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Huawei's Mate Xs is a terrific foldable phone, without Google Services

Update: Final review!
Huawei's Mate Xs is a terrific foldable phone, without Google Services

Last year, Huawei stole the show from all the other manufacturers at Mobile World Congress 2019 with the Mate X, a folding smartphone where the display was folded around the outside of the device. The Huawei Mate X was only sold in China. Now, the second generation, the Huawei Mate Xs, is to be used to serve the international markets. In our review of the Huawei Mate Xs, we find out for you what advantages and disadvantages it brings with it in everyday life and whether the investment is worthwhile for everyone.

Rating

Good

  • Great display
  • Robust folding mechanism
  • Very good cameras
  • Good battery life
  • Good performance

Bad

  • Very high purchase price
  • No Google Services

Huawei Mate Xs release date and price

The big surprise is right before we get to the actual hands-on of the Mate Xs. Huawei will bring the folding smartphone onto the European markets as early as March. But Huawei really hikes the price, as at €2,499, the Mate Xs is €200 more expensive than the Mate X from last year. It is not yet known whether selected partners will also offer the Mate Xs in brick-and-mortar stores. Those who opt for a Huawei Mate Xs have little choice: the folding smartphone is only available in one color and one memory version We will not see the Mate Xs in the wild in large numbers, that's for sure.

Old design, new hinge

Visually, Huawei has hardly changed anything and if so, the changes have a practical reason. The hinge, for example, Huawei says it has revised and improved. Since the "Falcon Wing" hinge is made of more than one hundred interlocking parts along the entire length of the phone, and the fact that Huawei has chosen to place the display on the outside, there is no display crease here like on the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

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The hinge makes a very robust impression. / © AndroidPIT

Folding up the display also requires a period of getting used to, as the display is held in place by a lock when folded. To unfold the smartphone, you have to press a button that requires a blind touch. Once you find the button and press it, the Mate Xs will pop up and you can now bend the display with a little bit of pressure.

Even after two weeks now I still get a little shiver when I open and close the Mate Xs. But the fear of destroying the expensive device has definitely decreased after a few days of intensive use.

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Huawei's Mate Xs still has an infrared blaster, so you can easily turn the smartphone into a remote control. / © AndroidPIT

When folded, the Huawei Mate Xs feels very thick. Even in jeans, it is difficult to put the Huawei Mate Xs in your pocket; especially the weight of 300 grams tugs on the pockets. Add to that my constant paranoia of scratching the outside display of the Huawei Mate Xs when I put it down or put it in my slim pocket.

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The fingerprint sensor and volume buttons on the side of the Huawei Mate Xs. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei has included a bumper case for everyday use. But to be honest, it destroys the Huawei Mate X's beautiful bezel-less look. In addition, it only partially protects against bumps or even scratches. In the end, I held the Huawei Mate Xs permanently in my hands and walked around with it like I was on crutches.

When opened, the Huawei Mate Xs has a bead on the right side. My feel for it only opened up over time. Because it made sure that the Mate Xs was safe to hold when walking. When reading for a long time, the folding smartphone can be held comfortably with one hand for a long time. Only the weight ensures that you will eventually use a second hand.

An impressive display

If the Huawei Mate Xs is switched on and the display is activated, it is of course the star of the show. Even when folded, the 6.6-inch AMOLED panel with narrow display bezels is an eye-catcher. But the real WOW factor is only triggered when it is folded to a full 8 inches. As mentioned before, Huawei has no problem with a display crease as a result of putting the display on the outside. Thus, when swiping over the display every day, you won't drive into a depression over the feel of it, or if the light falls unfavorably, you won't see a crease in the display.

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A lot of space on the 8-inch display, which is not used by the mobile view. Not yet. / © AndroidPIT

A slightly irritating, curved edge can be seen on the left side when folded. In this state, the display does not lie flat, but is slightly curved outwards. When using the Mate Xs, it looks as if you are pressing the display onto a small cavity.

After testing Samsung Galaxy Fold, among other foldables, I like the folding mechanism for the display of the Huawei Mate Xs best so far. When it came to folding, I was particularly bothered by the thick frame. Huawei's display surface feels more valuable to me, too, and is in turn surpassed by that of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip.

Useful even without Google

When it comes to software, you have to look at the Huawei smartphone from two angles. The Android operating system itself is open source. Huawei may continue to use it and does not violate the US trade embargo. What Huawei needs to compensate for, or if you want to paraphrase Huawei's words, create an alternative to the Google services and develop its own app ecosystem.

The future is Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), and its own AppGallery. Neither of these things needs to be reinvented by Huawei, but rather the system, which has been tested for years in its own home country, needs to be internationalized. Of course, local teams are increasingly used here, who are in direct contact with app developers and are assisting them with porting and marketing.

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There are ways and means to install popular apps after all! / © AndroidPIT

You can still access a lot of data that you have stored on your old smartphone with Google Mobile Services and the cloud services of the search engine giant. Huawei's move app, Phone Clone, in particular, is a loyal servant when it comes to setting up the new Mate Xs. So you can transfer apps and data, photos and videos, settings, SMS and contacts from the old to the smartphone. In my test, it worked extremely well. Even WhatsApp chats and data were taken over.

