Huawei Mate XS: do you really need a foldable phone?

Mobile World Congress 2020 may have been cancelled due to coronavirus fears, but that hasn’t stopped Huawei. The Chinese manufacturer has pressed on with its scheduled product launches this week, today unveiling an all-new foldable smartphone.

The Huawei Mate XS is the follow-up to last year’s Mate X, offering a folding double-size screen and 5G capability – and unlike the X, the XS will eventually be available in Australia. Here’s what we know so far about the new, bendable Huawei handset.

Huawei Mate Xs: features, cameras, and more

The Mate Xs features a massive 8-inch OLED display when unfolded, comprised of two smaller screens front and back. You’ll get a 6.6-inch front screen and a 6.38-inch rear display when folded over, but the XS does offer easy multi-tasking in full-screen mode, thanks to its Multi-Window split-screen function.

Huawei have updated last year’s Mate X hinge, and claim that the Xs will offer a ‘groundbreaking’ Falcon Wing Design for stronger, more reliable folding. The Mate Xs also includes fingerprint sensor integration on the side power button, and is powered by a new, 5G-ready Kirin 990 processor and 4,500mAh battery with 40W SuperCharge fast wireless charging.

If you’re a smartphone photography enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to hear Huawei is continuing its partnership with Leica to offer a 40-megapixel quad camera system. The Mate Xs’ setup includes wide-angle, telephoto, ultra-wide angle, and time-of-flight lenses, with AI image stabilisation and autofocus. Unlike other devices, you won’t get a separate front-facing camera with the Mate Xs; instead, the main rear camera doubles as a selfie shooter when your phone is folded.



The biggest change from last year’s Mate X is the absence of all Google software, thanks to the ‘Huawei ban’ introduced by the US in May 2019. Instead of standard Android 10, the Mate Xs will instead run Huawei’s own EMUI 10 operating system, and won’t feature Google apps such as Maps, Chrome, YouTube, or the Play Store.

Instead of Google Play, Mate Xs owners will be able to find and download apps via the Huawei AppGallery. However, if you’re a diehard for Gmail and other Google services, you may be left disappointed by the lack of access to apps freely available on other devices – and by Google’s advice to Huawei users.

While it may be technically possible to ‘side-load’ Google apps on to uncertified Huawei phones released after May of last year, Google itself is advising against it. There’s no guarantee that these apps will work efficiently on blacklisted Huawei phones, and Google has warned that side-loaded services can compromise user security.

If you think you can live without Google – or you’re happy to risk it all with a workaround download of Google’s apps – the Huawei Mate Xs is confirmed to hit Aussie shores sometime in 2020. While European pricing for the 512GB model is tipped to be €2,499 (about $4,100 AUD), we still don’t know what Australians can expect to pay – but like other folding phones, it won’t come cheap.

Do you really need a foldable smartphone?

There’s now several foldable, flexible smartphones available to Australians, including multiple Samsung models. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is available to order from Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, but with a $2,999 retail price tag it’s definitely not for those on a budget. Samsung will also offer the likely cheaper Galaxy Z Flip in Australia, but final prices are yet to be confirmed.

Motorola’s 2020 upgraded flip phone, the Motorola Razr, is now available to pre-order for $2,699 outright, and is expected to be available on plans from Telstra in the coming weeks. But again, you’re paying more for the novelty of a folding device, rather than for the premium features you’ll find on other flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20.

While folding phones are the bridge between smartphones and tablets, they’re far from a must-have tech purchase. If you’re looking for a large device that’s still pocket-friendly, the convertible size of a folding handset could be convenient. But while multi-screen multi-tasking is fun, it’s a feature that not everyone will actually use.

Folding phones are priced close to $3,000, but you can easily find devices with better internal specs and cameras for half that price. Overall, it’s still early days for folding phone technology, and it’s likely that a truly innovative, bendable smartphone won’t arrive on the market anytime soon.

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