Huawei Mate Xs 2: Does Huawei's Galaxy Fold killer prove Samsung is doing foldables wrong?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Huawei Mate Xs 2: Does Huawei's Galaxy Fold killer prove Samsung is doing foldables wrong?
It was 2019 when Huawei phones were still able to run Google apps natively. Again, back in 2019, together with Samsung, the two biggest Android phone-makers (at the time) started a revolution that was going to be talked about for years to come.

The Huawei Mate X and Galaxy Fold were announced in February and eventually made it to the shelves, bringing an ocean of ambition and a large pool of imperfections. They were anything but finished products that probably shouldn't have been released, but what I want to focus on is their potential. The Mate X and Galaxy Fold marked the beginning of the foldable phone race, and this one isn't slowing down!

As you might know, Samsung's 2020 and 2021 Galaxy Fold successors decided to follow a linear upgrade pattern with some obvious changes that should've been there from the beginning (Galaxy Z Fold 2), or some appreciated but yet incremental improvements (Galaxy Z Fold 3).

And despite being a massive upgrade over the original Galaxy Fold (the bar wasn't set high), Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 is still facing challenges that troubled the company's foldables phones from day one...

  • The Fold 3 is still awkwardly shaped when closed
  • It still has the most prominent crease and gap we've ever seen on a foldable
  • It's still heavier, bulkier, and less capable in some key areas compared to a slab phone

Meanwhile, although the Chinese foldable contender was visibly shaken by the (ongoing) US trade embargo that cut the company's stream of Google apps and access to key hardware components, Huawei… persisted.

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In fact, in the midst of the trade ban, the company from Shenzhen pulled off a tech miracle, becoming the first phone-maker to surpass Samsung and/or Apple and become the world's biggest phone manufacturer - a lead that Huawei held just for a few months back in 2020.

Despite the hard times, Huawei's overachieving, ambition-filled, and innovation-driven corporate culture remained intact, and the Huawei Mate Xs 2 is here to deliver the proof. What's left is to see if progressive thinking and impressive engineering are enough to convince western audiences that outward-folding phones without Google apps are the way to go.

Easy task! Huh?

Mate Xs 2: Huawei goes back to its foldable roots; throws shade at Samsung's thick Fold 3, and Apple's conservative iPhone 13

I sat through the 20-minute Mate Xs 2 presentation, delivered by Richard Yu (in fluent Mandarin), so you don't have to. You're welcome! I'll take a statue by the East Coast.

Anyway... What I wanted to try and understand was exactly how Huawei is planning to compete with the likes of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Oppo Find N, Vivo X Fold, and Honor Magic V, or in other words, inner folding phones. And thanks to my Google Pixel 6 Pro, which is somewhat fluent in Chinese because of its ability to translate conversations and text, I think I managed to get the gist of it!

Huawei really believes in the outward folding design, and if we look at what the company's managed to achieve here, it's hard to argue with the end result. In true Huawei spirit, there were a bunch of Galaxy and iPhone comparisons throughout the presentation, which, of course, aimed at painting Huawei in a positive light.

But let's see if Richard Yu & Co have anything to brag about…

Huawei Mate Xs 2: As light as an iPhone and with a bigger battery than the Galaxy - is this the most "normal" foldable to date?

Huawei's Mate Xs 2 sets a few foldable phone records that prove the outward foldable form-factor shouldn't be overlooked by rival companies. As someone who's spent a good amount of time actively using the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the first thing that stands out to from the Mate's spec sheet is how much lighter the Mate Xs 2 is compared to Samsung's foldable or any other inner-folding phone on the market:

  • Huawei Mate Xs (255g or 257g for 12/512GB version)
  • Galaxy Z Fold 3 (271g)
  • Oppo Find N (275g)
  • Honor Magic V (293g)
  • Huawei Mate X2 (295g)
  • Vivo X Fold (311g)

I've done it many times but I won't get tired of repeating that phone weight matters, and it makes a much more significant difference to the user experience than you might think.

Unlike laptops or large tablets where a difference of 10, 20 or even 50g will likely go unnoticed, for a device that you hold in one hand, even as little as 5g can make a difference. But the Honor Mate Xs 2 has achieved something truly beyond anyone's expectations here...

The Mate Xs 2 is:

  • 16g or 6.2% lighter than the Galaxy Z Fold 3
  • 20g or 7.8% lighter than the truly tiny Oppo Find N
  • 38g or 14.9% lighter than the much bulkier Honor Magic V
  • 40g or 15.6% lighter than the Mate X2 - Huawei's own inner-fold
  • 56g or 21.9% lighter than the Vivo X Fold, which is heavier than an iPad mini 6

But here comes another kicker…

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is so far ahead of the competition when it comes to weight that we need to compare it to "normal" flagship phones to understand exactly how light it is for what it is.

And when we do, we find out that the Mate Xs 2 is only about 15 grams heavier than an iPhone 13 Pro Max and actually lighter than Apple's biggest flagship when the latter is in a case! What?!

  • Huawei Mate Xs 2 = 255g/257g
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max in a standard case ≈ 265g

Frankly, foldables aside, this clearly means that Apple is in an urgent need to trim down the weight on their flagship phones, but at the same time, it tells us how far Huawei has come, and that is... very far. The original Huawei Mate X weighed a whopping 300 grams. Yep.

Mate Xs 2 battery size: Is Huawei's 2022 foldable an engineering miracle?

