Exclusive: our first hands-on look with the new Huawei Mate X2 foldable phone

Huawei Mate X2
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Even after losing access to key partners and eventually having to withdraw from some markets, Huawei hasn't really slowed down with hardware innovations. In case you're curious to see how far the latest Huawei Mate X2 has come, here are some exclusive images and video of the foldable in action, from the MWC Shanghai show floor.

Unveiled on February 22, the Huawei Mate X2 will be available in China from February 25, with no word on global availability. With a starting price of CNY 17,999 (roughly $2,785 / £2,000 / AU$3,500 /Rs 2 lac) for the 256GB model, it is a supremely premium offering, with the 512GB model raising that price tag to CNY 18,999. 

It is the first foldable phone from the brand to offer a flexible display on the inside — the original Mate X and the updated Mate Xs had the folding screen on the outside.

Check out our early hands-on video with the Huawei Mate X2 in the tweet below

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One of the first things you'll notice about the Mate X2 is how large it is. While its 8-inch inner display might not sound much bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2’s 7.6-inch screen, the actual viewing area is much larger. Add the relatively thick bezels on all sides, and we’re almost in tablet territory.

But Huawei has ensured that the extra screen real is put to good use. Running a custom skin built atop open-sourced Android, the Mate X2 has some nifty tricks up its sleeve to facilitate better multitasking. 

Similar to iPadOS and Samsung’s One UI, an inward swipe from the right reveals a list of optimized apps that can quickly be added to one half of the screen. There’s also an option to add more apps in resizable floating windows to make the most of the bigger screen. 

Taking a closer look at the hardware, Huawei Mate X2 seems much more premium and polished. Most of this is due to the new improved hinge mechanism. With some engineering wizardry, Huawei has been able to craft a foldable that leaves no gap between the screens when folded. A side-effect of this design is that the two sides of the phone aren’t of the same thickness – the half with the camera is almost twice as thick as the other, which is only about 4.4mm. Huawei says this asymmetrical weight distribution allows for easier handling of the phone.

There’s another reason why the phone is so thick (it’s 14.7mm when folded) and tips the scales at 295g (via GSMArena). The Huawei Mate X2 is the first foldable to incorporate a periscopic telephoto lens, capable of 10x optical zoom and 100x digital zoom. These advanced optics take up a lot more space on the Z-axis in comparison to conventional smartphone sensor and lens combinations. 

And Huawei isn’t done there with cameras.  The Mate X2 has five further cameras: two on the outer display and four on the rear. The main sensor is a large 1/1.28-inch 50MP unit with OIS, followed by a 16MP ultra-wide lens, a 12MP 3x telephoto shooter and the aforementioned 8MP 10x camera. 

On the front is an 8MP selfie camera and a 16MP ultra-wide lens. Historically, Huawei phones with similar cameras have been amongst the best camera phones, which bodes well for the Mate X2’s photography prowess - although you’ll have to wait for our review to find out if it can live up to its predecessors.

The hinge has also been improved with higher tension across the range and a mechanism that snaps the screen open or closed when you get close to completing the action. When unfolded, the visible screen crease appears to be much wider than the one we’ve seen on the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 2, but you’ll likely see past it once you start viewing content.

The Huawei Mate X2 beats the Z Fold 2 with a 90Hz refresh rate screen on both the outside panel as well as the inside display, which should provide smooth graphics and fluid scrolling. The build of EMUI running on the foldable has been optimized to look smoother too. 

When folded, the phone is pretty thick and wide, making one-hand operation tricky for those with smaller palms. It’s fine for shorter tasks, but if you plan on using it for a while, it’s better to put both forearms to exercise.

It’s available in four shades: black, white, blue, and pink. Not all variants were on show, but the light pink colourway that we see here caught our eye.

The Mate X2 also features a 5nm Kirin 9000 chipset, 4,500mAh battery with support for 55W fast charging, side-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor and dual-SIM support.

The Huawei Mate X2 is a foldable phone that may never make it out of China, and with its lack of Google Play Store support, the app offering is a little more limited which may put off international buyers. Huawei’s answer to it - the App Gallery - is gaining more apps each month though, and we’re not ruling out a global release just yet.

Aakash Jhaveri

Aakash is the engine that keeps TechRadar India running, using his experience and ideas to help consumers get to the right products via reviews, buying guides and explainers. Apart from phones, computers and cameras, he is obsessed with electric vehicles.