There’s so many different features and modes packed into the Huawei Mate S that it can take a while to spot them all, but do these features add up to equal a must-buy smartphone?

Read on for our full review of the Huawei Mate S, which features an odd knuckle-sensing display, a fingerprint reader and a nifty one-handed mode.

Look and Feel

Right away, you’ll notice that Huawei’s Mate S looks fairly similar to phones from other tech giants that we’ve seen in the past. Is this a bad thing? Not at all.

Whilst the Mate S reminds us of a cross between an iPhone and a HTC flagship, the overall quality of the design, look and feel is brilliant. This is a premium smartphone with some gorgeous curves, boasting plenty of functionality inside and out.

We love the look of the Mate S

The Mate S features a nice, bright 5.5-inch 1080×1920 screen protected by Gorilla Glass 4. Feeling fairly light in the hand (especially compared to other 5.5-inch gizmos) the smartphone is comfortable to hold, if a little slippy.Even unboxing the Mate S was a joy, with the smartphone arriving in a fancy black box with some sleek headphones.

The Mate S looks like a cross between an iPhone and HTC. Is this a problem? Not really.

Because of the slightly curved body of the Huawei Mate S, putting the smartphone down on a table and typing can cause it to move around slightly. The fact that the back camera protrudes slightly doesn’t help matters, either. Even so, we don’t have many complaints when it comes to the phone’s appearance.

In terms of the official phone case we were provided with, the less said the better. It looks cheap, feels flimsy and ruins the otherwise pretty look of the Huawei Mate S smartphone. It’s rather gross.

Using the Mate S

Under the hood, the Huawei Mate S is rocking 3GB of RAM and runs on a customised build of Android 5.1.1, working alongside Huawei’s Emotion UI. A bump up to Android Marshmallow is said to be in the works for the Mate S, but Huawei’s updates are infamously slow to arrive.

We’ll admit that Emotion UI isn’t our favourite smartphone UI ever, with our main gripes being that it’s fairly ugly and doesn’t offer the same ‘clean’ look as stock Android. There’s also some bloatware on board which can’t be uninstalled. Emotion UI does have some uses, though. Ultimately, it’s fairly simple to use, which makes it ideal for folk that aren’t too tech-savvy or don’t want a complex smartphone experience. It’s fairly zippy when you’re exploring your phone, too.

Budding photographers should be happy here, considering the Mate S’ 13-megapixel rear camera does a great job of capturing the action. We found that the snapper coped well even in low light, which was impressive.

On the front of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera that selfie lovers can use alongside Huawei’s ‘Beauty Filter’. This is essentially a built-in airbrushing tool, and it works well. It’s handy if you’re as ugly as us.

Emotion UI isn’t as clean as stock Android

The back of the phone houses a fingerprint sensor, which is ideal for unlocking the Mate S with minimal effort. You can also use the sensitive spot to show notifications, take pictures and answer calls. For the most part, we found the sensor worked as we wanted it to. On a couple of occasions, it took a number of attempts to unlock, though.

Video playback on the Mate S is great thanks to crisp visuals and very loud sound from the front speaker. You may accidentally cover the grill at the bottom of the smartphone during landscape playback, but this isn’t really a deal breaker.

Huawei’s smartphone has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to give the gadget some flair.

Huawei’s smartphone has plenty of quirks and tricks up its sleeve to give the gadget some flair, including a one-handed mode that’s a god-send for a phone of this size. Swiping from left to right at the bottom of the screen will make the UI display smaller, so you don’t have to cradle the phone with one hand and type with another.

Knuckle gesture support is another feature that springs to mind when mentioning originality. Admittedly, we could probably survive without ever using this feature, but it’s clever. You can take screenshots or record video clips by ‘drawing’ on the screen with, well, your knuckle.

Standby time is good on the Mate S and battery life will last almost a day with light use.

Value for Money

You can pick up the Mate S on Shopomo for a price of around £400, which seems like a reasonable price for a premium device.


Whilst we could see ourselves paying this for the Mate S and enjoying our time with a smartphone that does everything you want it to and more, Emotion UI seems a little dated.

On top of that, we’re not sure when the Mate S will be updated to support Android Marshmallow, which is disappointing for Android fanatics.

Our Verdict

All in all, we enjoyed our time with the Mate S, a smartphone that absolutely excels when it comes to functionality.

Did we mention it’s gorgeous?

We think the Mate S is a stunning-looking smartphone (outside of its gross case) slightly let down by Emotion UI. The camera takes great pictures, sound is nice and loud and the fingerprint sensor is accurate, for the most part.

Minor problems aside, Huawei’s Mate S is a solid smartphone. Did we mention it’s gorgeous?

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Tom Morgan is Phonecruncher's roving reporter and video guru. Find out more about him here... After three years at the University of Winchester, Tom graduated with a journalism degree under his belt. A couple of work placements out in the real world at PC Advisor and the BBC taught him that journalism is pretty fun, and a couple of months later he joined the team at Tom would be the first to admit he spends far too much time worrying about Arsenal results and watching strange videos on YouTube.