Mate Xs: Huawei launches latest version of folding smartphone


Chinese firm also unveils updates to its tablet and laptop lines, plus new wifi speaker

Huawei Mate Xs
 Huawei hopes the unique design of the second iteration of its folding smartphone-tablet hybrid is attractive enough to overcome the lack of Google services. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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Huawei is launching a new version of its folding smartphone, the Mate Xs, alongside revamped tablets and laptops.

Despite Mobile World Congress being cancelled owing to fears over the coronavirus, the embattled Chinese firm Huawei launched a series of high-end updates to its most ambitious products at a virtual press conference instead.

The headline product is a reworked version of Huawei’s smartphone that unfolds into a tablet, which directly competes with Samsung’s Galaxy Fold rather than the South Korean firm’s newer, smaller Galaxy Z Flip folding phone.

huawei mate xs
 Folded, the Mate Xs is a similar size to existing large smartphones. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The new Mate Xs has the same design as its predecessor, the Mate X, which was unveiled at last year’s MWC but only launched in China in November. Beyond the wider release, which is expected to see the Mate Xs go on sale in Europe, the updated smartphone has a new, more robust hinge design and upgraded cameras.

The Mate Xs will also have Huawei’s new Kirin 990 processor with 5G connectivity. But one thing the new folding smartphone won’t have is Google’s version of Android or its apps, services or the Play Store, because Huawei is still on the US trade blacklist.

Instead the Mate Xs will ship with Huawei’s EMUI 10, based on the open source version of Android, with the Chinese firm’s own mobile services as a replacement for Google’s. It is the same approach as that used with its recent Mate 30 Pro handset, which Huawei is pushing in the UK bundled with wireless earbuds and smartwatches at aggressive prices.

“Despite Huawei’s optimism, offering Android smartphones without Google’s applications and services is a tough sell,” said Ben Wood, chief of research for CCS Insight. “The big test will be whether consumers who sign up to Huawei’s deals persevere with the device or ultimately give up and return it.

“There is little question things will get tougher for Huawei as 2020 progresses as rival players unveil new Android smartphones with a full suite of Google services and apps.”

Huawei MatePad Pro 5G
 The Huawei MatePad Pro 5G is similarly devoid of Google services, but looks to compete directly against Apple’s iPad Pro with a similar design and feature set. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Alongside the Mate Xs, Huawei is also launching revamped models of its MatePad tablet and MateBook laptop range, plus a new smart speaker.

The new MatePad Pro 5G is a premium, work-focused Google-free Android tablet, with a strong resemblance to its rival Apple’s iPad Pro.

It has a high-resolution 10.8in screen with tiny bezels, the firm’s Kirin 990 5G chip, quad-speakers and advanced multitasking and split-screen functionality.

Huawei MateBook Pro X
 Huawei’s MateBook Pro X receives new updated chips for 2020. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Huawei also has a new M-Pencil stylus, which magnetically attaches to the top of the tablet to store and charge, plus a Smart Magnetic Keyboard.

The Chinese firm’s well-received MateBook Pro X and MateBook D Windows 10 laptops also received updates, featuring Intel’s latest 10th-generation Core i7 chips. The MateBook D will be available in 14in and 15in versions, with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor option, following moves made by Microsoft and others to expand beyond Intel’s chips.

Huawei also partnered with the French high-end audio firm Devialet to create an Apple HomePod rival called the Sound X. The wifi-connected speaker has two woofers and an array of six tweeters to create 360-degree sound.

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