing thing. The fingerprint scanner works a charm with added functionality that allows you to use the scanner to navigate to notifications and through photos. The camera app comes packed with loads of DSLR capabilities and has the potential to be a very good snapper. The Mate S will retail for around R 10,500 ZAR (R499 ZAR pm – depending on the model and service provider).

The MediaPad looks very high-end, the full metal body and bright display creates a good first impression. The 4,800 mAh battery promises to provide more than 30 hours of continuous usage (that‘s amazing). Eating through the battery will be the speakers of course. The 1W Herman Kardon tuned beauties deliver amazing sound quality. Unfortunately I could not enjoy its true magnificence due to the noisy ambient sound of the event but I could clearly hear the audio over the chaos ““ a good sign indeed.
All in all the event was a typical Huawei affair. Good people, good food and quality smart devices. Let‘s hope they can keep this up and provide a challenge to the Apple and Samsung staple.
Follow Jaco on Twitter: @Jaco_vdWalt