Huawei aims for large-screen glory with metal-clad Ascend Mate 7

The device goes on sale starting later this month, but no U.S. launch planned for this year

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Huawei Technologies is hoping to steal market share from Samsung's Galaxy Note family with the Ascend Mate7, which has a metal body, 6-inch full HD screen and a battery that has almost 30 percent more capacity than what the Note 4 offers.

Consumer appetite for smartphones with screens larger than 5.5 inches is growing. This year shipments of devices with large screens are expected to increase by 209 percent from last year, compared to a 12.8 percent increase for smartphones with smaller screens, according to IDC.

Samsung may have helped popularize large-screen phones but other companies are following suit. The Mate7, Huawei's latest contender, was announced on Thursday.

The device's screen and metal body are big steps forward for Huawei. The Mate7 is made up of more than 95 percent metal, the company said. Like many other vendors that have announced smartphones at IFA, Huawei wanted a device with a more premium design.

Beyond its luxurious look, there are upsides and drawbacks to using metal, said Shao Yang, vice president at Huawei Device's consumer business group. Using metal makes the manufacturing process more complicated and expensive. But metal is stronger than plastic and makes it possible to build slimmer devices, said Yang.

One of the things Huawei has focused on is trying to improve battery life, prioritizing it over weight. People who frequently use their mobile device purchase large-screen smartphones and they shouldn't have to worry about battery life, Yang said.

The Mate7 has a 4,100mAh non-removable battery. The company has also worked on other parts of the device to make it more energy efficient, including the screen.

The Mate7 weighs 185 grams, which is six grams heavier than Samsung's Note 4, which has a 3,220mAh battery.

Like the Note, the Mate7 has a fingerprint scanner, which Huawei has placed on the back, and support for LTE-Advanced, a network technology that offers speeds up to 300Mbps. For it to work, mobile operators have to upgrade their networks.

The Mate7 also has a 13-megapixel rear facing camera and a 5-megapixel camera on the front.

Huawei continues to use in-house developed Kirin processors in its high-end products. The Mate7 is powered the Kirin 925, which is based on ARM's big.LITTLE architecture and uses four cores running at 1.8 GHz, four less powerful cores running at 1.3 GHz, and one extra core for lightweight tasks such as GPS. The cores can be configured dynamically depending on the workload.

The Mate7 will be available starting this month in more than 30 countries including China, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany, Italy, France and Spain. A version with 16GB of integrated storage and 2GB of RAM will cost €499 (US$649) with taxes, while a version with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM will cost €599.

Huawei hasn't decided whether it's putting the Mate7 on sale in the U.S., although in any case it won't happen this year. The company is quite happy with how well the Ascend Mate2 has performed in the country, Yang said, without saying how many it had sold.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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