Huawei’s first folding smartphone to arrive in Italy is designed for technology enthusiasts and able to amaze from the first glance.
Exclusive and unattainable for most people. Huawei Mate Xs is a top of the range unique in its kind, as well as the first folding smartphone of the Chinese house to arrive in Italy. It costs € 2,599, an astronomical figure that points to a specific target, that of technology enthusiasts willing to spend a lot to have an object with innovative features in their hands.
For this reason, unlike the review of the P40 Lite, a phone addressed to the masses, we decided to change our approach with this Mate Xs, choosing one from a more experienced user, who has fewer problems juggling AppGalley and alternative stores, given the absence of all Google services.
Guaranteed wow effect
Huawei has made a very brave choice with the Mate Xs, positioning the screen outside instead of inside the body, as Samsung did with the Fold. It is the only smartphone currently available with this form factor if you exclude its predecessor Mate X. This significantly simplifies the design: there is no need for secondary screens, there is no need to place cameras anywhere and in this way, even when closed, you still have a 6.6-inch display available which allows an all-round use of the phone.
On the back, however, always closed, a 6.38-inch screen is created, to be used for example to frame yourself during a selfie. Just near this screen is the photo module and a red button that activates the opening of the phone.
Once pressed, the voltage to which the screen is subjected allows it to be released; just open it completely to hear the “click” that confirms the correct positioning. The coupling system and the hinge that connects the two displays convey an excellent feeling of solidity, but only time will tell if the mechanism designed by the Chinese house resists in the long run.
On paper, Huawei’s idea is winning and very scenic, it is impossible to remain impassive in front of a Mate Xs when opening the display. Even in practice, the choice convinces, it only takes a moment to switch from a 6-inch display to an 8-inch display with an aspect ratio of almost 4: 3, but like any innovative product, there is no lack of critical issues.
The folding screens are in fact not protected by any glass, but only by a pre-applied protective film that must never be removed, an operation possible only in specialized centres, where it is possible to replace it. The scratch resistance is, therefore, lower than normal screens, we have used the Mate Xs for about a month, without ever scratching the film or the screen, but you need more attention than a regular phone.
Even in the event of a fall, the chances of damage are higher and there is no certification of resistance to liquids and dust: better not to bring the Mate Xs on a summer beach, an occasion which is perfect for taking advantage of the larger display. Another weak point is resistance to fingerprints, the film, unfortunately, holds them back significantly. The cover supplied in the package then, by attaching itself to the phone also by means of an adhesive, also tends to retain more dust than it should. Therefore, you need to clean your smartphone more often than you would with a traditional product. In addition, the display is open the crease is felt when you swipe your finger and you can see it according to the inclination with which you observe the screen, but does not bother you during use.
The weight of 300 grams, on the other hand, must not be deceiving, because if it is true that it is so much for a smartphone, it is not for a device with an 8-inch screen. A Galaxy Tab A with the same diagonal reaches 347 grams. Despite the weight, Mate Xs remains pleasant to use, both when open and closed, as long as with two hands, mainly thanks to the reduced thickness, of only 5.4 mm in tablet mode.
However, a lot depends on your habits; in recent months, the writer has used heavyweights like the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: those who are used to smaller smartphones will find themselves less at ease.
Given the particular design of the Mate Xs, it was not possible to insert the fingerprint reader under the display, which is instead located on the right side, under the power button. A comfortable position to find, not to mention that more traditional fingerprint readers like this are faster and more precise in unlocking.
Just above the volume rocker is placed, while in the high edge we find the SIM card slot (or alternatively SIM + NM SD Card) and the ear capsule, in the lower one there is a second speaker and the USB Type C socket for charging.
When do you need a foldable?
Mate Xs is not for everyone, not only for the price but also for the type of use. This smartphone is perfect on the move more than for home use. Given the current period we have not been able to try it on the go, but it is precisely in this context that it gives a real advantage. On the move, being able to access an 8-inch display without the need to carry a tablet is an important plus, both in productivity and for entertainment.
At home it opens less, we have tried it on our skin in recent weeks, but even here it is still comfortable, because in a moment you switch from having a smartphone in your hand to using a tablet, moreover with excellent continuity of use.
From the web browser to WhatsApp, via Facebook, Instagram and Amazon, applications are resized in real-time when opening or closing the display, we did not notice compatibility problems with the applications we used most frequently.
High-level specifications and excellent autonomy
Mate Xs is a top of the range not only for its design but also for high-end specifications. Onboard we find the SoC Kirin 990, made at 7 nm, along with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of internal memory. The processor is an Octa-Core with Mali-G76 GPU and dedicated NPU (Neural Process Unit). The open display has a diagonal of 8 inches and a resolution of 2480×2200 pixels, obviously, it is based on OLED technology. Once closed, the 6.6-inch main screen has a resolution of 1148×2480 pixels while the secondary 6.38-inch screen reaches 2480 x 892 pixels. We then find support for 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi ac and all the satellite standards available today. The sound is stereo but we found it subdued compared to other recently tested high-end smartphones.
The battery is divided into two 2250 mAh units, for a total of 4500 mAh. When open Mate Xs consumes more, but as we have explained most of the times you can do everything with the smartphone closed and in this case reaching two days of use is far from impossible. By using the open display intensively, you still arrive at the end of the day.
