A lot of experts will tell you wonderful things about the stuff they get paid to write about. We wax lyrical on the ram size and the camera megapixels and the overall look but not always are we willing to put our money where our mouths are. This is not the case with this article. This is me, going through my thoughts as I have to pick my next phone, laid bare.
Choosing one’s own cell phone is always a curious thing. It may not be “the best phone” at all, as there are undoubtedly many on the market that sport incredible features that outstrip the other premier offerings one way or another. Some we don’t even have on offer in this country yet, like the Essential phone or even Xiaomi’s premier offering of the Red Note 2.
It often comes down to a personal connection with a brand or that moment when your previous brand let you down in a way that you can’t explain. Or what about that three-year period when it seemed essential to your very work existence to have BBM?
I have had various versions of the iPhone for seven years now but over the last few years have grown weary of their inherent lack of innovation. So now that it is time for me to choose my next new phone – sans BBM – I find myself questioning my loyalty.
Enter the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and Sony XA1 which, along with the iPhone X, were all launched last month. Now which Pokémon will I choose?
OVERALL SHAPE AND DESIGN
The Huawei made a big move into the “giant phones are better” camp with this one. It’s a large, yet majestic, phone that commands attention and doesn’t quite fit in your (lady) pocket but the screen does have that “all the better to see you with” quality that you can appreciate.
The Sony feels the most robust of the three. A decent compact size and boxy metal casing feels like it would probably survive any antics at a Christmas Party unscathed. A little on the skinnier side but I personally like the more boxy shaped phones – it makes me feel more Star Trek-y.
The iPhone X is a smidge bigger than your regular sized iPhone 8/7/6. The glass makes it slick yet heavy and although on the front screen it flows almost seamlessly into the shiny metal side casing, the actual image of the screen does not. Tricksy.
THE USER EXPERIENCE
This is where the Huawei shines bright like Rihanna’s diamond. It is ridiculously fast and stupidly efficient, undoubtedly thanks to its tiny AI brain – which we will get to later. I have never really experienced a phone as intuitive before - nor as slick.
The Sony makes the best of the Android experience with its own unique twist which is easy enough to become second nature but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen in a Sony phone before – not that that is a bad thing with so many versions of the series having been released this year.
The iPhone X’s lack of the home button feels effortless, it also feels like such a simple change that Steve Jobs would have come up with and executed four years ago. It’s almost weird how unrevolutionary it feels, like, “Oh, do I just swipe up? Sure, no brainer.”
I know it took a lot of very, very smart people years to make it appear that simple and any design that appears effortless is truly great design but I have admit I did expect it to blow my hair back a bit more than it does. Besides the new swiping navigation, the new iOS 11.2.1 translates the same way it does on all the older Apples.
Huawei sports the ever more preferred “fingerprint at the back of the phone” position and, guess what, it is still a winner.
Although Sony is famous for the sneaky side fingerprint moment I have to be honest here and say that when I was given the phone it was locked by a previous pin code but informed me that if I got the pin wrong 30 times it would reset to factory settings. Not the most comforting thought.
Now it’s time for the infamous face ID. I don’t have another twin lying around but I did try it with a hat and glasses and it worked almost always automatically. There was one time it didn’t causing the oddest sensation of me moving my face around trying to “make it more like my face” but simply pressing the lock key and trying again seemed to do fine.
Let the record state that all the cameras on these phones are ridiculous. Each has incredible, colour vibrancy and detailed texture. The push for cell phones to top each other with insane specs is here for you and your social media accounts and, oh boy, you (and your followers) should be excited.
But I guess someone needs to be crowned the winner and after spending a decent amount of time playing with the portrait mode I will say, Apple, I was astonished. I looked like a movie grade documentary still and even straight shooting your true tone made a massive difference. Bravo.
Now it’s time to talk about the tiny AI brain. Huawei sports an AI chipset that essentially, in normal peoples terms, means that each phone has its own tiny AI inside of it. Unlike AI’s at Intel and Google, the AI inside your Mate 10 Pro is specifically for your phone and doesn’t form part of a larger hive mind. So instead of taking over the world like in a lot of sci-fi movies, the chipset learns you so as to make the phone more efficient for you. It also processes information faster to optimise your experience and believe me when I say that it shows. This is the most game changing moment in phones I have seen in a while and I promise you, it is the future.
In the new addition of things no one ever asked for with the Sony XA1 you can scan your head and make a 3D version of it on your phone. There’s no other way of saying it: it’s super weird. For those wondering why you might want a scan of your head, Sony’s push is for one of their other properties – The Playstation – and their thought is that you can then play as your self in video games where you design your own characters. I personally play video games to get away from all that, so I’m not enthralled by it but at least I can actually Photoshop myself into any situation far more accurately.
I did it, I finally made an animoji where I was a cat and I have to say it was a lot more fun than I anticipated. Every gesture makes a different reaction and after you record your message you have the option of seeing it preformed by a selection of 12 emojis. Plus you can save it as a video and share it with your android friends on whatsapp.
With something this gimmicky it will either hardly make an impact or there will be an entire generation of Youtube emoji unicorn stars. Also, I think this is the first step in creating a whole lot of superior catfish online dating – scanning someone else’s face with the Sony and wearing it like an animoj – but until then the only impact it will have on your dating life is that I am 98% sure that someone in the world has already broken up with someone in the world by sending them the bad news with a poop animoji, so beware.
THE WEIRD METAPHOR I USE TO DESCRIBE MY EXPERIENCE
When I left my job and did the millennial thing by travelling the world for two months, I started off in New York and fell in love with the city. It was breathtaking and magical and changed my life. I then went on to San Francisco and hated it for not being New York for most of the time I was there. Looking back, all my favourite memories from the American part of my trip are from San Fran but I was too blinded by my incredible experience I had in the Big Apple to see it.
I fell completely in love the Huawei; hook, line and sinker. And every phone after the fact paled in comparison. I didn’t care that it was too big or that it didn’t have any of my usual comforts of my podcast app or the tons of games I paid for over a span of 7 years. I loved that phone with my whole heart and when I didn’t have it anymore I mourned it.
The Sony is nice and all but it’s just not me. I think that it is an incredible phone that like most of my ex’s (like the one that lives in Chicago if we have to keep going with this American city metaphor) will make someone else very happy.
I think ironically the Apple is like my experience with the city that birthed it. I hated it for not being as majestic as the Huawei and was disappointed that it wasn’t as smart, pretty or intuitive. But even so, looking back at this experience it’s the one that feels the most like home. A more slick, trim better version of home that is the best version of itself.
So after all that I will not be choosing the better phone, because make no mistake the Huawei is a lot better. But at least now I can happily continue to live the rest of my life as an emoji cat.