Huawei just beat the iPhone 14 to a key new feature

A Huawei Mate 50 Pro from the back, in silver
(Image credit: Huawei)

Just a week ago we were reporting on how the iPhone 14 might be the first smartphone to offer satellite communication, but as it turns out it won’t – because Huawei just got there first with the Huawei Mate 50 and Mate 50 Pro.

These two newly announced smartphones both allow for texts to be sent via China’s global BeiDou satellite network. It’s a feature designed for emergencies, so you can get in touch with emergency services or loved ones when mobile networks are down, as they might be at times when they’re most needed – such as in war zones or natural disasters.

So it’s a niche feature – and one you’ll hopefully never need to use – but it could also be a life-saving one. Huawei’s implementation of it sounds very limited, with just text messages supported by the sounds of things – so you can’t make calls, and seemingly you can only send texts, not receive them, using this system. But still, it’s the first to offer this, and that counts for something.

It will likely soon have some serious competition though, since the iPhone 14 line is expected to land today (September 7) and will reportedly offer a similar system. In fact, Apple’s approach might allow for calls as well, so it could immediately one-up Huawei’s. Not to mention the fact that the iPhone 14 and its siblings will actually be available in the US, while the Huawei Mate 50 line won’t be.

But with T-Mobile partnering with Starlink for a similar service in the near future, and other companies likely also now considering satellite communication services, we might not be far off this becoming a mainstream feature, available on a wide range of smartphones, and that can only be a good thing.

A close up of the cameras on a Huawei Mate 50

(Image credit: Huawei)

Analysis: what else the Huawei Mate 50 offers

While its satellite communication feature is perhaps the most eye-catching of the Huawei Mate 50’s specs, this phone – and even more so the Huawei Mate 50 Pro – isn’t lacking for tech.

The Mate 50 Pro has a 6.74-inch 1212 x 2616 OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, water resistance, and a 4,700mAh battery with 66W charging.

It also has a triple-lens camera, with a 50MP main sensor, a 13MP ultra-wide, and a 64MP telephoto, offering up to 200x digital zoom. Interestingly, the main lens also has an adjustable aperture, which can range from f/1.4 to f/4.0. Adjustable apertures are a very rare sight on phones, and never that variable.

The standard Huawei Mate 50 is a step down in some ways. It has the same chipset, RAM amount, and main and ultra-wide cameras, but the telephoto snapper is 12MP, and the phone has a 6.7-inch 1224 x 2700 90Hz display, and a smaller 4,460mAh battery with 66W charging.

As noted above these phones won’t be landing in the US, but it’s possible they’ll be sold in the UK and Australia. Note, however, that neither model offers 5G, so they’re probably unlikely to make our list of the best phones.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.