Huawei P20 vs Apple iPhone 8: the weigh-in

Can Huawei's iPhone X knockoff take out Apple's own base flagship?

Huawei's new P20 flagship looks like a mash-up between the Apple iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy S9, but it's priced much less than both of them. Actually, it's less than an iPhone 8.

Indeed, despite its appealing aesthetic, the P20 won't break the bank as hard as a lot of other flagship-level handsets of late. But if we're talking about a comparison between an Apple-like flagship and Apple's own core flagship, which one is actually worth the cash?

Here's a look at how the Huawei P20 compares to the Apple iPhone 8, now that we've been hands-on with Huawei's latest.

Design: Derivative or tired?

Huawei won't win any points for originality with the look of the P20, but then again, that's never been their thing. The P20 is almost a dead ringer for the iPhone X, from the (slightly smaller) screen notch on the front to the glass backing and positioning of the dual-camera module. We've seen this phone before.

On the other hand, we've seen some version of the iPhone 8 for four years now. The minimal iPhone aesthetic is still fine, but we were bored of it before the iPhone X released – and now we're extra, totally-done-with-it bored. The glass backing is a nice improvement over the previous editions, but we expect flagship phones to be a bit more daring in their design moves.

Also, the P20's Twilight gradient colour is spectacular. We vote Huawei here.

Screen: Clear differences

This one's easy: it's probably Huawei again. The P20's 5.8in LCD display comes in at a higher resolution at 1080p. Notch-haters might struggle with the full-screen design, but if you've spent any considerable time with the iPhone X, then you've probably gotten over that very quickly. Besides, you can "disable" the notch and have the status bar be fully black on either side of it. Nice one.

Like the design, Apple's base iPhone screen has felt very outdated for a while now in the realm of several-hundred-quid handsets. It's pretty compact at 4.7in, but this LCD tops out at just 750p. It's still a solid screen with great colour reproduction thanks to True Tone, but it's the lowest-resolution flagship screen on the market and can be a bit fuzzy by comparison.

Camera: Strong shooters

The larger Huawei P20 Pro looks like it might challenge the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL for the title of the world's greatest smartphone camera. However, the standard P20 isn't quite as well-equipped, so we're not expecting quite as much.

Lacking the triple-camera rear array of the Pro, the Huawei P20 packs in a pair of back cameras: a 12-megapixel RGB lens and a 20MP black-and-white one. You'll get dual-camera portrait blurring effects and 2x hybrid zoom, and the early shots we took during our hands-on looked mighty fine. We'll dig deeper once we have a handset in for review, though.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 8 sticks with a single back camera at 12MP – and as is usually the case with iPhones, it's a point-and-shoot delight. The addition of optical image stabilisation helps deliver clearer results, and you'll get plenty of detail and strong contrast with solid lighting.

We'll have to wait and see how this comparison shakes out once we've spent more time with the Huawei P20, but we're expecting good things from it.

Performance: Plenty of power

Alongside the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone 8 packs the world's most powerful smartphone chip according to benchmark tests: Apple's own A11 Bionic chip. It's a speed demon, even with just 2GB RAM here, and iOS 11 runs silky-smooth on the handset.

Meanwhile, the Huawei P20 uses the company's own Kirin 970 chip, the same one seen in last year's Mate 10 Pro. It impressed greatly there, and it ought to be more than capable on the P20 with 4GB RAM and Android 8 Oreo alongside it.

Benchmarks have shown an Apple advantage over the competition, but in everyday usage, we suspect that there won't really be any dramatic difference: both of these phones should be powerhouses, and more than capable of handling any apps, games, media, and multitasking needs.

Battery and perks: Double double

The iPhone 8 uses a pretty meager 1,821mAh battery pack, but Apple's ultra-efficient chip and iOS do a solid job with it: you'll typically get a full day of usage if you don't push too hard, but fire up some games or streaming media and it won't be difficult to find yourself coming up short by dinnertime.

On the other hand, the Huawei P20 has a rather large 3,400mAh cell within (almost twice as large), which beats some of its Android flagship competitors, and we're expecting stronger full-day usage as a result. It should be able to withstand heavier usage, and may even last into part of a second day. That said, the iPhone 8 lets you top up with a wireless charger, while the P20 doesn't.

As for storage, these phones are alike in lacking any support for expandable storage – you're stuck with what's inside. For the P20, that's a pretty strong 128GB. With the iPhone 8, you'll get 64GB in the base model, or you can bump up to 256GB for extra cash.

Also, the Huawei P20 still has a headphone port, while the iPhone 8 doesn't. Sigh.

Initial verdict: The P20 should prevail

The iPhone 8 is a very good phone, but it's underwhelming. Apple has been following the same template for four editions now, making tiny tweaks and upgrades while sticking with some dated elements all the while. It's a fine handset, but there are two better iPhones on the market today, and quite a few Androids we'd rather have.

And while we can't make a final verdict just yet, we're pretty sure the Huawei P20 will be another one of those phones. It makes a fine impression, with it's dazzling design, crisp full-screen display, and strong dual-camera shots. It's plenty powerful, has a huge battery, and offers a nice bounty of internal storage to work with.

It's also seemingly overshadowed by a sibling, as the P20 Pro makes some key upgrades (most notably with the triple-camera setup), but in this comparison, we're a lot more excited about the P20 than we would be to start rocking an iPhone 8 right now.

Unless we find some critical issues during review testing, we believe the Huawei P20 will handily win this particular head-to-head battle.