Foldable smartphones are on the bleeding edge of smartphone design, with manufacturers seeking to find life after the rectangular slab form factor. However, the same questions remain nearly three years since the first mainstream foldables were released -- do you need a phone that folds and if yes, will it last?
Huawei's Mate XS 2 seeks to answer those two concerns with the sturdiest reincarnation yet of the outward-folding design it debuted in 2019 and here's what we found out in our two-week hands-on.
Design: Surprisingly light and sturdy
At 255 grams, the Mate XS 2 is only slightly heavier than the iPhone 13 Pro Max at 238 grams and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 at around 270 grams. Looking at how the phone packs a small tablet-sized screen in a folding form factor, you'd expect the device to feel heavier.
It's amazing how the 7.8-inch screen unfolds into an almost square panel with no visible crease and how it easily folds and unfolds without feeling the screen getting stretched or unstretched. Huawei says the outward-folding mechanism is inspired by the wings of a falcon.
Simply put, we folded and ufolded the Mate XS 2 numerous times without the day without fear of breaking it. It helps that Huawei bundled a case to protect the portion of the display that becomes the back side of the phone when it's folded. Still, never use the phone outside the house naked.
Folded, the Mate XS 2 feels like a chunkier Mate 30 Pro with curved sides or a Galaxy Note from several years back. Unfolded, it feels like an ipossibly thin iPad Mini. The Full HD screen has a resolution of 2480 x 2200 with a 120hz refresh rate.
In terms of ergonomics the bar that holds the cameras doubles as a grip for the Mate XS 2 when it's unfolded. It also helps that the back has a leather-like finish that repels fingerprints and is just easier to hold for long periods of time compared to cold metal.
Camera: Yes, it's a Huawei phone.
Granting you will not buy a Mate XS 2 for the camera like you would a Huawei P Series device. The triple camera set-up includes a 50MP "True Chroma" main shooter, an 8MP telephoto and a 13MP ultra-wide.
Huawei's new imaging tech, even without the Leica co-branding, still delivers what fans expect from its camera phones -- rich colors, sharp details and a very capable night mode. It's the upgrade to the AI smarts that made smartphone imaging contenders out of the the P and Mate series phones.
Here are some sample shots, as we are still in a pandemic, pardon the food photos.
What's it like to use?
One thing that the Mate XS 2 got right is that it can be used both folded and ulfolded. When folded, the device is not so narrow that it shrinks the on-screen keyboard to unusability. Unfolded, it's not so wide that you'll need to learn new thumb acrobatics to type on the screen.
At the beginning, you will want to fold and unfold the device all the time because it's just so satisfying. Over time, you'll ease into use cases for the two modes. Personally, I used it folded only when I feel like there's a lot of typing involved.
I use it mostly unfolded because that's why you will spend a fortune for a device like the Mate XS 2. The Smart Multi-Window allows you to take advantage of the screen real estate and run say two apps the same time. Messaging apps can also appear as floating windows, like in a Windows PC with easy gestures to minimize, maximize or close them.
The unfolded Mate XS 2 is useful for tasks that require a second screen or a tablet accompaniment to your laptop workflow -- spreadsheets, slides, graphs, e-mail. TikTok and Instagram are a joy to doomscroll on the device. In the case of YouTube, the landscape orientation of most videos leave you with black bars on the top and bottom.
The bundled 66W Super Charge kit juices up the 4600mAh battery faster than a morning shower to work. How fast is 66W? If you're an iPhone user, fast-charging on iOS, and given specific plugs and cables, tops our at 20W.
The dual stereo speakers are loud and crisp and worked well on video calls and for watching videos at lunch with the device partially unfolded into a pyramid shape. For gamers and processor-heavy tasks, Huawei is pitching the Mate XS 2's Graphene Liquid Cooling System.
What about the Apps?
Three years into the Donald Trump and Google Services fiasco, Huawei's homegrown App Gallery has many of the essential downloads for Filipinos in terms of social media, productivity, banking, transportation and deliveries.
Yes, you can use Grab from App Gallery and tip your rider via GCash if you prefer it that way. The most popular online banking apps are also there like BPI, BDO and Unionbank.
For Google apps, you can log-in via browser and create a desktop shortcut or download GSpace, an app that emulates an Android device from inside your Huawei smartphone to make Google Mobile Services or GMS work.
In short, you know what you're getting when buying a Huawei phone in 2022. And people who buy Huawei phones in 2022 do so because they like Huawei phones.
Price and availability
Huawei is officially launching the Mate XS 2 on July 1 and will will update you on the price and pre-order details as soon as they are available.
Foldables are often priced at a premium compared to the P70,000-tier of the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Galaxy S22 Ultra. If you have money to buy those flagships, the Mate XS 2 will make you think.
This phone is for you if you want a device that looks years ahead in terms of design and if you are deep in the Huawei ecosystem of phones, laptops, monitors, smartwatches, speakers and other smart devices.