It was unclear whether foldables were going to be a thing at IFA 2019.
After Samsung's issues with the Galaxy Fold, and the delay of Huawei's own offering, 2019 has become a kind of bendable purgatory.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself racing across Berlin to have a spontaneous, ten minutes hands on with the Mate X.
New form factors are always exciting, but nothing else in recent years has captured people's imaginations quite like foldable screens. When it comes to the Galaxy Fold, drama has ensued. From its micro-debut at Samsung's Developer Conference in 2018, to faulty review units, there have been many question marks around how it would eventually perform. And while some may have even assumed that the first generation of the Fold would become Vapourware, it made a surprise appearance at IFA 2019. And we got to spend 45 glorious minutes with it.
As the headline reveals, my time with the Mate X was extremely limited - so these are topline first impressions.
What Is It?
Huawei's first foldable device has a 6.6-inch front display and 6.38-inch rear display. Unlike the Samsung, which is an in-fold, the Mate X is an out-fold. This means that it folds outward, turning one large screen into two, which are exposed at all times.
The newer versions of the Mate X will have Huawei's new Kirin 990 processor, 512GB storage, 8GB RAM, a 4,500mAH battery, fingerprint reader power button and 2480x2200 resolution.
It also has the same camera setup as the P30 Pro. The includes a 40 MP SuperSpectrum Sensor (Wide angle, f/1.6), 20 MP Ultra-wide angle (f/2.2), 8 MP Tele lens (f/3.4) and a Time-of-Flight lens. The only thing missing is the front facing camera.
What's Good About It?
I didn't get a proper chance to try multi-tasking due to time constraints, but I was able to test out the app continuity through YouTube.
The device swaps between full screen (unfolded) to half screen (folded) seamlessly. It also looks really gorgeous on it.
Rotating the device also results in quick app justified changes, which is nice.
I wasn't able to keep any camera samples, but this thing is rocking the same setup as the P30 Pro, which is one of the best camera phones of the year.
Both the front snaps are good. Damn good.
The only downside is that there is no selfie camera, which is god-tier on the P30 Pro. Instead, you have to fold the phone up and turn it around so the image of yourself appears on the smaller screen.
It's better than nothing at all, but I'd prefer a dedicated front-facing camera.
While the Mate X is perhaps a little heavy for a phone, it's light for a tablet. And in general I didn't find it to be cumbersome.
However, it is super thick compared to a modern phone, but that's an issue that all foldables will have for the foreseeable future.
I was apprehensive about this when I first saw it, but became an instant convert. It's very comfortable to type on.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold also has this feature.
What's Not So Good?
Due to being an out-fold, you can feel the crease in the screen even when using it flat.
To be fair, you can also feel this with the Samsung Galaxy Fold - but it's more pronounced on the Mate X.
I imagine you would get used it it quite quickly, but it is a little distracting at first.
I imagine future generations of the product will be able to improve on this.
To pop the Mate X open you need to press a button. It takes some getting used to and I'm not sure I'm a fan.
On the one hand it keeps the device securely fastened, but I would rather the convenience of simply opening up without having to take an extra step.
Should You Buy It?
While Huawei has been colloquially talking about the future of its devices in Australia, including its foldable, it's difficult to say if and when the Mate X could hit our shores. And when it does it's probably going to be pricey.
If it does, it may suffer the same fate as the upcoming Mate 30, which is likely to launch without proper Android or Google applications thanks to the ban and trade war with the U.S. government. These are important factors to consider.
That being said, I enjoyed my short-lived time with the Mate X. I'm a big fan of the P30 Pro camera upgrade and it was a lot of fun to use.