Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: If it wasn't for Trump, it might be the phone of the year

IF it was not for Donald Trump, this might be the phone of the year.

The Mate 40 Pro has the best camera around and looks stunning.

But the now outgoing US President’s ban on American companies doing business with Chinese firms such as Huawei means key Google software is missing.

Luckily, Huawei has a solution with its own app store — and the ban is set to be lifted by President-Elect Joe Biden.

This is the best design yet from Huawei, with a silver back that changes colour in the light and a screen that inches down the long sides of the phone like a waterfall. And it has features the latest iPhones lack.

Here’s the best bits . . . 

COOL HUAWEI FEATURES: As well as a physical volume rocker on the edge, there are neat, “virtual” volume buttons – tap the edge and the slider appears on either side. Handy if you are left-handed.

Plus, there is an always-on display. Choose an image or animation from the collection – such as a cool deer that looks like Harry Potter magic – and it’ll show that plus the time, date, battery and more.

The 6.76in display looks great. It’s bigger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max but manageable because the screen is longer rather than wider and has those sloping edges.

Speakers on both ends of the phone ensure music and video will sound great, too.

STANDOUT SNAPS: Then there are three cameras — a wide-angle for general use, an ultra-wide for landscapes and a telephoto. The lenses all sit in a ring on the back of the phone.

The main camera has a 50MP sensor — meaning each image is made up of 50million little pixels or dots — and there is a 12MP telephoto with 5x zoom so you can get up close to action.

Huawei has always had top cameras capable of shooting in low light. I took one picture of our dog Lawrence indoors on a dark, cloudy day with no lights on and no flash used­ and it was nice and bright and detailed.

The phone also uses artificial intelligence to improve images. If it recognises a dog, it will emphasise the fur, but with a cat it will highlight the gleaming eyes.

There are great video features, too, such as Tracking Shot which keeps your subject in the middle of the frame even when moving. Great for filming the dog barrelling after another squirrel.

A REAL PERFORMER: The processor, the phone’s brain, is amazingly fast — and the battery lasts close to two days, even with the always-on display. The battery recharges quickly, too, with a powerful plug included in the box.

BUT ONE ISSUE: It does run Android but, because of that trade ban with the US, it cannot have Google Mobile Services such as Google Maps, Gmail or Play Store where apps are downloaded.

]This is a problem. But its solution is its own app store and its own services, under the Petal banner.

For example, Petal Maps, in conjunction with TomTom, is fantastic.

And the Huawei App Gallery is growing fast. A great feature called Petal Search helps find apps. If an app is not in the App Gallery, your phone can direct you to download it direct from the developer.

Many apps are available in the Amazon App Store and your phone will help fetch them for you.

It is more of a faff than just using the Play Store, but works and is secure.

Many apps are still missing. But the phone’s design is as eye-catching as the iPhone and it is far sleeker than the Samsung Note 20. Battery power and performance speeds are second to none.

The two rivals

Apple iPhone 12, £999

The top end Pro and Pro Max start at £999, and are the best phones around.

The ease of use and brilliant app store plus great cameras and design are key. New tough glass and neat MagSafe charging are small but great additions.

The new 12 mini from £699 is a cheaper way to get the latest iPhone but has a smaller screen and fewer camera features.

Samsung The Note 20 Ultra, £1,179

This will keep loyal Samsung fans happy but it falls way below the new iPhones.

And the Mate 40 Pro is far better – were it not for the app issue. Fans do like the built-in stylus and the camera has 108MP lens.

Online shoppers warned of fake product reviews

BLACK Friday shoppers are being warned to be wary of “fake” glowing reviews on Amazon – as it emerges the site is failing to stop sellers cheating ratings.

Millions could end up being duped when hunting for bargains, consumer watchdog Which? warns.

A third of us will buy something on Amazon in the sales, compared with 16 per cent at John Lewis and seven per cent at Currys.

Which? found “blatant evidence” of sellers incentivising shoppers to write positive reviews, using free gifts or vouchers.

In a number of cases the products were also labelled with the “Amazon’s Choice” endorsement and had comments within reviews such as: “Wouldn’t have placed this review but for the fact that I am ­hoping to claim the free gifts offered by doing so.”

They also spotted large numbers of positive product reviews uploaded in a suspiciously short space of time. In one example a pair of Pro-Elec headphones had 1,006 ratings and 4.8 stars despite the listing having only been added less than six months earlier

Another tactic is review merging. Here, sellers merge dormant or unavailable products with new or existing product listings as a way to transfer positive reviews from one item to another.

This included a supposed iPhone 11 adapter which appeared to share reviews with the popular PS4 video game The Last Of Us.

Which? also found an account that had been hacked and used to abuse the ratings system.

One review for a set of headphones had been updated with a claim that the account had been hacked and used to leave a five-star review, a tactic that other people have previously reported to Which?.

With many High Street stores forced to shut due to lockdown, it is likely that more people than ever will turn to online shopping in the weeks ahead.

Worryingly there also appears to have been a rise in the proportion of suspicious reviews on Amazon in the UK since March’s lockdown, according to data from ReviewMeta.

Some £23billion of purchases a year are influenced by online reviews, according to the Competition and ­Markets Authority — and many will use them as a helpful guide.

Natalie Hitchins, from Which?, said: “With people more reliant on online shopping than ever, it’s vital that online platforms step up and do more to protect their users from fake reviews, otherwise the regulator must be prepared to step in with strong action.”

Amazon said: “We suspend, ban and take legal action against those who ­violate our policies.”

What to look out for

IF something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Here are simple steps that can help you identify fake reviews.  

BE SCEPTICAL: For example, if a set of headphones has an unusually high number of reviews relative to others – especially if mostly positive – exercise caution.

READ THE REVIEWS: Do not just trust the overall rating – read the words to look for suspicious repetition, and sort by recent reviews to see what new buyers thought. Always check negative reviews.

TAKE CARE WITH UNFAMILIAR BRANDS: Most fake reviews are of little-known brands. If you do not recognise the brand, check to see if it has a legitimate-looking website, with clear contact details.

BEWARE PRODUCTS WITH LOTS OF PICTURES/VIDEOS: Sellers on Facebook review groups who incentivise positive reviews often encourage people to add photos and videos. Ask yourself, how likely is it that you would take the time to snap multiple images, or take a video, of a product that you are reviewing honestly?

REPORT SUSPICIOUS REVIEWS: If you are worried about the authenticity of a review, report it to the online platform so it can investigate.

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