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Huawei Mate X triple threat: Foldable phone with 5G, lots of cameras

A phone that transforms into a tablet. Blazing 5G speeds. Is this the future of phones?

Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon headshot

Andrew Lanxon

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Huawei has stepped into the folding phone arena with the Mate X, a transforming device which folds from an 8-inch tablet into a 6.6-inch, 5G-equipped phone.

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2 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Huawei's folding phone arrived a little over a week after Samsung announced its own transforming device, the Galaxy Fold. It's interesting to see the two companies' different approaches. 

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3 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The key difference between Huawei's folding phone and Samsung's is that Huawei's folds back on itself, keeping the screen on the outside. Samsung's however, folds in on itself like a book closing.

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4 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

CNET's Roger Cheng managed to go hands-on with the Huawei Mate X. (That's the CEO of Huawei's consumer group, Richard Yu, behind him.)

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5 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

The version with 512GB storage and 8GB RAM is coming in mid-2019 for 2,300 euros.

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6 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

Here's a close-up of the camera strip on the back. You can see three, but there are really four -- one's hidden until Huawei launches its P30 in March.

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7 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

Just keep looking.

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8 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

There's a "wing" on the side that serves as a grip.

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9 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

Unfolded, the Mate X is basically a tablet.

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10 of 35 Roger Cheng/CNET

While it's too early to say which approach is "better", Huawei's method means you get a full-screen phone on the outside on both sides. 

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11 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung's method of folding the main screen away inside itself means the phone has to have a second, separate screen on the outside to display information. 

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12 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

When folding the phone, the larger tablet display wraps around the hinge, so you have one screen in three configurations.

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13 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The phone detects the bend and the software automatically snaps the screen into a phone mode.

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14 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Folded into the 6.6-inch mode, this is still a big phone.

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15 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This "main" display has a 2,480 by 1,148-pixel resolution, which looked quite sharp from our brief time seeing the device. 

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16 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It uses Huawei's Kiring 980 processor.

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17 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The display stretches right to the edges in both phone and tablet mode.

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18 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

On the other side of phone mode is a camera module, which forms a ridge in tablet mode that should make it comfortable to hold. 

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19 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Huawei hasn't given many details about the cameras on the phone, but it does have a a Leica logo, so I have high hopes for quality images. So far the demo unit we've held has three cameras, but a fourth hidden camera is planned to be shown off with the P30 next month.

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20 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Of course, selfie lovers are well catered to.

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21 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Unexpected benefit: Folding phones don't need a stand.

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22 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The phone looks a little chunky when it's folded.

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23 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's USB-C charging on the bottom.

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24 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Opening the phone back out is a simple process.

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25 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As it snaps back flat, the software recognises the movement...

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26 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

...and springs back into full tablet mode. Even in this brief demo, it was a seamless experience.

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Neat stuff, huh?

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28 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

With 5G on board, Huawei promises data speeds four times faster than 4G. That's enough to download 1GB of data in three seconds.

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29 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The big question: With the screen folded around on itself like this, how well is it protected from knocks and bumps?

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30 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Mate X folded flat.

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31 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's a slender device.

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Flat as a pancake. 

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33 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's that USB-C port again. 

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34 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Huawei reckons you'll spend most of your time using the Mate X in phone mode and only unfolding if you want a big-screen experience -- when watching a film, for example.

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35 of 35 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business, shows off the Mate X at its press conference debut. 

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