I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Huawei Mate Xs foldable phone at its UK premiere, but I wasn’t alone: look around the web and there’s no shortage of first-look reviews. Some love it. Some hate it. Some are 100% ambivalent. In this review, I’ll try and help you work out where you stand. At the end, I’ll give you the big reveal. How much will the Huawei Mate Xs cost? When will it go on sale? And is it right for you?
Are you a book lover?
If you already enjoy reading books on your phone then I think the Mate Xs is compelling. The 8in screen becomes a huge display that’s even bigger than a Kindle, and it’s a great-quality panel too (well, so it appears from my first meeting with it). A dedicated Kindle wins for long reads, but the Mate Xs is much better than even a large phone.
Depending on how much this appeals, give yourself from zero to ten points (we’ll be totalling them up at the end).
Are you addicted to Google apps?
Huawei insists that it doesn’t need Google apps on its phones, that its own store will cover everyone’s needs. And it’s true that there are perfectly good alternatives to Google Maps, Gmail (the app, not the service) and Chrome. Don’t forget there’s nothing to stop you from viewing YouTube videos in any web browser either. But still, some people may find the lack of Google apps – removed, I should probably say, as part of the Trump ban on American companies working with Huawei – too big a cross to bear.
This is such a powerful part of any decision that we suggest you give a rating of -10 if you’re a true Google lover to +5 if you couldn’t give a fig.
Do you hate carrying laptops and tablets?
While even Huawei isn’t claiming the Mate Xs could replace a laptop – although it does support multitasking, so you can have two or three windows open at once – there’s a clear argument that it could usurp a tablet in a traveller’s bag. Particularly if that traveller likes to travel light but still enjoys browsing the web on a bigger screen when the time comes.
I think this is a big factor, so score yourself from zero to 15.
How important is watching videos?
It’s curious that Huawei is pushing video as one of its big “use cases” for the Mate Xs, as in truth it isn’t great for this. You end up with big black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, after all. If video was shot that took advantage of the square-ish aspect ratio then it would be a reason to buy, but as things stand this isn’t a compelling reason to buy. However, I’m not going to give a score to this one. It’s still great at showing videos thanks to (what appears to be… I want to test it properly) its gorgeous screen, but it doesn’t offer a big advantage over a normal phone. And tablets whip its arse.
Do you love taking photos?
There are many great photo-taking phones out there, so I’m not suggesting for a moment that the Huawei Mate Xs is your only choice. But it’s packed with the kind of camera tech we could only have dreamed of two years ago. Super low-light performance. Incredible zoom. Excellent all-round quality.
Give yourself nil points (in best Eurovision style) if you just don’t care, ten if you’re forever taking snaps.
Do you love shooting videos – and editing them?
Shooting high-res video is one area that benefits from a super-powerful processor, and there’s no doubt that the Kirin 990 chip inside the Mate Xs is fast. We don’t yet know exactly how good a video camera it has, but Huawei promises “a combination of OIS [optical image stabilisation] and AI Image Stabilisation for super steady shots at up to 30X hybrid zoom”. And when it comes time to edit it, more space can only be a good thing – assuming software comes along to take advantage.
This isn’t a killer compared to other flagship phones, so let’s go from zero to five.
Are you a games lover?
If games developers take to this form factor then it could be amazing. And it’s possible that they may not need to do much; Huawei reckons developers can adapt apps to exploit the 8in screen within two hours of using its software kits. Even without the big screen, though, it has fast graphics inside so will be able to cope with modern games.
This isn’t as big a factor as it could be, so give yourself a rating from zero to five.
Do you love having the latest tech?
I’m not going to judge here. I love having the latest tech in my pocket, partly because I’m a geek and partly because it’s nice to be ahead of the game. So be honest, whatever your motivation, how much do you love having the latest tech?
Zero if you don’t care (but why are you reading this??) to ten if you, like Kevin Keegan, love it.
Will your next phone be 5G, whatever?
Part of this phone’s appeal is that it includes (almost) everything you can think of, and that includes support for 5G networks. Whether that’s really necessary right now is up for debate, but in a year’s time I expect 5G networks to have become much more commonplace. As a side note, it includes Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) not Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) as I expected.
Zero if you’re so over 5G, 5 points if you think it’s the future.
How big are your pockets, part 1?
There’s no hiding from the fact that this is a chunky phone; at around 300g, you’ll notice it in your pocket. To Huawei’s credit, though, it’s surprisingly compact at 11mm thick. And when you open it up, it’s 5mm thick apart from the “wedge” that contains the camera – and that wedge actually makes it easier to hold. It’s quite tall at 161mm, but that’s par for the course these days. Still, if you love clean lines in your pockets, you may just find the Xs excessive.
Zero for small pockets to 10 for lovers of cargo pants.
How big are your pockets, part 2?
And here’s the biggie. This phone is going to cost you £2,299 when it hits the shops at the end of March (a fact that seems to have passed many of my fellow reviewers by), so I don’t even want to think about how that translates into a monthly contract cost. You either need to want this more than that house, or simply have lots of spare cash lying about.
Give yourself a rating out of 20.
So, do you want the Huawei Mate Xs?
Whether you’ve played along with my rating game or not, by now you’ll know roughly where you are on a scale of -10 to +85. If you’re scoring in the 50s, then you should seriously think about buying this phone. It truly lives at the cutting edge of technology, and by the sounds of things so should you. Anything less than 30 and approach with caution.
Huawei Mate Xs key specs:
|AVAILABILITY||Late March (UK)|
|PROCESSOR||Huawei Kirin 990|
|MAIN CAMERA||40MP wide angle (f/1.8)|
|OTHER CAMERAS||8MP telephoto, 16MP ultra-wide, ToF|
|SCREEN (folded)||6.6in front, 6.39in back|
|SCREEN (open)||8in (2,480 x 2,200 pixels)|
|CARD SLOT||NM SD card (up to 256GB)|
|DIMENSIONS (folded)||78.5 x 161 x 11mm|
|DIMENSIONS (open)||146 x 161 x 5.4mm (with 11mm “wedge”)|
|OPERATING SYSTEM||Huawei EMUI 10 built on Android 10|
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