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MWC – the world’s biggest mobile technology show – hasn’t even started yet, but Huawei may have released MWC’s defining product. The Huawei Mate X is a foldable phone and it looks pretty damn amazing.
But note the price – which we’ll come to at the end as the big reveal.
As the videos below shows, it consists of two big screens: most of the time they’re folded together, so it looks like a normal phone, but when you want a big-screen view they fold outward to create an 8in tablet. It’s a staggering piece of engineering, and frankly makes the Royole FlexPai look amateur.
Huawei Mate X photos
Here are some photos of the Mate X I took during the preview event:
And here are some official photos that Huawei’s professional photographer took yesterday:
Finally, here’s a photo that I think reveals what this product is all about:
Huawei Mate X: key specifications and price
Let’s focus on the displays first, which both use bright, vivid AMOLED technology. The main 6.6in screen has a 2,480 x 1,148 resolution, while the rear one measures 6.38in diagonally and has a narrower 2,480 x 892 resolution.
Both displays are 5.4mm thick, so when they fold together you have a thicker-than-usual 10.8mm phone. Most phones are between 7.5mm and 8.5mm.
Folded outward, of course, it’s only 5.4mm thick all around (aside from the ridge, more of which below), which is roughly the same as an iPad.
Huawei’s Kirin 980 processor is inside, and this is the fastest chip we’ve tested in an Android phone. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in the next tranche of super-phones will probably be a mite faster, but the 980 is still a cracking choice.
And when EE delivers on its promised 5G rollout, you’ll be able to take advantage thanks to a Balong 5000 modem. Huawei claims this is 10x faster than 4G and that you can download a 1GB film in three seconds.
Huawei Mate X foldable phone: in tablet mode
Huawei has actually thought about how people hold a tablet and realised, with only one notable bezel, it could be a pain to handle. That’s one reason why it has kept a “fat” ridge for you to hold in tablet mode.
The idea is that when held like this in one hand, the two screens lock in place and you just use it as you would a tablet. This is one area where I still have questions: just how well will it lock?
During our early demo, the extended screen did start folding before it was nudged back into place. If it keeps doing that, it would be extremely irritating.
One big plus, though, is that the screen is completely flat when in tablet mode.
Huawei Mate X foldable phone: battery life
There are two batteries inside the Mate X, giving it a total capacity of 4,500mAh. That compares to 3,000mAh for a normal phone and 4,000mAh for the excellent Mate 20 Pro.
How long that battery will last is going to depend on what you do with it. Keep it in tablet mode, with both high-resolution screens needing to be kept on, will surely drain that supply quickly.
Use it as a normal phone 90% of the time, though, and that 4,500mAh battery should comfortably see you through the day.
Huawei is also including a stonking 55W charger, and promises that you can go from 0% to 85% in 30 minutes.
Huawei Mate X foldable phone: the cameras
We don’t know too much about the cameras yet, but Huawei promises that it’s a “new Leica camera” that will deliver the “best in class selfie”.
Possibly the most interesting benefit of the dual-screen design is that, when you’re taking a photo of someone, they’ll be able to see what the image looks like before you press the shutter.
One thing’s for certain: it will be significantly better than the camera found in any tablet on sale today.
Huawei Mate X foldable phone: what’s the point?
Enough about what it is. Now comes the tricky bit. Why the heck would you want to spend this amount on this phone?
Frankly, I wouldn’t. But there are scenarios where it could be useful.
Taking a photo of someone. They’ll be able to see themselves in the “rear” screen and adjust their smile or hair before you press snap.
One-upmanship. You will be the talk of the pub/boardroom/watercooler when you whip this out of your pocket.
It’s still a great phone. Even if you end up barely taking advantage of the expanded screen, you’re buying a cutting-edge phone.
Better web browsing. Having a double-size screen will make web browsing that much more pleasant.
Easy transfer from one app to another. Want to drag a photo into an email? A big screen should make this a doddle.
Dual tasking. I’m not a fan of multitasking for the sake of it, but there are scenarios where you might want a string of updates (say, financial news or football results) on the right-hand screen while you focus most of your attention on the left.
Huawei Mate X foldable phone: reasons not to buy
Sadly, these spring to mind almost as quickly as the benefits above. Here’s a list:
- It’s the first generation of the phone and you’re being charged a big premium
- Ditto the first half of the above, but with the subsequent caveat that software support isn’t there for it yet
- What happens if it breaks? I’d want to take out accidental damage cover before I bought this phone (although note that Huawei is selling a cover which will protect the back screen when not in use)
- This is still a prototype – I’ve been a few inches away from the phone but Huawei hasn’t let me touch it yet. Is it that fragile?
- Will the battery last long enough in practice? I’m not convinced
Huawei Mate X foldable phone: availability and early verdict
I’m hugely impressed by what Huawei has done here. It’s a million miles from the Royole FlexPai and something I would consider buying. It also knocks Samsung’s effort into a bendy hat.
But I still have a lot of questions, as indicated by my bullet list above. Still, the Huawei Mate X is undoubtedly going to be one of the highlights – if not the highlight – of MWC 2019. I’m desperate to get my hands on one to give it a full test.
When will that be? Mid-2019 is all that Huawei is saying right now.
And how much? There was an audible gasp in the auditorium when that was announced…. 2,299 Euros. Ouch.
Will you buy one? Let us know in the comments below.
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