Foldable phones have not yet conquered the smartphone world – but Huawei's launch of its Mate Xs means they just might.
Why? Because the Mate Xs has overcome issues previously holding back these foldable phones – it has a genuinely big screen with a multi-tasking, interactive experience, convenience and durability.
With 5G (and even with the still-current 4G), a phone which converts to tablet size provides its owner with a wide screen view and "big picture" perspective – important in this coming era of 5G and its blazing speed (and lack of latency) that will broaden the appeal of streaming movies, videos and other entertainments, gaming and more.
Up until now, many foldable phones have struggled to appear more than gimmicks – but Huawei's emphasis on innovation has come up with ways to set the Mate Xs on the path to wider acceptance.
For a start, the big screen becomes the casing of the phone when it is closed, unlike all other foldables which fold the screen inwards and leave the casing on the outside. This is a real departure from the script and Huawei have also added real strength and durability to the screen.
It has a four-layer screen on the Mate Xs for robustness. Two layers of polyamide film protect the flexible OLED display – that aerospace-grade optical polymide is so high-end, it costs more than gold, Huawei say. Protection doesn't end there – there is a softer polymer layer acting as a cushion and a final layer to connect it to the main body of the device. There's a screen protector on top of all this.
The hinge has been another problem for foldable phones – they can be ungainly and get in the way of the viewing experience – but the Mate Xs hinge has had Huawei's innovators working hard. The "Falcon Wing" joint makes it easy to fold the phone 180 degrees, made up of over 100 components to ensure a smooth process. Huawei say the hinge, unlike many other foldables, is barely noticeable and does not intrude on the big picture experience.
The picture is vivid, whether it be video, gaming, photos or watching movies, Huawei say – and, when you fold it down, the Mate Xs becomes the size and shape of a large smartphone, albeit with the screen on the outside.
The SuperSensing Leica Quad Camera system features a 40MP main camera, 16MP ultra-wide-angle camera, 8MP telephoto camera and a 3D depth sensing camera. For selfies – just flip the Mate Xs around and easily use the secondary screen for selfie shots.
It is a 6.6-inch phone and an 8-inch tablet in one. Multi-tasking is made easy by the intelligent multi-window function which divides the screen into two independent interfaces – so you can work while checking your messages or review the photo album for the right picture to post at the same time as editing social media updates. You can even open one App in two split windows to manage different tasks at the same time.
Huawei's lightning fast Kirin 990 chip is the power behind the phone, which is 5G ready.
The Mate Xs has two batteries to accommodate the folding design – and they can be recharged to 85 per cent in just half an hour with Huawei's SuperCharger.
Most potential Huawei buyers will be aware that, because of the US-China trade controversy, new Huawei phones come without Google services though Huawei have cleverly adapted and are moving on with new ideas.
For a start there is Phone Clone, Huawei's brilliant make-life-easy app for swapping Android phones. You simply install the free app on both phones. Then use the old phone to scan the QR code that appears on the new phone. Select the data to be cloned and start the migration – it's quick and clean.
That transfers the majority of apps from your old phone to the new Huawei Mate Xs – Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Spotify, among other daily-use apps like your banking, airline, news site of your choice.
The Huawei browser can be used for the very few apps that may not work after being cloned – Uber being one example. You simply go to the Huawei browser and look up the Uber website. Save the website to your home screen. Believe it or not, it will function exactly like a quick app – or go to www.apptaken.com, a third party app gallery where daily use apps can be downloaded.
Then there is the Huawei AppGallery, the company's own well of apps for Huawei users. It is evolving at a remarkable pace and is already being used monthly by 400 million people round the world in 170 countries or regions. Here you can pick up Tik Tok, Viber Messenger, We chat, Booking.com, WPS Office, new games and much more.
When he launched the Huawei app gallery for global use last month, Huawei CEO Richard Yu encouraged app developers to come on board – and local organisations like AUT, Radio NZ, Hell Pizza and Niesh did so, improving the range of local apps for New Zealand users.
# Available for pre-order from March 20, the Mate Xs is retailing for $3999.