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By Arthur Goldstuck


New Huawei Mate Xs foldable phone goes beyond design

The new foldable handset from Huawei ups the game with great performance and improved hinge design.

“Hinge” and “crease” will be two of the new defining words for discussing the merits of smartphones in the coming years.

Samsung and Huawei have made sure of that, as they unveil handsets with folding screens, and stake their claims to having the best hinge technology and the least visible creases in their smartphone displays.

It was Huawei’s turn to fold this week, just days after Samsung unveiled its second-generation foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip.

The Huawei Mate Xs is also a second-generation product, following last year’s Mate X.

It features the same “Falcon Wing Design”, with more than 100 interlocking parts, but says it has improved it significantly. It is made with a zirconium-based liquid metal, resulting in a hinge that is both more durable and provides a more satisfying 180° fold.

The flexible display uses a two-layer polymer structure, manufactured by adhering two layers of aerospace-grade polyimide with an optically clear adhesive. This, says Huawei, allows the display to produce great image quality, colour saturation and brightness while retaining a high degree of durability.

Huawei Mate Xs. Picture: Huawei

In folded mode, the Mate Xs is a dual-screen smartphone, with a 6.6-inch main screen on the front and a 6.38-inch secondary screen on the back. The secondary screen folds into an edge which serves as a grip when the device unfolds into an 8-inch tablet.

Unfolded, the Xs comes into its own. It offers Multi-screen Collaboration, which Huawei says “breaks down the boundaries between Windows and Android devices”. This means that it allows content to be moved easily between supported devices, and can allow two systems to be controlled from one device.

The phone also provides seamless Multi-window support, allowing two apps to be opened side by side, with a third one “floating” on top, and allowing content to be dragged between the apps – including text, images and documents. The Floating Window can be used to respond to instant messaging, for example, without closing the other apps.

Talking of apps, the Mate Xs debuts a revamped AppGallery, which Huawei intends to develop as a replacement for the Google Play Store.

Unlike its predecessor, the Mate X, which ran on Google’s Android operating system with Google Mobile Services (GMS), the Xs runs on EMUI10.0.1, an operating system based on Android Open Source Project.

The software therefore uses Google’s mobile operating system, but is not affected by the United States government ban on Huawei using American technology. That means the phone operates on Android 10, but does not run GMS, which includes the Play Store and its automatically updated apps.

Mate X. Picture: Huawei

Instead, it uses Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which replaces the likes of Google Assistant with Huawei Assistant, and allows services like Gmail to run on top of a built-in email service.

It allows browser-based versions of any Google service, like YouTube, to be accessed via an onboard browser, and includes workarounds for various other commonly used Google apps.

Pushing camera boundaries

The Mate Xs maintains Huawei’s legacy of pushing the boundaries of mobile phone photography.

A SuperSensing Leica Quad Camera system is fitted into a vertical array along the sidebar of the handset bar. It features a 40MP main camera (wide-angle, f/1.8), 16MP ultra-wide angle lens (f/2.2), 8MP telephoto lens (f/2.4, OIS) and a 3D Depth Sensing Camera.

It incorporates OIS and AI Image Stabilisation and up to 30X hybrid zoom, supporting up to ISO 204800 for low light photography.

The Xs reinvents the selfie, allowing the user to draw on the quad-camera system by simply reversing the handset, and using the secondary screen for selfie shots. The subject and photographer can both see what is in focus, and thus collaborate on carefully set up shots.

Mate Xs processor specs

The Mate Xs will be the first true opportunity for Huawei to demonstrate its independence from American technology, as it will showcase the Kirin 990 5G chipset – its most advanced yet.

The System on Chip (SoC) includes an octa-core processor comprising two “super-sized” custom Cortex-A76 cores, two large custom Cortex-A76 cores and four small Cortex-A55 cores, running at a base clock speed of 2.86GHz, according to Huawei.

The SoC includes an integrated 5G modem, which also supports 2G, 3G, 4G, and several flavours of 5G. Huawei says it supports the full 5G spectrum, as well as 5G+4G Dual SIM Dual Standby.

Graphics are handled by a separate 16-core Mali-G76 graphics processing unit (GPU), the most powerful yet on a Huawei handsets. A Neural Processing Unit, built on Huawei’s Da Vinci architecture – a new artificial intelligence (AI) design – will handle AI demands.

It’s hard to comment, at first touch, on the experience that such power delivers. But there is no questioning the beauty of the device. It places Huawei at the forefront of foldable technology, as well as in a leadership position for integrating next-generation handset technology into the current generation of devices.

The Huawei Mate Xs will be available in Europe at a recommended retail price of €2,499. This will translate in South Africa into around R45,000, but it will be available primarily on contract, from MTN and Vodacom. Pricing is still under discussion.

Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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