I used the Huawei Mate X and now I’m a foldable phone believer
Hearing about the $1,980 Samsung Galaxy Fold and 2,300-euro Huawei Mate X foldable phones is one thing. Handling one of the first of its kind is another entirely. I thought I was wild about both of these yesterday. But after spending a good 5 minutes with the Mate X today, I understand the appeal of foldable devices on a much deeper level.
Phones aren’t just specs. They’re physical things we constantly hold and carry close. They’re emotional, too. Phone designs can elicit strong reactions. Losing your phone can feel disorienting at best and devastating at worst. Not every foldable phone will be a revelation, but for me, the Mate X is.
Foldable phones present a chance to shake up a coasting industry while also effectively doubling the amount of screen space you have to use on your phone. Because foldable phones are phone-tablet hybrids, they can command a higher price, which opens up an important revenue stream at the top end for companies looking to make a greater profit in a slowing market.
But this new era of bendable screens also represents the Wild West of phone design: A phone could fold inward or outward, down the center or on two sides, or even bend back around your wrist like a watch. At this early stage, companies are working out what a foldable phone means. Right now, anything goes.
Huawei wants its turn in the foldable phone spotlight, and with the Mate X, it makes a convincing — but expensive — audition. The main competition: Samsung’s Galaxy Fold phone, which has two screens, six cameras total and unfolds in the center to open into a 7.3-inch tablet. Huawei’s Mate X — that’s pronounced “ex,” not “ten” — has three ways to use on 8-inch screen, four cameras (three you can see, one that’s temporarily hidden) and an interesting design that gives you a grippable base for one-handed use.
When closed, the Mate X bends one big screen backward into two sides, treating each of those sides as a “screen” that lights up as you turn and move the device. Flip it upside down, turn it around, open it up, and the phone knows exactly where you are. It worked well in my brief time with the Mate X, but the hardware design itself is novel.
Where the Galaxy Fold, which I’m also dying to see, looks like two polished phones stacked together, the Mate X nestles into itself in a way that feels clever and fresh. Huawei shoved its cameras and essential components along a vertical sidebar, which it fashioned into a curve. When closed, the smaller part of the screen fits to this “falcon wing” curve. When open, Huawei describes this part as an “ergonomic handle,” which helps explain why there’s such a thick slab on the size that would otherwise feel out of place.
I probably wouldn’t hold it solely by the grip — it’s a little narrow for that — but it did feel fairly stable in my right hand, with my fingertips extended onto the back of the tablet for balance.