Huawei has announced the Mate 50 series a day before Apple’s event in September and with a feature that the iPhone 14 is expected to offer: the ability to send texts via satellite communications. The Mate 50 and Mate 50 Pro can send short texts and use navigation thanks to China’s global BeiDou satellite network, enabling communication in areas without a mobile signal.
The flagship Mate 50 series only includes 4G versions of the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset with 8GB of RAM. The 50 Pro comes with a slightly larger 6.74-inch OLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate, while the Mate 50 offers a 6.7-inch, 90 Hz OLED panel. Both have a 50-megapixel main camera on the back with a variable aperture lens with stops from f/1.4 to f/4 – most smartphone cameras use fixed apertures, so a moving aperture is neat, but the lens itself is so small that it unlikely to create a meaningful difference in depth of field in most situations.
Both models share a 13-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens, and while they each have a telephoto lens, the Pro gets an improved 64-megapixel camera with 200x digital zoom – the standard Mate 50 offers 100x digital zoom with a lower-resolution 12-megapixel sensor .
If you feel like you hear a lot about satellite-based communications these days, it’s because you are. T-Mobile and SpaceX just announced a partnership that aims to bring this feature to T-Mobile subscribers via Starlink satellites. And rumors about Apple’s satellite messaging feature have been swirling since last year.
In all of these cases, the technology will likely be limited, at least initially. T-Mobile says the system allows for text and even MMS messages, but voice calls and data come later. And based on Huawei’s description of the system, it appears that the Mate 50 phones can only send SMS via satellite and cannot receive them. In all of these cases, satellite texting is meant to provide an emergency connection in places with no signal to send urgent messages, rather than a way to keep up with your group chats while out of range. In the US we will in any case have to wait for the feature – Huawei’s devices will of course not be sold here.
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