The best folding smartphone ever made was unveiled in Barcelona a few days ago, well before the Huawei press conference. Images of the Mate X were accidentally divulged, teasing a fantastic design that already looked better than Samsung had done with the Galaxy Fold. I was lucky to see the smartphones at a briefing before the Huawei press conference, but it turned out to be a sight-to-eye experience. It seemed that Huawei was not ready to let anyone touch the prototype he had brought to the World Mobile Congress. That changed today, I finally had the opportunity to use the new smartphone and I must say that I am now completely sold to the benefits of laptops.
The phones with folding screens are finally here, and although they are still in their infancy, they are finally ready to enter the stores. Devices like the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X will be incredibly expensive at first, and many people will say they do not need such devices. But let me tell you this: as soon as you touch it, it becomes obvious that folding phones are great.
In tablet mode, the display is beautiful. This is an all-screen device with no notch or camera hole, with only 8 inches of edge-to-edge display. This is a tablet that you can stack that can work between two and four applications side by side. And Google, I'm told, is also involved in optimizing the multi-application experience.
The content looks excellent, although the 8-inch OLED screen image size is a bit unusual at 8: 7.1. The games also look great and the video looks exactly like what you expect from a video on an Android tablet. The same goes for web browsing. after all, it's essentially an Android tablet.
I already knew that at the meeting with Huawei's executives, the phone was incredibly thin. But I did not know how thin that would be in real life, hinge mechanism included. It is also very light and comfortable to hold, but it remains pleasant and robust.
A photo or video showing a foldable phone does not immediately show that the handset stays exactly in the position in which you configured it. If you want it in tablet mode, it stays flat like a tablet. At no time while holding it, I had the impression that the hinge would move on its own.
If you want it in tent mode, the hinge keeps it in tent mode. And when you have to put it away, a mechanism locks the screen to prevent it from unfolding. You will need to press a button to release the display before you can fold it.
We did not have the right to fold the screen during our experience with the device, and a member of the Huawei executive actually did all the aliasing for us. It was a bit strange, but the unit was obviously a preliminary model.
Depending on how you hold it, you can see a line of sorts in the middle of the screen, where the fold is. This is probably something we will have to wait for any phone that is currently folding, be it glass or plastic. However, this is not a fold, as you can see in the picture above. And no, your fingers will not feel any lines or bumps when you touch the display.
I felt uncomfortable working the tablet for two reasons. First, I was not allowed to fold or unfold it, which prevented me from testing its main functionality. You will want to fold it as soon as you touch it. Then, while I was using the camera, I tried to switch from the main camera to the selfie camera and nothing happened. This is because you have to fold the phone to take a selfie – this camera reversing button should be canceled from the Mate X Camera app, by the way.
The advantage here is that you will use the same camera for selfies and ordinary photos. Huawei would not tell us if the camera's performance technology will match that of the Mate 20 Pro or if we want to experience something similar to the P30 Pro. The P30 Pro smartphone is the next-generation smartphone that will be released by Huawei in about a month in Paris. It should include new camera tours and improved quality.
Foldable screens will certainly change the way you take pictures. You will be able to see yourself on a smaller screen while taking selfies, as on any other phone. But now, thanks to the dual-screen mode, subjects will have a live preview of the photo at the time of shooting.
Another thing I could check during my brief contact with the Mate X was charging the battery. After a day of sightseeing, the phone was briefly connected when I arrived and it ended up running out of battery. But it turned on instantly after being plugged in, which gave it enough juice so we could continue taking pictures of it in multiple poses. The Mate X contains a 4,500 mAh battery and comes with a 55W USB-C charger. The Huawei SuperCharge will recharge the phone up to 85% in just 30 minutes.
The Mate X is a 5G device and, even though we have not tested it, the 5G consumes more power than the 4G. But this super-fast charging speed should be useful once a reliable coverage is available.
Previews can never tell the whole story with the Huawei Mate X. We will have to wait for the final version to come out to see how it is going with real use. Huawei says that the mechanism of the hinge and the screen are durable and that a special screen protector will protect it from scratches. This does not change the fact that the Mate X will be an expensive device with a big screen on the outside. At the show, Samsung explained that its Galaxy Fold folds inward for good reason because the main screen is better protected.
In addition, there is a question of software. The phone contains the latest Kirin 980 7 nm processor, the same as the Mate 20 Pro, and it seems that everything works pretty well. The software has been quick to adjust from tablet mode to phone mode, but I need more time, as well as the ability to fold and unfold the Mate X myself. Not to mention that we are going to need real mobile software experiences to make folding devices really attractive. And that means that Google's Android operating system and third-party apps need to be optimized for foldable phones, regardless of what Huawei does with EMUI.