The Huawei Mate X is the foldable smartphone that our sci-fi imaginations dreamed up years ago, and it comes to life at MWC 2019 where we got to play with it.
Our extended hands-on time proved that the Mate X has a solid-feeling hinge so that it can transform from a 6.6-inch and 6.38-inch phone into a full 8-inch Android tablet.
It's Huawei's FullView bezel-reduced screen that makes this foldable phone look better than the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which we only got to see at a distance. Only Samsung reps got the privilege of going hands-on with that phone.
The Huawei Mate X also has some serious horsepower backing it up, with 5G connectivity, the new Kirin 980 chipset, and a massive 4,500mAh battery capacity backing it up.
The Mate X costs €2,299, which converts to about $2,600( £2,000) with 512GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM, and Huawei has hinted there will be other variants down the line.
This foldable phone will launch in the UK on EE, Three, and Vodafone this year. The official release date window is June, July, or August
That doesn't mean The Mate X will launch everywhere. As revolutionary as this foldable phone looks, there are no US release date plans, said Huawei reps, meaning you may have to import this 2-in-1 5G device to get it in North America.
A button on the back of the phone can be pressed, releasing the back portion of the display so it can be unfurled into an 8-inch tablet.
The front of the phone really is all-screen – 6.6-inches of it, in stark contrast to the Samsung Galaxy Fold’s humble 4.6-inch external display outlined with beefy bezels.
Turn the Mate X around and its back portion – the rest of the display, creates a secondary 6.4-inch screen that’s thinner – this could be cool for watching 21:9 movies, activating the smallest display, and potentially saving battery.
The reason this could save battery comes down to the Mate X's screen technology. As this is an OLED display individual pixels can be fired up, with unused pixels remaining pitch black; this is in contrast to LCD displays that require the whole panel – all the pixels – to be illuminated simultaneously. Huawei capitalizes on this power-saving feature innate to OLED tech in the core design of its Mate X.
Back to that design, and to the left of the rear screen is a vertical bar. This houses the brains of the operation, from the triple-camera system – which Huawei was very tight-lipped about – through to the power button/fingerprint scanner combo, and at the base, the USB-C port for charging. The sidebar is also where the internals are squished into – more on that later.
Huawei reassured that its bendable screen has endured 100,000 folds in lab-condition stress tests, and it also showed us how it has developed a case to keep it protected; but most importantly, it feels like a solid bit of kit, despite how thin it is.
Another key concern is durability, especially with a wraparound phone like this, is scratch-resistance, or lack thereof. Flexible displays are plastic, which scratches more readily than glass – remember the original Moto Z Force that was touted to have an unbreakable screen to survive small drops, but scratched rather easily?
The good news is that Huawei reps said the Mate X will actually go through more durability tests and some minor changes before it launches in a few months.
One thing Huawei did want to talk about was power because there’s a massive battery inside the Mate X – actually, there are two batteries, combining for a total 4,500mAh.
It's packing a bit more juice than the Samsung Galaxy Fold, but the Mate X also has a bigger screen when in both phone and tablet orientations, so is likely more power-hungry.
Huawei's 55W SuperCharge tech, which debuts on the Mate X, not only surpasses the 40W charging in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but it can also power up the Mate X to 85% from 0% in just 30 minutes.
Powered by a Kirin 980 processor coupled with a Balong 5000 5G modem, the phone doesn’t just charge quickly, it ‘5Gs’ quickly too, taking as little as three seconds to download a 1GB movie.
While we won’t be seeing those speeds when the phone drops in the middle of this year, as networks will unlikely support such zippy download rates, numbers like that do give us some comfort that the incredibly expensive Mate X is nicely future-proofed from a data transfer speed point of view.
You're going to be holding onto this phone for a while, so future-proofed specs are important here. To that point, there’s 512GB storage and support for expandable storage via Nano Memory, Huawei’s proprietary storage card that goes up to 256GB.
The Mate X runs a customized version of Android, and, ever aware of folds and unfolds, the interface optimizes itself for tablet or phone orientation in milliseconds. Our experience with the UI was very smooth, especially considering that the phone is some way off actually retailing.
EMUI, Huawei’s custom skin that sits atop Android, is likely at the heart of the experience, and there were some entirely new features that shone through, specifically around split-screen multitasking, with the OS oriented for the bigger, almost square tablet display really well.