False hope is raised by the fact that Phone Clone also transferred all of my Google Apps to the Mate Xs, but not many of them work. Google Maps on the Mate Xs, plus Google Analytics and Google Podcast refused the service. Basically, all apps that use Google Mobile Services in the background no longer work properly on Huawei devices with EMUI 10. This is painful for gamers like me who put their scores on Play Services.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, because more and more apps are appearing in the AppGallery from Huawei. Snapchat, Telegram, Microsoft Office or even Fortnite are officially there. That is certainly only the beginning and I assume that the HMS train will pick up speed over time.

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Productive monster Huawei Mate Xs. Multitasking is fun! / © AndroidPIT

If you should not find your beloved apps in the AppGallery, there is the App Search service for you. Huawei will then refer you to trusted third-party providers for the app download. We would like to refer to our list of alternative app stores at this point:

In addition, there is always the option of alternatively using web apps and storing corresponding bookmarks like an app icon on the main screen of the Huawei Mate Xs. So there are many ways to provide the Mate Xs with the usual apps and services. It only takes the will required and a little time.

More power on the inside

The biggest update compared to the Huawei Mate X from 2019 is on the inside of the Mate Xs. Huawei has drilled out everything here to the latest state of the art in-house chip technology. Instead of the two-chip combination of Kirin 980 and Balloon 5000 modem, the Huawei Mate Xs now features the Kirin 990 with an integrated 5G modem.The Kirin 990 then has 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of internal storage available, which can be expanded with the help of Huawei NM memory cards.

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Enough power to do real multitasking. / © AndroidPIT

This update to the Kirin 990 should not only increase the pure computing power of the Huawei Mate Xs, but also improve efficiency in terms of energy consumption. In our tests, the Huawei Mate Xs was actually able to place itself in front of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, but in the graphics benchmark test from 3DMark, the performance dropped noticeably over three successive runs. Unfortunately, on average, this leads to the Huawei Mate Xs performing worse.

Huawei Mate Xs benchmark test results

  Samsung Galaxy Fold Huawei Mate Xs
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1 5485 4949
3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0 6609 3825
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0 71007 53189
Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi) 719 / 2570 753 / 2975

A little P30 Pro with a pinch of Mate 30 Pro

While the SoC has a major update for the Mate Xs, the camera hardware still has the old setup of the Huawei Mate X from 2019. The camera setup consists of the following components:

  • 40 MP, f/1.8, 27mm wide-angle camera with PDAF
  • 8 MP, f/2.4, 52mm telephoto camera
  • 16 MP, f/2.2, 17mm ultra-wide-angle camera
  • ToF Sensor for 3D depth information
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Photography with the Huawei Mate Xs: opened and with both hands ... / © AndroidPIT

What's practical with the Mate Xs and already was with the Mate X, is the fact that you don't need a selfie camera, because you turn the smartphone over for selfies and use the flipped display part as a viewfinder. In terms of quality, you get the same photo and video quality as with normal recording methods.

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... closed with one hand... / © AndroidPIT

Overall, the Mate Xs takes the usual Huawei-typical great photos; portraits and night shots are also included. With the selfies, the Huawei Mate Xs can prevail over the 'Selfie King' Google Pixel 4. All photos I took with the Huawei Mate Xs can be viewed at the following link:

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... or a selfie? / © AndroidPIT

An endurance runner with a little surprise

Huawei has also made no changes to the battery compared to the Mate X from 2019. Furthermore, it remains at 4,500 mAh. But, contrary to what was promised on Huawei's website, the manufacturer does not deliver a 55-watt power supply but a 65-watt charger. It is the same type that comes with the Huawei MateBook D 14 or MateBook Pro laptops. With this power supply, the battery is half-charged in less than 20 minutes and fully charged in 59 minutes.

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The power supply now charges with 65 instead of 55 watts. / © AndroidPIT

The battery life in our battery benchmark is a whopping ten hours and 20 minutes. In everyday life, I was able to operate the Huawei Mate Xs for a whole working day, although you cannot currently speak of a normal everyday life, with the travel restrictions we are currently under. The change of network cells and more frequent changes between Wi-Fi and LTE networks is minimized. In addition, I was only able to operate the Mate Xs in the 4G network, so we could not look at how 5G connections affect battery life. It's a shame, but that's the situation.

Huawei Mate Xs technical specifications

Battery size: 4500 mAh
Screen size: 8 in
Rear camera: 40 megapixels
Android version: 10 - Q
User interface: Huawei EMUI
RAM: 8 GB
Internal storage: 512 GB
Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 990
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.86 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, Bluetooth 5.0

A question of taste and purse

The Huawei Mate Xs is, like its predecessor, an impressive folding smartphone, but it also has its price. At €2,499, it has even become €200 more expensive and is therefore certainly not affordable for everyone. For the purchase price of a Mate Xs, you get a well equipped MacBook Pro 13 inch, or you can get the MateBook X Pro in its top version and also a Huawei P30 Pro. It's quite scary once you start doing the math.

Still, after almost two weeks, I have to say that I liked the Huawei Mate Xs and its external display better than I thought I would when I presented the Mate X a year ago. It's less fragile and sensitive than I thought it would be. It is very robust, I have to say, and that surprised me the most.

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You don't buy the impressive and also expensive Mate Xs with your head. / © AndroidPIT

No one in their right mind will buy the Huawei Mate Xs, but this is also true the other folding smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Z Flip or the Motorola Razr. With these smartphones with folding displays, you will buy more with your gut and driven by emotions than with any sensible rationality.

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