MWC: Huawei debuts its own foldable phone

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The Huawei Mate X.
The Huawei Mate X.

Chinese technology conglomerate Huawei has made a play in the foldable form factor space, just days after rival Samsung announced the Galaxy Fold. Huawei's Mate X is 5G-enabled and opens seamlessly from a 6.6-inch screen to an 8-inch tablet.

The Mate X was announced at Mobile World Congress 2019, in Barcelona, Spain.

Both Huawei and Samsung said at the separate launches of foldable phones that they believe flexible screens are the future of smartphone technology and would revolutionise both productivity and entertainment experiences on a mobile device.

Huawei said it would bring the Mate X to market from the middle of the year and announced the recommended retail price would be EUR2 299 for 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. This roughly converts to R36 500 but will likely have a much higher price tag if it does launch locally due to import fees and mark-up.

Last week, when World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck was interviewed by ITWeb about the Samsung Galaxy Fold, he said he believes this technology will be mainstream within the next three to five years, but that only people with cash to burn will buy the first generation of the device this year.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei consumer business group, says: "The Huawei Mate X's revolutionary form factor is achieved by Huawei's relentless effort in R&D.

"It represents a voyage into the uncharted. As a new breed of smartphone, the Huawei Mate X combines 5G, a foldable screen, AI and an all-new mode of interfacing to provide consumers with an unprecedented user experience. The Huawei Mate X will be the first key for consumers to open the door to 5G smart living."

The Mate X is differentiated from the Galaxy Fold by how it folds. The Mate X features the Falcon Wing Mechanical Hinge with one high strength, flexible OLED panel that wraps around it and folds back on itself. The Galaxy Fold opens like a book and features two screens, a small one on the front when the phone is closed, and a larger screen on the inside.

The Mate X is equipped with the world's first 7nm 5G multi-mode modem chipset, Balong 5000, which Huawei says it means it can reach unprecedented 5G download speeds. However, it does have a dual SIM slot and support for both 4G and 5G.

The Huawei Mate X has one screen that folds back on itself.
The Huawei Mate X has one screen that folds back on itself.

The device has a 4 500mAh battery and SuperCharge capabilities, meaning it can be charged to 85% in half an hour.

Like all other Huawei premium smartphones, the Mate X features a camera set-up co-engineered with Leica. There are three lenses: 40MP (wide angle), 16MP (ultra-wide angle) and 8MP (telephoto). The foldable design makes it possible for the camera system to play the role of both front and rear cameras. When folded, the Huawei Mate X shows a view finder on both sides.

Last year, Chinese start-up Royole was the first company to bring a commercial foldable smartphone to market.

However, Goldstuck said last week a player like Samsung or Huawei needed to enter the game before consumers would take the notion seriously.

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