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Huawei Mate Xs review: Hands on with Huawei’s latest folding phone

The Mate Xs builds on its predecessor with a more robust display and hinge

Huawei’s Mate X was arguably the standout product of last year’s MWC trade show. For a number of reasons, however, the foldable phone never landed on UK shores, and so sadly we never spent more than a few minutes with it in Barcelona last February.

Fast forward a year and despite facing a number of challenges in the mobile market, the Chinese firm today announced its follow up to the Mate X, aptly named the Mate Xs. The phone builds on its predecessor with a more robust screen and hinge, so we’re hopeful that the Xs will be the device the Mate X should have been – albeit with one significant caveat.

Huawei Mate Xs review: Key specs, price and release date

  • 5G compatible
  • 8in 2,480 x 2,200 display when unfolded
  • 6.6in front screen and 6.38in rear screen when folded
  • Octa-core 2.86GHz Kirin 990 5G chipset
  • Leica quad-camera: 40MP wide-angle f/1.8; 8MP 3x telephoto f/2.4; 16MP ultra-wide f/2.2; 3D depth sensor for bokeh effect
  • Dual 4,500mAh battery
  • 55W SuperCharge charger
  • Android 10 (open source) with EMUI 10
  • UK release date: TBC
  • UK price: TBC

Huawei Mate Xs: Design, key features and first impressions

To the naked eye, the Mate Xs looks almost identical to the Mate X. And that makes sense because most of the changes Huawei has made are beneath the surface – this is the Mate X with one or two key design tweaks, if you like.

The first of these changes is that the Mate Xs has a new two-layer polymer structure on the screen that adds a degree of robustness. As with the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the problems reported with the first-gen Mate X mostly related to its screen, so it’s good news if those flaws have been addressed before Huawei’s folding technology finally makes it to British shores.

The other main design change relates to the hinge. At MWC 2019, Huawei was happy for us to hold the Mate X but we weren’t allowed to fold it which didn’t exactly inspire a great deal of confidence. There was no such coyness this time around at the briefing for the Mate Xs and I was really impressed by how well-built the hinge feels in the new device.

Made from over 100 components, it requires a surprising amount of force to open and close, but in a way that’s reassuring rather than alarming. The Mate Xs’s outward folding display is, of course, what separates it from all other rival foldable smartphones launched so far, and although I find it rather disconcerting that the reverse of the device is a screen in its folded state, there’s also something hugely satisfying about the way it folds completely flush against itself without an air gap.

The majority of the benefits of the Mate Xs’s folding design are reaped when the phone is in its unfolded state and Huawei was keen to show us the phone’s app multiplier, which lets you view two separate screens from an app simultaneously. The phone’s software – which is the open-source version of Android 10 with an EMUI overlay, if you were wondering – also lets you stretch, scale and extend apps across the large 8in display.

On the whole, these functions looked slick and polished when the Huawei rep demonstrated them to me. But as with anything, it remains to be seen as to whether they offer a real, tangible benefit over the multi-tasking that’s already possible with the manufacturer’s large phones. 

The Mate Xs is powered by Huawei’s latest Kirin 990 processor, so as well as supporting 5G, it certainly ought to be cut out for whatever power-hungry applications you care to use on it. There’s also 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage as standard, so the Mate Xs can more or less go toe to toe with other flagship handsets as far as hardware is concerned.

The same is true of its cameras’ specs. Reminiscent of the Mate 30 Pro, the Mate Xs has a Leica quad-camera arrangement that consists of a 40MP (f/1.8) camera, an 8MP (f/2.4) telephoto snapper, a 16MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide camera and a 3D depth sensor. If this camera array is anything like as good as that in Huawei’s latest flagship, then I’d expect very good things indeed. 

Huawei Mate Xs: Early verdict 

Of course, these impressive hardware specs must be viewed against the backdrop that the Mate Xs will almost certainly launch without the Google Play Store when it eventually arrives in the UK. That means Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube, among many other apps, aren’t on the device when you receive it and can’t be installed.

As with the Mate 30 Pro, that’ll likely present very real problems that aren’t what you’d want to experience with a device that costs upwards of £1,000. That’s a real shame as in all other respects we’re really excited to put this innovative phone through its paces in the near future.

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