Huawei won’t be held back from designing new phones by a minor inconvenience, such as US sanctions. Today, the company has announced the next device in its flagship line of foldable smartphones: the Huawei Mate X2. While the 2019 Mate X (X1?) was an innovative but impractical form factor with a single wraparound screen on the outside of the phone, the Mate X2 follows Samsung’s lead and goes with a foldable book style with a rigid phone screen on the outside and a foldable tablet screen inside. It looks like a Galaxy X Fold 2, but with some interesting design evolutions.
Huawei spent a lot of time saying that the Mate X2 was better than the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2, pointing out larger inner and outer screens and a smaller hinge area with slimmer bezels on the front. One thing Huawei hasn’t compared is the price, which starts at a whopping $2,784 while the Galaxy Fold 2 is $2,000.
The outer display is a 6.45-inch, 2700×1160, 90Hz OLED, while the inner display is an 8-inch, 2480×2200, 90Hz OLED. Both are larger than those in the Fold 2, which has a 6.2-inch outdoor display and a 7.6-inch indoor display. Huawei’s work on reducing the bezels looks impressive and it really does feel like the company has got the aspect ratios right. Huawei managed to put a bog-standard 21:9 display on the front – it looks like a normal smartphone from some angles. The interior display is almost two 21:9 screens together, with what Huawei called an “8:7.1 aspect ratio”. It’s hard to say what the interior aspect ratio should be as Android tablet apps are almost nonexistent, but at least this will be fine for split screen app use.
The folding action of the Mate X2 resembles a cross between Samsung’s Fold 2 and the Moto Razr. From the Fold we have internal gears behind the screen for the hinge action. From the Razr we have a hinge that results in a teardrop-shaped display fold when closed, rather than a hard fold. As with the Razr, there are two fold-away support plates to the left and right of the hinge. They swing out of the way when the device is closed, allowing the phone to close without crushing the screen. Huawei says the device closes without opening.
One big downside to this being a Huawei device and not a Samsung device is that it doesn’t have Samsung’s ultra-thin glass display case. Samsung is currently the only company to provide a folding screen cover that even feels a little stiff, while everyone else uses a wrinkled, wrinkly plastic screen cover that moves when you touch it.
During the live unit presentation, a light reflection briefly rolled across the screen, revealing how uneven the screen surface is. As on the Moto Razr, there’s no support above the hinge area, so the flexible screen sags over the hinge, forming a significant slot that runs through the center of the screen. The light also highlighted all sorts of uneven ripples and distortions along what should be the “flat” sides of the screen.
An interesting design choice: the body of the Mate X2 has a wedge shape. When opened, the right side of the phone measures 8.2mm, narrowing towards the left side at 4.4mm. Huawei says the right side of the phone is thicker so that all the cameras can be housed in a regular phone case, which is about 8mm thick. The left side of the phone doesn’t need that many components, so it can be thinned out as much as possible.
I’m not one to push for ever thinner smartphones with slimmer batteries and the removal of headphone jacks, but for foldable smartphones, thickness is a big concern if you want to carry one in a pocket. Many of these early devices are as thick as two smartphones stacked on top of each other, and that just doesn’t fit well in a pocket. Huawei’s tapered design and folding hinge really seem like a winner here. The company is handing in a device with a battery that is the same size as the Galaxy Z Fold 2,4500 mAh, but has shaved almost 2mm off the 16.8mm thickness, making it a 14.7mm-thick device when turned on. folded.
But is it even possible for Huawei to build this phone in significant quantities? Huawei is still in the midst of a stifling US export ban, which has prevented the company from buying parts from international suppliers and has caused its market share to plummet. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, kicked off the Mate X2 presentation with a few challenging words for the US government. “2020 has been an extraordinary and challenging year for Huawei,” said Yu. “We were simultaneously attacked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the second and third rounds of US sanctions, causing major problems for our business and day-to-day work. Thanks to the solid support of our partners, suppliers, and especially consumers around the world, we survived 2020!”
Surviving 2020 is one thing, but Huawei’s market share is still falling rapidly and the future only looks bleaker. There are already reports that Huawei’s smartphone output will be halved by 2021. This is just one of the likely many delivery issues: The Mate X2 has a Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 9000 SoC built on TSMC’s 5nm process, but TSMC stopped shipping to Huawei in September 2020. According to supply chain reports, Huawei ordered 15 million. chips produced, but TSMC was only able to supply just over half of those, 8.8 million chips, before the cut-off date. This offering should be stretched across the Mate X2, the flagship smartphone Mate 40 Pro, and likely another launch this year, the P50 Pro.
Keep in mind that the Mate X2 also doesn’t have Google apps. Speaking of Huawei’s software issues, the company closed the show by announcing that “Huawei flagship phone users” will be able to upgrade their phones to Huawei’s internal operating system, HarmonyOS, from April, and the Mate X2 will be one of the first to launch it. is doing. So according to Huawei, the phone will come with Android and will be upgraded to HarmonyOS. For those who missed our earlier report, Huawei claims that HarmonyOS is the internal OS, but after actually looking at it, there is no discernible difference between HarmonyOS and Android. It should be an easy “upgrade” at the very least.
With all the delivery issues and the barely there launch of the Mate X in 2019, it’s hard to treat this as a real phone, but Huawei claims it will only go on sale in China on February 25th.
List image by Huawei