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Huawei's Mate X finally launches -- but only in China

The highly anticipated foldable phone is ready for launch, but there's a catch.

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Huawei's Mate X is making its way to China.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

After facing delays, Huawei's foldable Mate X phone is finally ready to go on sale. The bad news for anyone eager to be among its early adopters is that it won't be available outside of China. At least, for now. 

Read more: A new dual-hinged foldable phone prototype from TCL bends into thirds like an accordion -- we went hands-on

Huawei initially showed off the Mate X at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona back in February where the foldable phone became an instant challenger Samsung's Galaxy Fold. Huawei has taken a difference approach to Samsung in designing its foldable phone. Rather than rather opening like a book to reveal a larger screen on the inside, like the Fold, the Mate X has a wraparound outside display that's accessible even when the phone is closed.

The company announced the launch on Wednesday on Weibo and at an event in Shenzhen, where it also announced it had shipped 200 million phones so far this year. At the event, Huawei said the Mate X will be available from Nov. 15 from 16,999 yuan ($2,400, £1,860).

"Our strategy is based on carriers' 5G roll out in different regions," said a spokesman for Huawei over email. "So far, Huawei has made the Huawei Mate X available in the China market on Nov. 15. A global launch plan is under review."

If you'd been holding off buying a Galaxy Fold in favor of the Mate X you might be frustrated at having to wait a little longer. As the Mate X is a whole new style of phone, Huawei is likely keen to see how the phone is received within China before it puts it out into the wider world.

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The limited launch is consistent with the weird state of foldable phones this year. Samsung was forced to pull back the launch date of the Galaxy Fold when some early review units broke or saw their displays fail, while Huawei itself had delayed the release of the Mate X after initially targeting a summer launch. Motorola likewise delayed the release of its rumored foldable Razr phone. 

The problems stoke questions about the durability of these devices, which cost upwards of $2,600, or more than two and a half times an iPhone 11 Pro. 

For consumers who really want a Mate, a little patience could pay off in the long run. The initial version of the phone will pack Huawei's Kirin 980 chip (and similar specs as the company's Mate 20 5G). But a subsequent model -- the Mate Xs -- coming in 2020 will feature specs more akin to the recently released Mate 30, including the updated Kirin 990 chip, which Huawei only announced back in September.

Another thing to consider if you're holding out is that just as with the Mate 30, the Mate X will be running an open-source version of Android and won't offer the full range of Google apps and services you might be used to. That's a result of being placed on a US watchlist due to national security concerns.

Whether you choose to jump aboard the foldables train early or wait to join in, you can look forward to seeing more phones like the Mate X and Galaxy Fold emerge over the next year or so. Several other phone makers, including Honor, Oppo and Motorola have also confirmed they're working on foldables of their own. 

As more of these phones appear in the market, prices should also start to drop off as components are manufactured in bigger batches and the technology becomes more commonplace. That should come as a huge relief to anyone who fancies a foldable phone, but doesn't love the idea of dropping $2,000 for the privilege of owning one.

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