As always, Huawei has done an excellent job on autonomy, which is also very valid on this Mate Xs. Plus it is no small feat then 65 W charger, which charges the phone in about 40 minutes: difficult to run out of energy with a charge rate of this type.
No Google but it suits us
As we anticipated at the beginning, for the test of this Mate Xs we used a different approach than that with P40 Lite. We are not in front of a telephone for the general public, but a product addressed to enthusiasts who want to have the latest technological discovery immediately. This is why we have given more space to the applications downloaded from APKPure, without abusing them because almost everything you need is even simpler between the AppGallery and the Amazon Store.
But let’s start from the shortcomings, which remain important, especially for a phone designed for business users. Every month new applications arrive on AppGallery but many banking apps are still missing and there are difficulties with payments via NFC. Obviously all Google apps and services are absent (Maps can be used without logging in with your account), as well as the Chromecast.
In the Fortnite gaming field, there is but Call of Duty Mobile is still missing, which we have downloaded from APKPure and is fully functional. The situation in this area is however uncertain because in some cases, such as Into The Dead 2, Google services are still required to start the game.
Support for the 8-inch screen is also not guaranteed, for example, Call of Duty Mobile works only with the screen closed, once the scale application is opened to adapt to the particular aspect ratio, generating elongated images.
In short, you need to waste more time in the initial configuration phase and not all applications are always available, but in over a month without Google services, the desire to use the Mate Xs has not diminished. The technological load that this phone carries, at least for a fan, leads to thinking of alternative solutions to make the most of it.
We were no longer used to looking for applications outside the Play Store, but in a couple of hours, between searching and installing the apps, we made the Mate Xs a trusted workmate, all using AppGallery, Amazon AppStore and store F-Droid and APKPure.
As a web browser, we opted for Edge. The choice fell on the Microsoft browser because it is based on Chromium, it is also capable, from the PC version, of import bookmarks and history from Chrome. Instead, as a mail client, we focused on BlueMail, one of the best available on Android and present directly on the AppGallery, as well as Microsoft Office.
Also from here you can download the official DropBox application. From F-Droid instead comes NewPipe, an Open Source client for YouTube, which manages to make up for the lack of official application. On the streaming front, we used Amazon Video (downloaded from the Amazon Appstore), Netflix (which can only be used by downloading an old version of the app and only in SD) and Infinity (directly from the AppGallery). No problem on the social and messaging front, at least for the most used applications, such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Telegram.
In conclusion, if you are used to trying many apps and games the Mate Xs can become frustrating to use otherwise, once you have spent time for the initial configuration, you are able to have what it takes for an all-round use of the phone.
For the rest, the EMUI 10.1, based on Android 10, is what we have seen in other Huawei smartphones, but with welcome additions for multi-tasking. You can open applications in the window, as well as combine two applications to use them simultaneously, also using the practical copy-paste function.
Huawei has always equipped its top of the range with innovative and quality cameras, with the Mate Xs there is no innovation but the quality remains. We are facing a photographic sector in line with that of the P30, but with one less camera, the front one, and an additional ToF sensor on the back. Thanks to the secondary screen, selfies and video calls are managed directly by the main cameras, four in all. The primary sensor is 40 Megapixel with f / 1.8 aperture, then we find a 16 Megapixel wide-angle sensor with f / 2.2 aperture, an 8 Megapixel tele with f / 2.4 aperture, capable of making a 3x optical zoom with minimum quality loss , and finally a ToF sensor for detecting depth of field.
The photographic performance is very good, the main sensor quickly focuses on the subject and manages to capture many details. No problem even at night, Huawei is a master at managing Night Mode and also in this case the results are excellent, the phone catches light even where it shouldn’t be, the detail is obviously lower but it is doing well. Wide angle shots take less light but during the day they are useful for capturing landscapes, as well as for making more powerful bokeh shots than the main cam. Functional the zoom, does not reach the levels of the P30 Pro and stops at 3x without loss of quality, but even in this case the shots remain excellent.
It costs a lot, resistance over time is impossible to evaluate and Google applications are missing. Despite this, after we have used this smartphone for almost a month, the feeling of having something really innovative on the hands has not passed, leading us to make a more personal review than usual. Mate Xs is an exclusive product aimed at enthusiasts with ample financial resources, it is not for the masses and cannot be compared to the traditional top of the range. Huawei’s idea of placing the display outside the device is convincing, as are the software customizations designed to improve multitasking. Also excellent performance, the Kirin 990 together with the EMUI 10.1 does not miss a beat.
The absence of Google applications is less painful than you might think in this case, there is no shortage of renunciations, but once we spent time on the first configuration we didn’t miss it much, or at least, the desire to using this smartphone has won over the limitations that this absence imposes. In truth, Gapps can be safely done without, from Gmail to Chrome there are valid alternative solutions, but for a phone of this type designed for a wealthy user, the absence of many banking applications and the most important payment systems via NFC is more significant.
Having specified this, Mate Xs is much more than an experiment, but an innovative, concrete, pleasant to use and above all unique smartphone, a very rare feature in the world of telephony today.