We tried the Huawei Mate Xs, here’s our first hands-on review

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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. Whether the Huawei Mate Xs can keep up with the foldable competition despite the lack of Google services, we’ll find out for you in this first hands-on.

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. We will not see the Mate Xs in the wild in large numbers, that’s for sure.

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The Huawei Mate Xs has no gap when closed. / © AndroidPIT

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

But for this form factor, you need a longer period of acclimatization to internalize the reverse book folding. In the few minutes I was able to spend with the Huawei Mate Xs, I had to remind myself again and again to fold the display back. Somehow I had always had a bad feeling about it.

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The display is also very attractive when closed. / © 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.

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

A big, beautiful, and fragile 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

The only question is how robust the display is, as there is only a relatively soft and sensitive plastic layer on the large Huawei Mate Xs display. You should, therefore, pay close attention to where and how you transport the Mate Xs in everyday life.

Huawei is working hard to solve its Google problem

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. Here Huawei relies on 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.

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

But Huawei is of course also aware that it is not possible without some app and service giants, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. For the time being, there is still a detour via an APK download of the respective manufacturer’s pages, but we were informed during the hands-on event in Berlin that Huawei is working hard to eliminate this detour by the time the P40 launches on March 26 in Paris. If this is successful, then Huawei Mobile Services, including AppGallery, can indeed be seen as an alternative to Google’s services.

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 the efficiency in terms of energy consumption.

Same cameras the Mate X

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

Just how good the Mate X’s camera really is, we’ll have to find out in a final test for you when we actually get a test sample.

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… or a selfie? / © AndroidPIT

Same battery onboard

Huawei hasn’t changed anything in the battery either, compared to the Mate X from 2019. Furthermore, it remains a 4,500 mAh battery, which can be charged from zero to 85 percent within 30 minutes with the help of its own 55-watt fast charging technology. Nevertheless, the Mate Xs should have a better battery life than its predecessor. Thanks to the more energy-efficient hardware.

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.

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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.

Huawei Mate Xs

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