There’s a lot of buzz about folding displays right now; in the US, we have the OG Samsung Fold along with the new Samsung Z Flip and Motorola Razer flip-style phones from which to choose. Huawei dazzled us last year with the China-only Mate X. Today, Huawei has introduced its next-gen Mate Xs with almost worldwide availability.
The original Mate X was never available outside of China, but if you were ever able to get your hands on one, you would have loved it. The hardware was solid, and it felt great in hand; the screen was gorgeous and functional — open or shut.
The Huawei Mate Xs continues the Mate X’s dual-screen design with a 6.6″ main screen and a 6.38″ secondary screen; when you unfold it, the Mate Xs opens into an 8″ tablet. Unlike the Samsung Fold which puts its folding display on the inside when tablet mode isn’t in play, the Mate Xs folding display is on the outside when the tablet is folded into phone mode.
The Mate XS will sport a Kirin 990 5G processor along with an improved Falcon Wing Design. This is a flagship phone, so Huawei has loaded it with other high-end features like a SuperSensing Leica Quad Camera system with a 40-megapixel main camera (wide-angle, f/1.8), a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera (f/2.2), an 8-megapixel telephoto camera (f/2.4, OIS), and a 3D Depth Sensing Camera. Of course, this camera system will include a combination of OIS and AI Image Stabilization and up to 30X hybrid zoom. The Mate Xs also supposed to take insanely good low-light photos. The Mate Xs will ship with 8GB RAM and 512GB user memory, and it has a 4,500mAh battery.
The Huawei Mate Xs supports Multi-Window, which allows you to have two apps open, displaying side by side at the same time, and these apps can interact with each other. You can drag text, images, and documents from one app and drop them into another app. You can even use the Floating Window feature which allows you to open a third window to take care of small tasks (think using a calculator or to respond to a text message) without exiting either of your other two open apps.
I handled the Mate X extensively (well after its launch), and I loved how the metal sidebar that holds the cameras, charging port and other hardware becomes a natural grab-point when holding the Mate Xs as a tablet.
Everything about the Mate X was absolutely elegantly done, and yet Huawei still found room for improvement in the Mate Xs — not only on the camera and software side, but they also managed to upgrade the Mate X’s Falcon Wing design (the hinge of which has 100+ interlocking parts) to be even more durable while giving a full 180-degree fold. A button opens the folding screen, and when you close it, there is a satisfying click; it’s all just so well done, I have nothing but praise for the hardware design.
And while the idea of the Mate Xs’s huge 8″ tablet display being folded to face the outside on two sides seems scary for klutzes like me, Huawei says their display is durable. Does that mean you won’t scratch it with your fingernail if you get too aggressive? Probably not, so I would still be gentle if you get to fondle one.
By now, you might be thinking, “Okay — where and when can I get this thing?” Well, hold up a sec. The price is going to be €2,499 ($2,702.88), and you’ll be able to get it just about anywhere but the US. The elephant in the room that might put the brakes on any gray-market purchases is the fact that while the Mate Xs runs on EMUI10.0.1, an Android Open Source Project-based operating system, it does not run Android like we are used to here in the US … at all. You won’t be able to install any of the Google mobile apps that many of us expect to find on our Android phones, nor could you access Google Play from the Xs (or any Huawei phone released after the middle of 2019).
To get around that (huge) app distribution limitation, Huawei has created its own official app distribution platform, the Huawei AppGallery. Huawei says that its AppGallery is now available “in over 170 countries/regions with 400 million monthly active users.” You’re not going to find Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, or heck — any other app that has anything to do with Google in AppGallery, though, and for many that will be a huge (and understandable) deal-breaker.
Could you live without Android as you know it? Could you function without Google-specific apps? I’m not sure, but for a phone/tablet like this, I’d be willing to try! What about you?