But surely, if Huawei's 2022 foldable is the lightest on the market and more lightweight than an iPhone 13 Pro Max in a case, it must have a tiny battery? Well, actually… Quite the opposite!

  • Huawei Mate Xs 2 - 4880 mAh battery (12/512GB version) or 4600 mAh for the standard version
  • Honor Magic V - 4750 mAh battery
  • Vivo X Fold - 4600 mAh battery
  • Huawei Mate X2 - 4500 mAh battery
  • Oppo Find N - 4500 mAh battery
  • Galaxy Z Fold 3 - 4400 mAh battery

For starters, setting apart the highest-end Mate Xs 2 model from the entry-level one by giving it a bigger battery might be a first-ever for two devices that share the same dimensions but... You do you, Huawei.

Anyway, packing what's nearly a 5000 mAh cell into a foldable device that's just 11mm thick when closed and 5.4mm when unfolded is nothing short of incredible. Don't forget that the Mate Xs 2 is also notably lighter than all of the above-mentioned phones.

Of course, we'll have to wait for our review unit and further testing to tell if the bigger battery will be as game-changing as it appears to be.

The Huawei Mate Xs might just be the most "normal" foldable phone we've ever seen

Sure, the weight and battery magic Huawei's managed to pull off are indeed the most impressive features of the new Mate Xs 2.

However, this company is also promising that this time around, the hinge mechanism of the device is sturdier, thanks to layers of titanium alloy that sit beneath the display. Furthermore, the hinge is said to be improved and tighter than before, which would be a very welcome upgrade. Early hands-on reviews by Chinese media seem to approve of that.

But in the end, I want to point out something else...

If we forget all the technical details (which are very impressive), I believe Huawei's goal was to create the most "normal" foldable phone that doesn't feel like a remote control when closed or a bad tablet when opened. And... it seems like they did it!

Yes, I believe Huawei's outer-folding design is the way to go (for the record, I always believed that), and as of now, it's the only design that allows a foldable phone to feel as close to a standard phone as possible which is crucial for the user experience.

Apart from that (and if we do want to go back to technicalities), the Mate Xs 2's outer-folding design brings another host of improvements over inner-folding phones:

  • There's no camera bump, which means the phone won't rock when placed on a table
  • You can use the primary cameras on the phone without having to hold it in its tablet form
  • The Kindle-like grip on the right side of the Mate Xs 2 makes the phone easy to hold with one hand when unfolded, especially given how light it is
  • You can use the rear portion of the screen as a viewfinder for the person you're taking a photo of when the phone is closed, which isn't possible with an inner-folding phone
  • You have the same screen whether the phone is folded or unfolded, meaning you never have to choose between two different displays (in terms of feel or sometimes even technical capabilities)

Moreover, Huawei's nearly eliminated the crease and promised that the Mate Xs 2 is the foldable phone with the flattest display in the business - a claim that I might have to agree with, judging by the early comparisons I've come across online.

The Mate Xs 2 also features two of the Huawei P50 Pro's excellent flagship cameras - the 50MP primary sensor (without OIS) and the same 13MP ultra-wide-angle shooter. The third lens onboard is a 3x optical zoom one, which matches phones like the iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S22. Knowing Huawei's legacy of incredible smartphone cameras, it's safe to assume this one will deliver superb performance.

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 won't be as expensive as expected... not even close

The cherry on top here is that the Mate Xs 2 costs just $1,500! Of course, if you travel to China to get one...

We expect the Mate Xs 2 to go on sale in other markets, but as of now, we don't know exactly when this will happen. However, according to some of my sources, the global version of the device will most likely cost about $1,800, which isn't affordable, but isn't exactly beyond my expectations either, given that just the display on the Mate Xs 2 costs about $500.

In fact, this is a massive price difference compared to Huawei's previous folding phones, which were approaching the $3,000 mark, and a sign that Huawei really believes in this form factor and wants more people to get their hands on it as soon as possible.

In the end: Would you buy a Huawei Mate Xs 2 if it ran Google apps?

Despite looking like the best foldable device that's seen the light of day, there are two challenges ahead of the Mate Xs 2. Thankfully, Huawei's been working hard and tried to address both, or at least make them less of a problem. Of course I'm referring to:

  • Durability
  • Lack of Google apps

Firstly, the company promises the Mate Xs 2 is more durable than the Mate Xs thanks to the use of a titanium alloy layer that sits beneath the display. The company also provides an interesting case in the box that's designed to stay on the Mate Xs 2 when the phone is folded but also unfolded. Needless to say, this significantly reduces the likelihood of breaking the phone's display since this one won't be exposed at all times.

As far as Google apps are concerned, Huawei phones still can't run those, and to all tech enthusiasts' biggest disappointment, it looks like this isn't changing anytime soon. However, Huawei's done a good job at mitigating the crisis by bringing non-Google apps to its phones via the AppGallery - Huawei's own app store or Petal Search, which lets you install apps from the internet.

Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Spotify, and even some mainstream games like Asphalt 9 and PUBG are all available on Huawei phones, including the Mate Xs 2. And, of course, you can use Google services via the browser as you would on your laptop. Sure, not having YouTube or Google Maps as apps isn't ideal, but it's also not like you can't access them at all, in case you decide to invest in a Huawei device.

So, please... let me know! Would you buy a Huawei Mate Xs 2 if it ran Google apps and if it was priced just like a Galaxy Z Fold 4? Because I know the answer to this question for myself...

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