Huawei will not allow minor inconveniences such as US sanctions to prevent it from designing new phones. Today, the company announced the next device in its flagship collapsible smartphone line: the Huawei Mate X2. While the 2019 Mate X (X1?) Was an innovative but impractical form factor with a single screen on the outside of the phone, the Mate X2 follows Samsung’s management and comes with a book style foldable with a rigid phone screen on the outside and a foldable tablet screen on the inside. It looks like a Galaxy X Fold 2, but with a few interesting design developments.
Huawei spent a lot of time saying that the Mate X2 was better than the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2, and pointed to larger internal and external screens, as well as a smaller hinge area with slimmer frames at the front. One thing Huawei does not compare to is the price, which starts at a whopping $ 2784, while the Galaxy Fold 2 is $ 2000.
The exterior display is a 6.45-inch, 2700 × 1160, 90Hz OLED, while the interior display is an 8-inch, 2480 × 2200, 90Hz OLED. Both are larger than those in the Fold 2, which has a 6.2-inch external screen and a 7.6-inch internal screen. Huawei’s work to slim the edges looks impressive, and it really feels like the company got the image conditions right. Huawei managed to mount a 21: 9 screen on the front – it looks like a regular smartphone from some angles. The interior display is almost two 21: 9 screens put together, with what Huawei called an “8: 7.1 aspect ratio.” It’s hard to say what the internal aspect ratio “should” be, since Android tablet apps are almost non-existent, but at least this would be good for using a split screen.
The folding action of the Mate X2 looks like a cross between Samsung’s Fold 2 and Moto Razr. From Fold we have internal gears behind the screen for the hinge action. From the Razr we have a hinge that results in a tear drop when closed, instead of a hard curl. Just like in the Razr, there are two collapsible support plates to the left and right of the hinge. They swing out of the way when the device is closed, so that the phone can be closed without breaking the screen. Huawei says that the device closes without a gap.
A major disadvantage of this being a Huawei device and not a Samsung device is that it does not have Samsung’s ultra-thin glass cover. Samsung is currently the only company to supply a folding screen cover that is even a little stiff to the touch, while everyone else uses a curly, frizzy, plastic cover that moves when you touch it.
During the presentation with a live device, a light reflection rolled briefly across the screen, highlighting how uneven the screen surface is. As on the Moto Razr, there is no support top on the hinge area, so the flexible screen scissors over the top of the hinge and forms a significant ditch that goes down the middle of the screen. The light also emphasized all kinds 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 is a wedge shape. When open, the right side of the phone is 8.2 mm, which decreases to the left measurement of 4.4 mm. Huawei says that the right side of the phone is thicker, so that it can accommodate all the cameras in a normal phone, which is about 8 mm thick. The left side of the phone does not need as 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 removal of headphone jacks, but for folders, thickness is a major concern if you actually want one in your pocket. Many of these early devices are as thick as two smartphones stacked on top of each other, and it just does not fit well in your pocket. Huawei’s conical design and foldable hinge really looks like a winner here. The company introduces a device with the same size battery as the Galaxy Z Fold 2, 4500mAh, but has shaved almost 2 mm of 16.8 mm thickness, and turns into a 14.7 mm thick device when folded up.
But is it even possible for Huawei to build this phone in some significant quantities? Huawei is still in the middle of a stifling US export ban, which has meant that the company cannot obtain parts from international suppliers and has sent the market share. Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu started the Mate X2 presentation with some defiant words for the US government. “2020 was an extraordinary and challenging year for Huawei,” said Yu. “At the same time, we were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the second and third rounds of US sanctions, which have posed major problems for our business and day-to-day operations. However, thanks to the solid support of our partners, suppliers, and especially consumers all over the world, we survived 2020! “
Surviving 2020 is one thing, but Huawei’s market share is still declining rapidly, and things only look gloomier in the future. There are already reports that Huawei’s smartphone output will be halved in 2021. Here is just one of the likely supply problems: The Mate X2 has a Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 9000 SoC, built on TSMC’s 5nm process, but TSMC stopped shipments to Huawei in September 2020. According to supply chain reports, Huawei ordered 15 million chips produced, but TSMC only managed to deliver a little over half of that, 8.8 million chips, before the deadline. This supply needs to be stretched over the Mate X2, the flagship smart smartphone Mate 40 Pro, and probably a launch this year, the P50 Pro.
Keep in mind that the Mate X2 does not have any Google apps either. Speaking of Huawei’s software issues, the company ended 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 do so. So according to Huawei, the phone will be shipped with Android and upgraded to HarmonyOS. For those who missed our previous report, Huawei claims that HarmonyOS is the internal operating system, but after looking at it, there is no noticeable difference between HarmonyOS and Android. It should at least be a simple “upgrade”.
With all the supply issues and the barely there launch of the Mate X in 2019, it is difficult to treat this as a real phone, but Huawei claims that it will be on sale only in China on February 25.
Entry image of Huawei