Huawei's initial briefing for Mate X was a special one: watching a hosted demo at a safe distance – it was not the kind of thing that inspires confidence in a new product. After this briefing, Huawei invited the reporters to private briefings with Mate X to see him closely and finally allow us to get his hands on it.
Looking closely at the Mate X was enough to address any concerns I might have about its build quality (it's surprisingly good), but it also confirms my other concern about the screen. There is a kind of bumpy dimple where the flexible part occurs, and I can only imagine that it will only get worse over time. Like everything you fold and fold over and over, it will get worse.
This is exactly the same problem that Samsung will encounter with Fold. Unlike Huawei, Samsung would not let anyone touch the Galaxy Fold at the MWC 2019. It is very clear that none of these products are still ready, but the impetus to be the first is real. Samsung might know that by keeping the Fold behind the glass, he would not have written such articles, even though he is probably in a similar state to Mate X's.
Unlike Huawei, Samsung would not let anyone touch the Galaxy Fold at MWC 2019.
Huawei assures me that by the time the Mate X goes on sale, the screen will be in much better shape. Of course, Huawei would say that, it is also difficult to state "what could be" given Huawei's great attention to detail. The same goes for Samsung. Maybe the different wrinkles will be corrected in the coming months, maybe they are not, it only remains to wait and see.
Except the dimples, the screen I saw looked great. It was clean, dynamic and responsive, not feeling so different from a regular smartphone screen. It was a reassuring achievement.
In the very short time that allowed me to manipulate the Mate X, my main points to remember were double. It looked a lot like a real product – not a prototype of chewing gum and hope – and I still did not understand why it existed.
I am not yet sold on the idea, but I like the product.
As I said in the first Mate X consultation, I still do not believe that products like this are a solution to a real problem. On the contrary, they feel like a technological inevitability that should happen sooner or later, whether we need it or not. The combination of a phone and a tablet in one device seems like a good idea from five years ago – about the same time that Samsung was sharing for the first time this Youm advertising.
I am not yet sold on the idea, but I like the product.
Huawei said he spent three years discovering the hinge of the falcon wing. I'll admit that Samsung's hinge is an awesome engineering. The Mate X is quite rigid, more than I would have thought, but I guess it's a pretty easy detail to fix. The question then becomes: will it be released over time, like most other hinged products? Is it easy to tighten? Is it supposed to be so stiff?
Which brings me back to this display. I may not be as concerned with the display to folding outward as some. I always keep a phone with a screen turned to the outside. I often have two phones back-to-back (that is, two external displays) and they come out unscathed. But these are not flexible P-OLED panels and they do not flex constantly.
It would be dishonest to make a judgment about the durability of a flexible P-OLED group until I had the opportunity to use one for a while. Although I think I prefer the form factor of Mate X to that of Fold (a screen instead of two, no screen, a full screen experience, etc.), it is obvious that the largest screen of the Galaxy Fold will be better protected over time. Again, I can not say for sure how the indoor display will perform better than the outdoor display, but at least the indoor display is less prone to damage.
To further complicate speculation, the Mate X and Galaxy Fold screens have different radii of curvature (the Mate X is larger). With a wider radius, there are fewer internal stresses on the flexible substrate. The less stress there is, the longer it's sustainable, at least in theory.
I like the Mate X and the Galaxy Fold in theory and I want to like them in flesh and bone. They feel like the future and they are exciting, although I doubt the reason they are here and what they will do exactly better. But they are very expensive and are obviously not intended for normal people like you and me.
Flexible phones are a proof of concept that serves the dual benefit of driving innovation and enabling a very public pissing contest between two of the world's largest smartphone manufacturers. The way this contest will benefit end-users is not yet entirely clear, but we are always winners when two titans face each other. The final game of phones like this one might be somewhere else.
Will you have a foldable phone like the Mate X in your pocket in a year or two? It is very unlikely. Does anyone know you? Who knows. They are undeniably cold and worthy of lust, and we already know that there is no limit to what some people will spend to have this thing that no one has.
So yes, you'll probably see variations on the collapsible theme in a city near you in the next two years. But the fact that you can buy one soon does not necessarily mean that you should do it, even if you can afford it. Many of the best use cases of flexible devices will only appear over time. When the first smartphones arrived, those who would have thought they were handheld cameras and portable gaming devices would be much more important than real phones.
Many of the best use cases of flexible devices will only appear over time and could be very different from what we currently think.
Ask yourself if you are considering a new tablet in the near future or how often you are using even the tablet you already have (if you have one). Then ask yourself what is the probability that you use this tablet in a cafe? On the bus? In the street? Is a rebirth of the tablet likely to make you change your habits? Or would you need new use cases to achieve this? You might be better off sticking to an affordable phone and using a normal tablet (or not) as you do now.
Think about it: If you like to watch YouTube videos on your tablet, like me, will an almost square format report help you? If you plan to watch widescreen content, you'd better watch it with the Mate X closed. Open it and you will get mailboxes of epic proportions. Do you really want to pay so much money to get huge black bars above and below your video? Instagram may be well formatted for square content, but much of the web is not.
I like the weight of Mate X, it has a very solid weight that I find strangely reassuring. This does not mean that it is much heavier than any other phone of similar size, so do not worry too much. One detail that I found extremely disappointing is the lack of headphone jack. With excuses to remove it that usually vary between the phone is too thin for a need to save room for other components, the thick handle of Mate X is the most obvious candidate for bringing it back and earning legions of loyalists 3.5 mm. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
For me, the crux of the problem, when you take away all the promises, the concerns and the hype, will the Mate X be like a phone? If you do not like EMUI, you will still have the Huawei software to hate. He will probably still suffer from the usual software bugs and irritations of the Huawei user interface.
When you strip all the promises and hype, it all depends on the quality of the Mate X as a phone.
It's like smartwatches: if they fear like a watch, their angle is largely torpedoed. But as in the first appearance of smartwatches, I am skeptical but I still like what I see. Flexible phones, when they become commonplace, will have found new use cases that we had not even thought of. And 5G speeds, new battery technology and everything connected will help drive that.
Phones like the Huawei Mate X and the Galaxy Fold are only part of a larger puzzle that will need to be set up so that I can convert myself out of breath. In just a few years, smartwatches have gone from handheld phones to more modern fitness trackers. It will probably be the same for flexible phones.