At Mobile World Congress 2019 the big hitters are getting in early, with Huawei unveiling its foldable 5G phone, the Mate X, at its press conference the day prior to the show opening its doors proper.
We got to see the Mate X behind closed doors before the major reveal, which you can see in our gallery of pictures above (click to scroll - and don't worry, the page won't load to a different one each time) to get a closer look.
Is it a tablet? Is it a phone? It's both...
- Total screen: 8in, 8:7.1 aspect ratio, 2480 x 2200 resolution
- Front screen portion: 6.6in OLED, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2480 x 1148 resolution
- Rear screen portion: 6.38in OLED, 25:9 aspect ratio, 2480 x 892 resolution
- Device measures: 11mm thick; 5.4mm thick when unfolded
- Falcon wing hinge design for seamless fold
- 2-in-1 power key and fingerprint scanner
But what is the Mate X all about? In its folded state, where it looks like a normal phone, it's 11mm thick - which is pretty good going for a double-screen sandwich (although it's technically just the one screen which folds). Yes, it's chunkier than many current flagships, but that's expected.
It's a large phone, too, with the main screen portion - which has no cameras, by the way, in order to lead with minimal bezel - measuring 6.6-inches across its 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Flip it around and the rear portion equates to a 6.38-inch screen with an elongated 25:9 aspect ratio - it's extra long here because of the trio of Leica cameras tucked to the side of it.
We doubt that second screen portion will come into much use as a standalone panel, but its special trick is to unfold into a tablet like form, revealing the full screen in its 8-inch scale.
In this tablet form there's a 'lip' to the side - which is where the cameras live - designed to be used as a sort-of holding handle for the sake of comfort. We've not touched the device - there was only the one at our MWC briefing and only the man was allowed to demo it - so can't tell how it'll feel in use. It looks really easy to fold the device between its forms, though, with the press of a single release switch on the back enabling the phone to unfold.
Won't two screens crush battery life?
- 4,500mAh battery capacity
- Huawei SuperCharge (55W)
- Recharge 85% of battery in 30 minutes
The more pixels you have on a device, the more illumination that needs to take place. So surely an 8-inch panel is going to deplete too quickly to be of use?
You might think so, but Huawei has sandwiched two batteries into the Mate X, with a total of 4,500mAh combined. That's beefier than you'll find in the long-lasting Mate 20 Pro, which should put the Mate X in good stead.
More impressive, however, is the new Huawei SuperCharge fast-charging technology, which uses a 55W charger. Huawei says that a flat battery can be topped back up to 85 per cent in just half an hour. Which is absurdly fast - faster even than Oppo's Super VOOC. Of course we've not tested this yet, but it's an impressive stat that should keep this phone going irrelevant of how you're using that foldable screen.
It's 5G, but do we really need that yet?
- 'World's first 5G foldable phone'
- Balong 5000 modem & Kirin 980 chipset
- Quad 5G antenna - up to 4.6Gbps speeds
Huawei is keen to push the Mate X as the first 5G foldable phone. We all know it's not the first foldable phone - we've already seen the Royole FlexPai and the Samsung Fold will be on sale in a matter of months. But, yes, Huawei's the first 5G one.
That's a bit of a double-edged sword, really. A device like this will be expensive enough. Adding the 5G modem isn't going to make it any cheaper. Plus the whole world isn't quite 5G ready just yet - so many buyers in much of the world aren't going to see the heightened download speeds that Huawei is purporting will be possible.
It's also the reason the phone won't launch until "the middle of 2019", because the networks and carriers aren't quite ready yet.
What about the cameras?
- Triple Leica cameras (details TBC)
So what of the Mate X? Well, we don't know precisely. The arrangement on the rear looks like a trio of lenses - and certainly Leica endorsed ones, once more - not the quad camera setup that the P30 Pro is likely to show off, when it's revealed in March.
But that's all we know right now. The Huawei Mate X looks like the best version of a folding phone we've seen to date, but we want to get up close and use the device to see how it copes with real-life daily use, whether the hinge is as good as it seems, and if the dual screen options are actually that useful. Will it be worth its €2299 asking price? Because that's how much you'll have to pay for one.