15 minutes with Huawei’s Mate X foldable: what’s hot, what’s not

Gelo Gonzales

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15 minutes with Huawei’s Mate X foldable: what’s hot, what’s not
Our thoughts on Huawei's transforming device after our brief time with it

Huawei showed off their new foldable Mate X phone in the Philippines for the first time to media on Monday, March 11.

It was originally unveiled in Spain on the week of Mobile World Congress 2019, where it practically became the show’s poster boy, owing to its new form factor, 5G capability, and its impressive list of technologies.

But does its star power hold up when you finally get to hold it? We have some thoughts here based on our short time with the device:

1) The screen is somewhat more reflective

We’ve been spoiled by really good glass on flagship phones. The Mate X’s screen uses some sort of polymer plastic material that makes the viewing experience slightly different from traditional phones: the material seems to result in more glare. The material kind of has an almost dull sheen to it that regular phones don’t have. 

Understandably, it’s a first-generation device. It’s neat that Huawei is experimenting with a form whose necessity is unclear but as with most first-gen devices, there’ll be some of these quirks. Early adopters and hardcore tech-heads understand this.

It’s not for the mass consumer, and I don’t think Huawei designed it as such. They’re in a reputational arms race with Samsung, the rewards of which may include better sales for their more realistic phones. 

A source says they’re developing bendable glass. But for now, foldables will be using plastic in order to bend with the OLED panel. Likely, the Galaxy Fold uses the same material, but I don’t know for sure, as I have not had hands-on time yet with the Samsung phone nor, as of this writing, has any other.

But I would love to be corrected with more time with the phone, and see if it’s worse, better, or the same as traditional glass displays. 

The Mate X's front screen has not notch or punch-hole as all the cameras are at the back

2) There’s a bit of force needed to fold and open the phone

Not so much that you’d need to activate your abs but it’s not entirely effortless. There’s a button you press on the side to release the screen. It clicks nicely. The hinge appears to be quite solid. There’s a slight hint of the hinges showing slightly through the screen.

I have some suspicion that the material may have some creases in the hinge area in the long run, speculatively. 

3) I loved it best when it’s in tablet form

It’s pretty thin and it’s well-balanced. Nice weight distribution. And there’s a grip on the side too that worked for me. Why hasn’t there been more tablets with a side grip?

It's nice to hold on the right-side grip with good balance and the screen size and aspect ratio feels right


A concern brought up during the session is the 8:7.1 tablet aspect ratio and how apps and games may adapt to it, but Huawei says 95% of apps now have been adapted to it.

4) Taking a cue from Sony?

The power button on the side doubles as a fingerprint scanner. Sony is the manufacturer who most widely uses such an implementation, including the placement.

5) The thing I’m most impressed with is its 5G capability

Huawei is a force in 5G, no question. They’ve got a ton of 5G patents and are making a lot of contributions to the 5G standard, according to an article in a magazine on international intellectual properties. 

Expectedly, the Mate X is said to pack some 5G punch. Huawei says the Balong 5000 5G modem is the fastest out there right now, faster than Samsung or Qualcomm equivalents, and is more power-efficient. There’s credence to the claim, based on official published numbers from the brands themselves.

Samsung’s Exynos 5100 and Qualcomm’s X50 are both 10nm chips. The Balong 5000 is 7nm, smaller and logically, more power efficient.

The chips use various connectivity standards such as aggregated 4G to mmWave 5G and sub6-GHz 5G. The Balong 5000 is said to reach speeds of up to 7.5 Gbps while the Exynos reaches speeds of 6 Gbps and the X50, 5 Gbps.

Qualcomm has an upcoming 7nm chip too, the X55, but it doesn’t come out until 2020.

I understand we don’t even have 5G yet to really say that it’s a lovely thing, but hey, these are the numbers tech-heads love snacking on.

Another number: downloading a 1GB movie takes just 3 seconds with 5G speeds, said Huawei.

6) Use cases

Huawei presented some use cases for the Mate X:

  1. When taking a photo of a person, the other person can also see what you’re seeing on the screen thanks to the back-to-back screen setup while folded.

    You use the back screen to take a selfie

  2. You take selfies using the rear cameras. No separate front array cameras. Just flip the phone to its back screen, and use the rear cameras. Typically, rear cameras are more powerful than front cameras, so in this setup, you’re basically able to use your phone’s best cameras for that selfie.

  3. One note: the top portion of the black screen shows “Selfie” along with the camera icon. The back screen doesn’t use the entire screen because Huawei is sticking to a more traditional aspect ratio of maybe 18.5:9 or 19.5:9. If it used the entire screen, the aspect ratio would have been an extremely long 25:9.

  4. More screen real estate in tablet form for various multitasking duties. Huawei demoed the ability to drag and drop photos from the right side of the screen to an email application on the left portion of the screen, as if you’re using a laptop. 

  5. Showing photos in tablet form. Looks nice and big. 

It’s a little bit chunky in phone form. Consumers will have to decide if they could live with the extra chunk for the benefit of essentially having a tablet-and-phone in one, and its current use cases.

It might be great for those who love watching things on a big screen and for playing games. – Rappler.com

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.