Today is the day of what should have been Huawei's big MWC press conference, but now that the show is cancelled it's just a regular press conference. It's a conference with plenty of announcements to speak of, and among them are some gadgets that are remarkably similar to what Apple has to offer. Specifically there's a tablet that looks like an iPad Pro and a speaker that looks an awful lot like a HomePod.
Huawei is no stranger to tablets, but this year it's overhauling the whole part of the business with a brand new brand name. Now tablets are going to come out under the 'MatePad' name, and the first one to be released is the 'MatePad Pro 5G'. Funnily enough it's a 5G tablet that is remarkably similar to the iPad Pro range.
Being an Android-centric tablet, the MatePad Pro doesn't have a lot of the same big features Apple introduced with the first iPad Pro - because things like USB-C accessories and multitasking tools have been around on Android long before the iPad Pro hit the scene. But take a look at the thing, and tell me it's not almost identical to the iPad Pro. Not just because they're large rectangles, but with the accessories.
There's another new M-Pen with the MatePad, and not only has the design changed to look exactly like the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil, it also has the same magnetic wireless charging. It's not clear whether it can be plugged in, but somehow I doubt it considering Huawei promised us a load of stats about how long it would take to recharge magnetically. Then you have the keyboard case, which is identical to the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard Folio. Granted Apple didn't really opt for a particularly special design with either of these things, but the similarities are pretty blatant.
The name is a big giveaway too. the 'Pad' suffix may not be exclusive to Apple (Asus and Lenovo both use it as well), but Apple is the biggest user of that name and coupled with the rest it's pretty clear what Huawei was trying to do - especially since it's a 'Pro' tablet.But Huawei would probably deny it, even if it does seem obvious. Remember the MateBook X Pro? That's basically a MacBook afterall.
But if you want an iPad Pro-like device running Android, the similarities may not be such a bad thing. This one has a 10.8-inch display, with 2560 x 1000 resolution, a 16:10 aspect ratio, and a 90% screen to body ratio. In other words the bezel is really small, and the aspect ratio is designed for multitasking apps - with EMUI 10 offering two apps running side by side and a third floating window on top. There's also a front-facing hole punch camera, and a dual-rear camera directly behind it - in case you're the kind of psycho that actually uses the rear camera on a tablet.
On top of that Huawei says it's the "world's first" wireless charging tablet, offering 7.5W wireless charging for other devices like phones and earbuds. Obviously that means it also has wireless charging as well, and a maximum 27W charging speed. It also has a quad speaker tuned by Harmon Kardon, while the 5G is powered by the Kirin 990, which is a processor with a 5G modem built into a single chip. Finally it lets you mirror your phone screen onto the tablet, letting you control your phone from the MatePad - assuming it was an EMUI 10 Huawei device.
The Matepad Pro 5G will be available in four colours - 'vegan leather' in both green and orange, or carbon fibre in grey or white. Prices for the standard model range from €549 euros (6GB/128GB Wifi only) all the way up to €699 (8GB/256GB, LTE). The 5G model will cost €799 for an 8GB/256GB mode, and €949 for the 8GB/512GB model.So at least it beats the iPad Pro at the pricing game, and by quite a long way. UK pricing is TBA, but it'll start going on sale somewhere in the world in April.
On a different side of things Huawei has released its own take on the HomePod - at least in terms of design if not with the smarts. The Huawei Sound X is a cylindrical speaker that looks remarkably like a glossy HomePod, though it's designed as a standard Bluetooth speaker rather than one with any particular smarts like you'd find in a Google Home or even the HomePod itself. There's no support for smart assistants right now, so it's mainly just a fancy Bluetooth speaker.
Fancy is the right word too, because the Sound X is tuned by French company Devialet, comes with six speakers for 360-degree sound, and has spacial awareness to adapt to whatever room you're in - much like plenty of other fancy speakers on the market. It's also hi-res audio certified, so if you have any hi-res audio files you can listen to them properly and not through some earbuds that can't handle whatever it is hi-res audio says it offers. It also comes with dual woofers and 40Hz bass that comes out horizontally, so Huawei says you can out a glass of water on top and it won't move.
So no smart assistant is a bit rubbish, but Huawei says it could make it happen with an over the air update. That said with the US pushing through all those Huawei sanctions it seems it would be unlikely. The only smart assistant that isn't American is Bixby, and nobody likes Bixby.
The only option a HomePod doesn't have is pretty obvious - the fact that it has Bluetooth connectivity. There's One Hop sharing for quick connectivity with Huawei devices, but non-Huawei devices can connect via the usual Bluetooth methods. So it's not like you're being locked into a specific ecosystem. Though that doesn't change the fact that it looks like a HomePod.
Pricing and release information for the Sound X is still to be announced, and we'll update when Huawei tells us more.