Hands-on: Huawei Mate Xs 2 review
Huawei pioneered a breed of foldable phones that were thought to have been retired until we discovered the Mate Xs 2. The original Huawei Mate X, followed by the Huawei Mate Xs, is a series of phones that fold the opposite of the popular Samsung Galaxy. Z Fold 3, placing the foldable, wraparound display on the front of the closed phone.
This unique, wraparound foldable design offers a host of benefits, presented by the Mate Xs 2’s predecessor. These include a slimmer body, larger tablet screen and a comfortable front display in smartphone mode. That’s compared to the hyper-tall 25:9 cover screen of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Fold 3 which is super narrow.
Despite its advantages, however, there is no denying that an outdoor screen is more susceptible to damage than an indoor screen. Huawei’s phones have also been plagued with limitations in recent years – no Google services or 5G, and the Mate Xs series has been reliably more expensive than the Z Fold series.
With all that in mind, can Huawei’s improved and tougher new foldable convince category skeptics (and Huawei skeptics) that the brand is really pushing the envelope in a meaningful way, or is it all Sounds like an expensive filler from a brand that struggles to keep a foothold in mobile, even though it excels in other product categories?
Huawei Mate Xs 2 price and availability
Launch times for the Huawei Mate Xs 2 are yet to be confirmed, but we know it will arrive in Europe in June or soon after – specific details are yet to be confirmed.
Expected to cost around €1,999 – around £1,700 / $2,710 / AUS$3,000, it’s one of the most expensive foldables we’ve seen to date and shows Huawei going against the grain. the trend towards more affordable foldable phones seen by Samsung.
Design and display
The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is thin unfolded – just 5.4mm across most of its body, with a wedge at the end where the phone’s brain lives. That’s even thinner than the already waif-like 6.4mm Galaxy Z Fold 3.
The main design improvement we noticed as soon as we started playing with it was the clasp. It’s now much easier to lock the phone shut – there’s no big ‘click’ when you press it into place like on the Mate Xs, just a smooth, imperceptible mechanism that secures it.
The Mate Xs 2 still bounces when unlocked from closed to open, and therefore doesn’t offer the range of folding angles available on Samsung’s foldables. Its Falcon Wing hinge is not designed to be half open.
The large flexible screen is both the tablet screen and the phone screen, which means that in phone mode, the back of the phone is partially screen. It’s handy in some cases – you can launch a preview when you’re in the camera app so your subject can see what you’re shooting. That said, it’s also a weak point, after all, foldable screens are historically fragile.
On the thick strip on the right side of the Xs 2, a USB-C port for charging lives at the base, a volume rocker and a power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner on the side, and rear cameras.
The back of the phone, on the back of the screen, is a cross-hatched textured fiberglass material that Huawei says is both lightweight and durable, and the rest of the frame is free of buttons and ports.
As for the display, this is where Huawei claims to have increased its durability. The screen benefits from a four-layer system that protects it from knocks, and it feels more like glass than the more distorted Mate Xs.
The screen measures 7.8 inches when open and 6.5 inches when closed, and surpasses the Z Fold 3 in size and clarity. The fact that you swipe the same screen whether in phone or tablet mode means you get the same screen experience no matter how you use the phone. That means a 120Hz OLED display with a pixel density of 424 pixels per inch.
In the flesh, it looks very vivid and colorful, with 10-bit visuals and deep OLED blacks. There’s a noticeable bump in the middle, but it’s less pronounced than the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s crease.
Performance and software
Unlike Huawei’s tablets and smartwatches, the Mate Xs 2 and its entire phone line run EMUI, Huawei’s layer on top of Android.
Just like other Huawei phones, the Mate Xs 2 does not have access to the Google Play Store and Google Play services, however, it benefits from some of Huawei’s improvements to make the most of its large fold-out screen. It’s easy to kick off multitasking, with split-screen apps and floating-window apps available.
Huawei is trying to alleviate the missing Play Store by investing heavily in its AppGallery, which incorporates a feature called Petal Search. This gives you access to most of the apps you’re likely to need, including Disney Plus, Netflix and Instagram available.
As for the phone’s internals, it uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 4G – a 2021 flagship processor with 5G disabled. That recalled power and connectivity puts the Mate Xs 2 on the back foot performance-wise, and the lack of 5G (which is due to Huawei sanctions) is another tough pill to swallow, given the price of the phone.
As for the battery, it’s a 4,600mAh cell, with the phone charging at up to 66W. Unlike the Z Fold 3, Huawei’s foldable flagship lacks wireless charging, however, its battery slightly larger is a godsend.
Huawei is known for its great camera technology, and a 50MP main camera with an f/1.8 lens leads the charge for the Mate Xs 2. There’s also an 8MP telephoto camera with 3.4x optical zoom, paired with an f/2.4 lens, and a 13MP ultra-wide camera with an f/2.2 lens.
Most notable is the fact that Huawei has added a punch-hole selfie camera to the phone’s screen. For one, it interrupts what was an expansive, all-screen design on the last-gen Mate Xs. On the other hand, as a phone, everything should work much better – you won’t have to open it for video calls or to take a selfie.
It is always difficult to sum up the Huawei kit. The technology of the Mate Xs – its screen, the design and the engineering that brings it together is exceptional. But the fact that Huawei cannot use Google services or 5G in its phones is a blow.
The Mate Xs 2 is also very expensive. So while this is 2022’s most exciting smartphone design yet, and undoubtedly a powerful and capable phone likely to have powerful cameras and a smooth, optimized interface, it will be always an incredibly hard sell.
All of this means that the Mate Xs 2 is a powerful demonstration of Huawei’s engineering excellence and resilience. What it probably isn’t, however, is your next smartphone (unless you’re very, very rich).