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(Pocket-lint) - Whatever challenges Huawei has faced from a software and business point of view over the past couple of years, there's no denying that when it comes to hardware development, it's still breaking ground. 

It was one of the first to build a foldable smartphone in the Mate X, joining the likes of Samsung and Motorola in showing that there could well be a future in this category. 

Its first device was unusual in that it wrapped the one single display around the hinge on the outside. For the next evolution it's taken a leaf from Samsung's book and opted for an internal screen instead. We've spent a week using the Mate X2 and it shows there's still plenty of hope for the foldables market yet.

Huawei Mate X2 Design 

  • 161.8 x 145.8 x 8.2mm (unfolded)
  • 161.8 x 74.6 x 14.7mm (folded)
  • 295 grams

Where this differs from Samsung's Z Fold 2 is, in essence, size. The Mate X2 is - indeed - chonky. It's almost like having two regular smartphones on top of each other. Or - more technically accurate - one and a half smartphones together. 

There are benefits to this. The 6.45-inch outer display is noticeably larger than the screen on Samsung's alternative, making it much more like using a proper smartphone, while opening up reveals a large 8-inch almost-square flexible panel. 

When you do open it up, there's a lovely animation when you choose the right wallpaper. The flower petals shown in our images open up gradually as you open the phone. It's great attention to detail. 

This same meticulous approach is seen elsewhere in design. The hinge feels really solid, as does the phone's frame which is polished to a mirror finish giving the entire phone the look of something that its manufacturer really cared about. It's fantastically well put together. It's a far cry from some early flexible phones. 

Similarly, when shut, there's no hint of there being a gap at the hinge, making it appear as though the two sides of the folding screen are virtually shut flush to each other. 

Display and hardware

  • 8-inch OLED folding display (2200 x 2480)
  • 6.45-inch cover display (1160 x 2700)
  • Kirin 9000 5G processor + 4500mAh battery
  • Quad camera system

Both screens on this phone are colourful and bright OLED panels. As mentioned, the outer screen is a 6.45-inch flat panel, features 1160 x 2700 resolution, and is also equipped with 90Hz refresh rates.  The internal flexible display is an 8-inch panel with a resolution of 2200 x 2480 spread over a large, almost square surface area. 

As displays go, it's hard to fault either. They're vibrant, dynamic panels that offer smooth animation. That front screen is a good enough size that it's easy to use on its own. It's not a secondary screen, but rather an additional, useable screen. For those times you just want to reply to a message, quickly find something out or browse social media, it's perfectly good. 

The internal display is one of the largest folding panels we've seen on any phone yet, and that makes it much more like a foldable tablet than a phone. Still, there are issues with scaling some third party apps. We had to give up on some games downloaded from Huawei's AppGallery because key parts of the interface were cut off by the bezel. 

Speaking of which, the skinny bezels on the front and back ensure that what is displayed on it is given pride of place. It's not quite edge-to-edge, but it's close. The only interruption being the quite large dual selfie camera that's punched into the front screen. 

The only problem - and one that still needs solving for foldable phones in general - is the crease. It's not especially noticeable when you're looking at the internal display head-on, but you can see it at an angle, and still feel it under the finger when swiping on the screen. Although, it's nowhere near as prominent as older generations of screen. 

In addition to those two selfie cameras, Huawei has put a flagship quality quad system on the back. There's a 50-megapixel primary camera with OIS joined by a 12MP 3x optical zoom camera, a periscope 10x zoom camer and a 16-megapixel ultrawide. As always, co-engineered with Leica. That's the same primary camera that's in the Mate 40 Pro with same telephoto and periscope lenses. In short: It's a market leading camera. 

Internally, the Kirin 9000 5G processor as not only fast and efficient, thanks to that 5nm process structure, but also means it has built-in 5G without the need for a separate modem. 

A note on software

  • EMUI 11 based on Android 10
  • No Google Play

We all know of Huawei's software problems by now and the lack of Google Play apps. With this particular unit we weren't able to get a lot of even the Huawei-optimised apps like Petal Maps and Huawei's suite of Docs. It seems this unit is primed and ready for another region. Those apps showed a popup stating they aren't available in our region, despite the fact that they work perfectly fine on our Mate 40 Pro. 

Pocket-lintHuawei Mate X2 gallery photo 15

The thing worth noting we think is that while it's not in a position to truly challenge the likes of Android and iOS yet, Huawei has made huge strides with its EMUI/HMS platform. In phones where it works properly (not this one) Petal Search allows you to install most popular apps as APK and checks them for security and incompatibility issues, while the AppGallery is expanding quickly. 

Regardless of the software issues, Huawei is showing that when it comes to hardware, it's still at the forefront. If it can build up its ecosystem to the point where it's on par with Android and iPhone, it'll be a serious force to be reckoned with outside China again. As a piece of hardware, the Mate X2 is exceptional. Although, pricey and - in the west at least - pretty much unavailable. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 26 May 2021.