First look: Huawei Mate X

We saw the lat­est fold­ing phone, but once again couldn’t touch it. MICHAEL SI­MON re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

The fold­ing phone war has of­fi­cially be­gun. Just days af­ter Sam­sung showed off its Galaxy Fold (see page 53), Huawei took the wraps off the Mate X, which it is call­ing the world’s fastest and thinnest fold­ing phone. It comes in a dif­fer­ent shades of blue. Plus, it has 5G.

Oh, it’s on

Huawei’s spin on the fold­ing phone is quite a bit dif­fer­ent than Sam­sung’s. Un­like the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X folds out­ward, so the out­side screen is the same as the in­side one. When opened, it mea­sures a full eight inches with an im­pres­sive 2,480x2,200 res­o­lu­tion, ver­sus 7.3 inches and an un­known num­ber of pix­els on the Galaxy Fold.

The main out­side screen – which Huawei calls the “daily driver” dis­play – mea­sures 6.6 inches (2,480x1,148) and has ex­tremely slim, uni­form bezels all around, while the sec­ondary rear dis­play is 6.38 inches (2,480x892). The ra­tios of all three screens are a lit­tle funky – 19.5:9 for the main dis­play, 25:9 for the rear one, and 8:7.1 for the tablet, but that’s to be ex­pected in the early rounds of the fold­ing phone revo­lu­tion.

The dif­fer­ence in screen size is due to a sta­tion­ary and bul­bous bar at the end of the phone that acts as both a han­dle and a hous­ing for a trio of Le­icabranded cam­eras, an LED flash, a power but­ton (which also dou­bles as a fin­ger­print sen­sor), and a USB-C charg­ing port. That elim­i­nates the need for a notch like on the Galaxy Fold and gives the tablet a very at­trac­tive look with slim bezels all around, but it also means you can’t take self­ies or video chat on the Mate X when it’s open. In fact, self­ies are only pos­si­ble us­ing the rear dis­play, since that’s where the cam­eras are.

Since the hand­set folds out­wardly and not like a book, the dis­play has a ‘fal­con wing’ hinge that con­nects the two pieces. It’s sim­i­lar to the Sur­face Book’s dy­namic ful­crum hinge in that it folds over

it­self to cre­ate a near-gap­less seam that mea­sures just 11mm when closed. Sam­sung hasn’t shared the thick­ness of its Galaxy Fold, but in pic­tures it seems to be much thicker than that. When opened, the full Mate X tablet has a thick­ness of 5.4mm (not count­ing the bar), slightly thin­ner than the 5.9mm iPad Pro.

As far as how long the Mate X will last, Huawei says it has a 4,500mAh dual bat­tery sys­tem that fills both sides of the phone, but didn’t give any us­age es­ti­mates. Also un­der the hood is the firm’s own Kirin 980 chip and Ba­long 5000 5G modem. Huawei says the Mate X will de­liver speeds of up to 4.6Gb/s, quicker than even the the­o­ret­i­cal 2.5Gb/s peak of the Qual­comm X50 modem in the Galaxy S10 and LG V50 ThinQ.

Look but don’t touch (or ask ques­tions)

For those scep­ti­cal, it does ap­pear as though the Mate X is an ac­tual prod­uct. Huawei wouldn’t let me touch the de­vice, but un­like Sam­sung, I did get to see it up close. It was all very chore­ographed – the per­son hold­ing it opened and closed it a few times, and held it in sev­eral flat­ter­ing poses – but it was plenty con­vinc­ing.

Granted, the pre­sen­ter opened and closed it some­what gingerly and made sure to hold it and show it off at strate­gic an­gles, but it seemed sturdy enough when opened. I no­ticed a vis­i­ble cen­tre seam in the screen at cer­tain an­gles and there was some slight rip­pling at the hinge, and it was tough

to tell how much heav­ier it is at the bar end. The hinge pre­sum­ably locks when in tablet mode to stay flat and en­able nor­mal ges­tures, but Huawei didn’t an­swer that or any other ques­tions dur­ing my briefing.

To that end, what we don’t know about the Mate X can fill its spa­cious 8in screen. Huawei didn’t give us pric­ing or avail­abil­ity for the phone, and for an­other it didn’t of­fer any clues as to how long bat­tery life would be in typ­i­cal us­age, let alone un­der the strains of 5G. It does, how­ever, have a crazy-fast 55W Su­per Charge that will fill 85 per­cent of the Mate X’s bat­tery in just 30 min­utes.

Among the other things Huawei didn’t tell us: RAM, stor­age, OS ver­sion, and weight. Nor did it tell

us the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the cam­eras, other than to point out that you can en­able the rear screen to show a mir­rored viewfinder when snap­ping a pic so your sub­ject can see how they look.

We also don’t re­ally know how apps work. Huawei said the Mate X would run split-screen apps like a nor­mal An­droid tablet, while Sam­sung showed off next-gen­er­a­tion triple-app mul­ti­task­ing. But be­yond that, Sam­sung made a point to dis­cuss app con­ti­nu­ity in a live de­mon­stra­tion on stage, but Huawei didn’t of­fer much in the way of op­er­a­tion or nav­i­ga­tion of the Mate X. In fact, the clos­est I got to see­ing how the Mate X worked was when the pre­sen­ter ac­ci­den­tally launched a mu­sic app. (It filled the screen at least.)

Given the lack of in­for­ma­tion, it’s doubt­ful that the Mate X will of­fi­cially launch be­fore Sam­sung’s fold­ing phone, which is slated to go on sale 26 April. In­deed all we know is that the de­vice will launch, ac­cord­ing to Huawei, in the “mid­dle of 2019”.

But con­sider the fold­ing phone war of­fi­cial. In­side ver­sus out­side cur­va­ture. Sin­gle screen vs dual screen. Full screen ver­sus notch. 4G vs 5G. In­ter­stel­lar Blue ver­sus Astro Blue. Not since Be­ta­max ver­sus VHS has a matchup mat­tered more to the fu­ture of con­sumer elec­tron­ics. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll get to ac­tu­ally touch one and ex­pe­ri­ence it for my­self.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 8in (2,480x2,200 414ppi) AMOLED ca­pac­i­tive touch­screen

• An­droid 9.0 (Pie) ; EMUI 9.1

• HiSil­i­con Kirin 980 (7nm) pro­ces­sor

• Octa-core (2x 2.6GHz Cor­tex-A76 and 2x 1.92GHz Cor­tex-A76 and 4x 1.8GHz Cor­tex-A55) CPU

• Mali-G76 MP10 GPU

• 8GB RAM

• 512GB stor­age

• Four rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 40Mp, f/1.8, 27mm (wide), 1/1.7in, PDAF; 16Mp, f/2.2, 17mm (ul­tra­w­ide); 8Mp, f/2.4, 52mm (tele­photo); TOF cam­era

• Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi

• Blue­tooth 5.0

• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS

• NFC • Fin­ger­print scan­ner (side-mounted)

• USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0

• Non-re­mov­able 4,500mAh lithium-poly­mer bat­tery

• Un­folded: 161.3x146.2x5.4mm

Folded: 161.3x78.3x11mm

• 295g

The rear of the Mate X houses the en­tire cam­era sys­tem

The Mate X is thin­ner than an iPad Pro when opened

This mu­sic player wasn’t sup­posed to launch as part of the Mate X de­mon­stra­tion, but at least we know apps work

The Mate X folds out­ward, so you get two screens when closed

The back of the Mate X shows off the In­ter­stel­lar Blue colour

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