Huawei Mate Xs 2 initial review: Reviving a trailblazer
Huawei was among the first companies to launch a folding smartphone with a flexible display in the Mate X. It was something of a pioneer in that regard, delivering a phone to market unlike anything we’d seen before.
The phone featured a tablet sized screen that folded around the hinge to shut, making it feel like a normal smartphone, before being opened up to its full size.
Now Huawei is back with this old formula, but with refinements and improvements that should address a lot of those early durability concerns. It’s slimmer and stronger than before, so can this deliver in ways the likes of the Fold 3 can’t.
In a market of folding book-style phones and flip phones, the Mate Xs 2 has managed to stand out. It’s truly different to anything else, and it looks and feels like a genuinely compelling piece of hardware.
Of course the lack of Google Play Services is an issue, but with Huawei’s App Gallery improving over the past few years, and other – although slightly clunky – workarounds to getting apps on the phone, that isn’t as much of a problem as it might have been a couple of years ago. What’s more, with a big screen like this, you may just find the browser can do a lot for you on this phone.
The one thing you can’t workaround is the price. With a price tag of €1999 in Europe (no UK pricing just yet), it’s hardly the cheapest phone around and is still in that ‘very expensive’ territory.
There were two major concerns with the first couple of generations of Huawei’s outward folding phones. First: durability. Not just because there’s a bending screen and lots of moving parts in the hinge, but also because the screen was always on the outside and not protected by glass.
Second: size. A lot of the early folding phones have been the thickness of two regular smartphones stacked together, taking up more space in your pocket and being quite hard to use comfortably one-handed when shut.
Huawei has attempted to address these two pain points with the Mate Xs 2. The flexible display is now made up of four composite layers stacked onto each other. This was to make the screen more durable, but also to reduce the appearance of the crease that appeared very visibly on previous versions.
The phone body is made of a titanium alloy, with a rear that’s infused with fibre-glass, while the hinge has a stainless steel cap on it. The end result is a phone that’s much more durable and capable of surviving every day knocks and bangs.
This combination of materials also makes it lighter than the previous Mate Xs, and when open, it’s just 5.4mm thin at its thinnest point.
From a form factor standpoint, it takes the main ideas from the Mate Xs. That means the screen is held in place with a catch on the inside of a grip that runs down one side of the phone. Press the little red button, and it releases the screen for easy unfolding.
This same grip is where you’ll find the three cameras stacked vertically in a line. And it makes for a convenient place to hold the phone in one hand. In some ways this approach reminds us a little of the Kindle Oasis. It’s got that narrow grip on one side, and the rest is a flat, skinny device that’s mostly all screen.
On the whole it feels like a decent device based on our little bit of time with it so far. The hinge feels smooth and solid when moving, and not at all loose. The phone doesn’t feel all that awkward or heavy when held open. It does still feel a little chunky when folded and held in one hand, but it’s not horrendous. You could comfortably get used to it, especially if you’re used to bigger phones anyway.
Then there’s the fact it doesn’t support 5G; you get 4G support maximum. Plus, the battery inside seems quite small for a phone this large at 4600mAh. Powering that big, bright and sharp display could drain that quite quickly. Although, again, we do need to test it to see how it performs through an average work week or two.
On the flip side, Huawei’s often been great at battery optimisation in the past, delivering battery life that’s seemingly beyond what its batteries should manage. And there’s always fast charging to fall back on. In this case, that’s 66W SuperCharge. It should give you a speed refill when you’re in a hurry and running out of juice