We used Huawei Mate Xs 2 for a few days to find out more about this folding smartphone with a very particular design. A technological gem that is as impressive as it is frustrating.
One knee to the ground, cornered, but not resigned. Sure, Huawei is less and less a smartphone brand outside of China, and today it seems to have focused on connected laptops or watches. Despite this, the brand has not given up completely and still intends to sign some brilliant shots like the Huawei Mate Xs 2 that we have already been able to take in hand. This folding smartphone was presented in May 2022. Its peculiarity is that it has a fold facing outwards. It does not therefore adopt the same format as a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 or even a Huawei Mate X2, which close in on themselves like a book. We spent about five days with this phone, the opportunity to share some food for thought.
Huawei Mate Xs 2 against the human brain
From the beginning, a first reflection emerges: the Huawei Mate Xs 2 has something disturbing about it. I circulated it to various colleagues within the editorial offices of Frandroid (editorial, videos, advice and buying guides). While all of these people are tech savvy, not all of them have had the ability to handle a foldable smartphone in the past. However, regardless of the level of experience, two genes have often been cited:
- Although essential, the safety button to activate the opening of the screen is a brake on intuitiveness;
- we tend to have an instinctive fear of breaking the screen when we open it.
In fact, you should know that a small clickable button is located on the back of the phone. Above all, do not try to open the screen without pressing this button, you risk damaging the mechanism. However, this gesture is not the first that comes to mind. My little experience with my colleagues tends to reinforce my idea that a foldable smartphone that folds inward is more intuitive to use than the format adopted by the Mate Xs 2. Yes, the gesture to open a Galaxy Z Fold 3 or a Mate X2 (without the little s) is close to what you would do for a book. In other words, it comes more naturally.
On the contrary, opening the Mate Xs 2 almost feels like breaking the laws of physics. Hence the instinctive fear mentioned above: several of my colleagues were afraid to go all the way with the unfolding, convinced that they were about to break the screen. It was reluctantly that they obeyed. Perhaps, despite centuries of evolution, our humble human brainsomo sapiens sapiens still inhibit this type of movement for fear of damaging a fragile instrument. However, during our discovery of the product, we did not encounter the slightest problem of this type.
However, one always wonders if the folding screen – less robust, in fact, than a classic plate – will be able to withstand the signs of time while always facing outwards. He can do it first vulnerable to the risk of scratches on a table or the bottom of the pocket.
Another question of durability that remains: what about the physical button to deploy the Mate Xs 2? This key moves a small latch. By force, isn’t this mechanism likely to get stuck? So many turpitudes demonstrating that being an ultra-innovative technological jewel is not enough to instantly convince the public.
A clean job
Let’s also dwell on the great work done by Huawei to offer high quality finishes on this smartphone. I am thinking in particular of the hinge, which seems much more robust than the 2019 Huawei Mate X, the first smartphone with an external fold offered by the Chinese giant. This was really scary, crackling as soon as you switched from tablet format to phone format or vice versa. This is definitely not the case with the Mate Xs 2 anymore and that’s a very good point.
Especially since the smartphone is quite pleasant in the hand when folded. Sure, it still suffers from a certain overweight specific to folding smartphones (regardless of format) and still shows 257 grams on the scale, but the nicely rounded edges provide great comfort. The picky and picky among you will likely cringe when you notice that the right edge is wider than the left. Normal, since it is from this side that the screen extends and folds back on itself.
Another real annoyance brought by this inward folding screen solution, the portion of the screen on the back captures fingerprints just as quickly as a honey jar lures Winnie the Pooh. Fortunately, Huawei has still thought of a solution. The problem no longer exists when using the Mate Xs 2’s special shell. This accessory benefits from a particular design that makes it relatively easy to detach one of the edges to open the smartphone screen. The solution isn’t perfect, but we can pay homage to Huawei’s ingenuity.
In tablet mode (or explained), the phone is still well finished. In this format, the Mate Xs 2 becomes very thin (5.4 mm) and also manages to significantly reduce its crease on the plate. This is not only less visible than for example the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but it is also less creepy under the finger. Instead of feeling a hollow line running over your knuckles, we’re dealing with a discreet bump. Feeling that you adapt to very quickly.
So we have a design that is very successful on some points (slenderness, robustness, ability), but with some weaknesses induced by the idea itself.
A condemned smartphone?
Also note that the Mate Xs 2’s path is littered with pitfalls. In 2022, should we still remember the concerns faced by Huawei after the embargo imposed by the United States? Due to Washington sanctions – motivated by suspicions of spying on behalf of China – the Shenzhen giant is facing many difficulties on its supply lines. Worse: its smartphones can no longer incorporate Google services. However, in the West, the vast majority of users perceive the Play Store or applications such as YouTube, Gmail and Maps as inseparable parts of Android.
Therefore, despite all the efforts around Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), the general public will still have to agree to make several concessions on the Chinese manufacturer’s EMUI interface. It is difficult to keep hope.
Beyond these concerns, I would have liked to have discovered an option to use the portion of the screen that is on the back of the smartphone when folded. To view notifications or certain important information, for example. We have asked Huawei if there is such a feature and we are awaiting an answer.
Like on many other foldable smartphones, however, you can use the back of the screen to view video feedback when using the camera. Convenient for selfies (to take advantage of the best photo sensor) or so that the person you’re taking a portrait of can see what they look like.
Furthermore, in the photo it is nice to see that Huawei did not want to sacrifice its know-how in this area. While it is often complicated to integrate high-end photographic equipment into a foldable smartphone, the Mate Xs 2 benefits from a 50-megapixel sensor that didn’t disappoint our few days of use with rich colors and careful handling of dynamics. The same in portrait mode.
Added to this are a 13MP ultra wide-angle and an 8MP x3.5 telephoto lens. A complete solution worthy of a premium device. A new opportunity to carry out Huawei’s impressive work on this Mate Xs 2. Yes … but what’s the point?
Beyond the wow effect
Huawei Mate Xs 2 is therefore a smartphone with a guaranteed wow effect. Screen with an outward-facing curvature, slim device when deployed in tablet format, solid hinge, greatly reduced crease on the panel and uncompromising photographic experience. We are clearly dealing with a technological gem and if we stop there, we might think this is the perfect foldable phone.
However, this would mean forgetting too quickly the absence of Google services – and therefore the usual Android experience in Europe -, the rather unintuitive use of the product and fears about the long-term robustness of the screen and the physical button that allows you to open it. .
Huawei has clearly tried to do better than the others and it does very well in some respects. Paradoxically, the brand fails on other points. For example, doing better is not necessarily doing well. And with an official price announced at € 1999 – for a very early release normally, it’s hard not to blame it.
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