huawei matepad pro no keyboardHuawei

Huawei announced the MatePad Pro today, a high-end tablet meant to butt heads with the Apple iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. Based on the company-supplied photos it’s a gorgeous slab. Gorgeousness aside, there needs to be some meat on these bones.

We may bestow heaps of attention and lavish praise on well-designed hardware, but the physical device, be it a phone or tablet, is only a means to an end. What matters are the experiences and actions made possible by any given device, whether that be for work or recreation.

Google has wholly and openly embraced this approach, as it made obvious with this year’s slew of Pixel-branded hardware. Google adopted a simple, almost boring design language in order to help its Pixel 4 series phones, PixelBook Go Chromebook, and Google Nest Wi-Fi hardware fade into the background in favor of the experience.

Without access to many of the core apps that people around the globe have come to rely on for work and for play, I have to ask if the Huawei MatePad Pro will offer the experience people — and mobile professionals in particular — require.

The hardware looks great

The Huawei MatePad Pro.Huawei

Huawei clearly meant for the MatePad Pro to stand as its flagship slate. The MatePad Pro joins the MediaPad M5 Lite, and other entry-level tablet fare from Huawei where it stands as king. (Or, more accurately, where it stands like an iPad clone.)

A 10.8-inch LCD display consumes 90% of the tablet’s front surface. The screen offers 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, making for an approximate 16:10 aspect ratio. Interestingly, Huawei brought the punch hole camera style to the MatePad Pro, meaning the 8MP user-facing camera is not located in the bezel and instead is positioned in the top-left corner of the display itself. The rest of the chassis is made of metal, of course, and comes in several different colors.

Under the hood you have Huawei’s best, a Kirin 990 processor with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and between 128GB and 512GB of storage. This is the same processor inside Huawei’s Mate 30 series smartphones.

The 7,250mAh battery is advanced. Owners can expect quick top-ups thanks to support for 40W rapid charging. Moreover, the MatePad Pro supports 15W wireless charging and can reverse charge other devices, such as headphones, at 7.5W. Nifty.

Four speakers will provide encompassing sound, but there’s no 3.5mm to jack in properly.

A stylus, called the Huawei M-Pencil, and a folio wraparound keyboard case complete the picture of productivity.

The software is a big question mark

The Huawei MatePad Pro and stylus.Huawei

We know very little about the MatePad Pro’s software other than the fact that it runs EMUI 10, which is based on Android 10. This is the same arrangement of the Mate 30 Pro, and we know how that has turned out for Huawei.

As it happens, in Huawei’s home market of China, the Mate 30 Pro has been an apparent success. Huawei claimed it sold 100,000 Mate 30 series devices in less than a minute, and more than 1 million before the device even went on sale. The company saw a sales surge in its most recent quarter with shipments of 67 million phones. That’s a 30% bump, though the bulk of the increase came from buyers in China. The Mate 30 Pro is available in some European markets, too, but exact sales numbers are unclear.

What’s interesting here is that the Mate 30 Pro is a victim of the US ban and unable to run Google Services and Google Apps. This is vital to most Android phone buyers, though less so in Huawei’s home country. EMUI 10 does offer Huawei-made alternatives for standard types of apps, such as email, calendar, browser, document and spreadsheet editing, and such. These are stop-gaps that work, even if they don’t fully sate Mate 30 Pro owners’ needs.

EMUI 10 without access to Google Play on a tablet is another matter entirely.

EMUI 10 without access to Google on a tablet is another matter entirely. Android tablets that do have access to Google Play Services struggle with apps, so how can Huawei possibly close the gap?

Will MatePadPro owners be able to download Microsoft Outlook or Office? Google Docs or Gmail? Slack or WhatsApp? These are critical productivity apps that are must-haves outside of China. The majority of businesses put at least some of these to work every day.

We asked Huawei what sort of steps it has taken with its software to account for the lack of Google Play on the MatePad Pro, though we did not hear back right away. Suffice it to say, outside of China the tablet will struggle.

Huawei MatePad Pro: Lots to ponder

The Huawei MatePad Pro doesn’t go on sale until early next year, so we have some time to explore these issues before people start buying the tablet. What do you think, is an Android tablet without access to basic productivity apps even worth considering? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.

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