It didn't take long for Huawei to respond to Samsung with its own folding smartphone. A few days after the presentation of the Galaxy Fold at the Unpacked event for the launch of the Galaxy S10, the Chinese manufacturer also unveiled its own folding smartphone, the Mate X. We were very lucky to be able to get our hands on the device for a few minutes and here are our first (very good) impressions.
Finally, some much-needed innovation
There are some things that do not go wrong. For the first time in a long time, there was a real rush among journalists to get close to a smartphone at MWC 2019 in Barcelona. The Mate X, the first folding smartphone from Chinese manufacturer Huawei, was untouchable and protected behind glass. I haven't seen such a craze for a device in several years.
Fortunately, it was at a small private committee meeting after the conference with Walter Ji, President of the Consumer Business Group for Western Europe, that I was able to try the Huawei Mate X for the first time.
An undeniable wow factor
You cannot deny it. At first sight, the Mate X immediately creates a real wow factor. Both enthusiasts and neophytes will appreciate the original design of the device. Unlike Samsung with its Galaxy Fold, the Mate X offers a single OLED display that can be used in three ways, preventing the smartphone from being too large and unsightly side when folded. Samsung allows you to use your smartphone as you would use a book (with the screen as two inside pages), whilst Huawei offers a single outside screen i.e. the book cover is the display.
When folded, the Huawei smartphone offers a 6.6-inch front screen (19.5:9 format and 2480 x 1148 pixels) and a 6.4-inch rear screen (25:9 and 2480 x 892 pixels). Huawei has adapted the software to facilitate the transition between the "two" screens to make the most of the smartphone. For example, it is possible to use the second screen to take a selfie or to show a preview of the photo to the person photographed.
The screen is automatically activated when you switch between folded and unfolded mode. The Mate X detects how you use it and adapts to your needs. It's practical and it works very well, but it will certainly take some time to learn how to handle the device effectively. Indeed, if you misposition your fingers, the smartphone may misinterpret the direction in which you are operating the device.
A tablet? No, a smartphone!
When you unfold the smartphone, you have to press a small button. A small click is then felt and the Mate X allows you to enjoy an 8-inch OLED screen (8:7.1 and 2480 x 2200 pixels). It is simply magnificent. In general, the Mate X screen offers rich colors, beautiful contrast and, above all, excellent brightness. The experience provided by this large screen is perfect for viewing any type of multimedia. The future of tablets seems to be in serious jeopardy if this type of smartphone becomes widespread in the coming years.
Impressively, when unfolded, the Mate X is only 5.4mm thick compared to 11mm when folded. Huawei is particularly proud of the absence of a gap between the two sides of the screen when folded, which is a huge advantage over the Galaxy Fold. Huawei calls this technology Falcon Wing.
The only downside of this design choice is excessive fingerprints. They are numerous and those who like their display clean will have to use a cloth very regularly. The use of a P-OLED may be advantageous to folding, but it attracts a lot of reflection. Huawei is discreet and has not specified the supplier of the slab (LG, TCL or Samsung).
The fingerprint sensor and standby button are located on the left side along a vertical bar on the rear of the device, and the overall handling and manufacturing quality is excellent. The weight of the device is pleasant and its distribution is very good, thus avoiding any unpleasant feeling when opening or closing the device. For a first folding smartphone, Huawei hit this one out of the park!
A small technological miracle
Admittedly, this Mate X is no small feat, technologically speaking. Not only does the Mate X stand out for its design and folding system, but it also offers the best technical specifications available at the moment. The latest Kirin 980 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage (expandable with Huawei's Nano Memory Cards) are included to ensure a smooth ride.
In terms of cameras, Huawei has renewed its partnership with Leica and offers three lenses. During my short hands-on I could not, unfortunately, judge the quality of the photos but I am confident about the final result, considering the camera performance on the Mate 20 Pro and the P20 Pro.
On the battery side, the Mate X has two batteries for a total capacity of 4,500 mAh. Huawei also offers, for the first time, an improved version of Huawei SuperCharge up to 55W, which will recharge the Mate X from zero to 85% in just 30 minutes. The smartphone is also compatible with 5G since Huawei has embedded its own Balong 5000 modem inside. The Mate X is also dual-SIM.
A salty but justified price
So, yes, like any innovation, it necessarily has a high price. The Huawei Mate X is very expensive. It will cost 2299 euros in Europe. That's about $2,600. Two colors will be available at launch: black and blue.
In the absence of a precise launch date, it is known that Huawei plans to market it in mid-2019. Its final release will also depend on any 5G offers that operators may propose. Only a few privileged people will be able to buy the Mate X and get a taste of the future.
Royole, with its Flexpai, had paved the way for the folding smartphone, but it has to be said, the final design was more like that of a prototype than that of a final version. Huawei, on the other hand, offers a finished product with a premium design and stunning technology. The Chinese manufacturer proves once again that it is not necessarily beneficial to be the first to market.
The result of three years of hard work, the Mate X offers everything you could have dreamed of from a foldable smartphone: a very nice screen, ease of use and a small footprint. Add to that some software features, 5G compatibility, high-end technical features, and smart design and you'll understand why I think the Mate X is the best smartphone I've seen in years.
Of course, I will have to wait until I get my hands on the Galaxy Fold to really compare the two folding smartphones from the two largest manufacturers in the world. But one thing is certain, the Mate X is the best smartphone of the MWC 2019. In the end, only its price reminds us that the Huawei smartphone remains a dream and that we will probably have to wait for the second, or even the third generation, for the folding smartphone to become mainstream.