So Royole may have beaten Huawei and Samsung to the punch, but the Mate X and Galaxy Fold still caused a huge stir at MWC 2019. Unfortunately, since both companies seem determined to prevent journalists from actually touching or trying out the new devices, it’s impossible to answer a lot of important questions.

How durable are those hinges and flexible screens? How does Android cope with odd-shaped screens and multiple screens? Unfortunately, as of yet we don’t have those answers for you.

What we can do is to compare the design and specs because they are significantly different to each other. And, let’s face it, you’re probably not going to drop the best part of £2k and actually buy one just yet – neither phone goes on sale for at least a couple of months.

Design


  • Fold: Internal folding screen, secondary 4.6in screen, 17mm thick
  • Mate X: External folding screen, 11mm thick

Samsung has gone for a folding screen on the inside of the Fold. So when closed, the screen is protected.

It has an unusually big notch at the top-right corner, which the Mate X avoids, and the outer screen is strangely small – 4.6in – for the available space. Add to this the fact that there’s a gap at the hinge end when the device is folded shut and that it’s noticeably chunkier than Huawei’s, and it’s clear that Huawei has won this particular battle. Dare we say it, but next to the Mate X, the Galaxy Fold looks ugly.

Many have already questioned the durability of not just the hinge in both phones, but also the flexible screen. It will be one of the primary reasons to hang back and let other people take the financial hit and do the real-world testing to answer these questions.

Don’t forget that, unlike normal phones, the folding screens are not protected by glass: they’re plastic. This is likely to scratch more easily and on the Mate X, the screen is on the outside, and the portion that curves around the hinge looks particularly vulnerable. So you’d have to keep it in a case of some description.

Because the Mate X is so thin, just 5.4mm, Huawei had to add a thicker portion called the ‘side bar’ which houses the cameras and also the USB-C port. Since all the cameras face the same way, you get the same quality and choice of lens regardless of whether you’re taking a selfie or not. But, of course, you have to fold the screen to get the preview for a selfie.

The bar means the Mate X doesn’t sit flat on a surface when open, a feature which might well annoy some people.

Samsung hasn’t revealed the thickness of the Fold, but Huawei’s keynote included a slide which referred to it as ‘other foldable phone’ and claimed a thickness of 6.8mm, giving a total of 13.6mm when closed. Of course, it’s actually more than that because of the gap at the hinged end and a second slide claimed a total thickness of 17mm for the Galaxy Fold.

The Mate X folds completely flat and is 11mm thick, not much thicker than many current phones.

Screens


  • Fold: 7.3in, OLED, 2152x1536 pixels, 4.2:3 aspect
  • Mate X: 8in, OLED, 2480x2200 pixels, 8:7.1 aspect

The Mate X’s screen measures 8in when opened up, and it’s divided into two screens when folded. The main phone screen is 6.6in with a resolution of 2480x1148, and there’s a 6.4in 2480x892 on the back, narrower because of the side bar.

Add on the 2480x160 pixels that form the ‘hinge’ part of the screen and you’ve got an 8in, 2480x2200 display. That’s a squarish aspect ratio of 8:7.1. Note that, when folded, those 160 pixels on the hinge are switched off to form a “digital bezel” so it doesn’t look like a single screen that wraps around.

Samsung has gone for a 7.3in, 2152x1536 display, which is spoiled by a large cutout in one corner and the bezels are thicker than the Mate X’s.

It’s too early to say anything about the relative quality of the displays, mainly because the Galaxy Fold was in a glass box after Samsung’s press conference.

You may have seen the multitasking demos from each firm’s launch event so it’s clear that much work has gone into making sure these large screens are useful. Samsung showed how its OneUI can run three apps together on the big screen, but Huawei merely spoke about two apps running side-by-side in EMUI.

That doesn’t make the Galaxy Fold automatically better: we need to use these phones to discover which implementation works best in real-world use.

Cameras


  • Fold: Rear - 12Mp wide, 16Mp ultra-wide, 12Mp telephoto;  Front: 10Mp selfie; Inside: 10Mp + 8Mp depth-sensing
  • Mate X: Quad cameras, details TBC.

We don’t yet know whether Huawei has used the same camera setup from the Mate 20 Pro, but the firm has said they will be ‘on a par’ with that phone. The four lenses won’t be identical, because Huawei did say that there’s a new selfie camera. But unlike Samsung it hasn’t revealed any details.

One possible issue is that there are no cameras facing you when in tablet mode, so you’d only be able to use Skype or another video-calling service with the phone folded in half.

The Galaxy Fold has six cameras so there’s always one pointing at you, no matter how you’re holding it. It does mean there’s a notch in tablet mode, but that’s a trade-off Huawei has decided not to make.

Obviously, we can’t say which phone has better cameras at this point in time.

5G


As you would expect from a flagship 2019 phone, both the Galaxy Fold and Mate X support 5G. However, in order to get the Fold released as soon as possible, Samsung is offering a 4G version of it first – in the US market on 26 April - and then in Europe on 3 May. A 5G version will go on sale in South Korea, the firm’s home market, in May.

Huawei won’t launch the Mate X until the summer, which is when the first 5G networks will be switched on. It uses Huawei’s on 5G chip design which is backwards compatible with 4G and 3G. Every 5G phone will have to be backwards compatible, of course, because 5G will only be available in certain cities to start with.

Battery life


  • Fold: 4380mAh, split over two cells
  • Mate X: 4500mAh, split over two cells

Big screens require more power than small screens, so both designs put a battery either side of the hinge. Huawei’s capacity is a little more than Samsung’s but since neither company has revealed expected battery life we can’t even say which phone is claimed to last the longest.

Experience tells us that that should both to survive a whole day, but probably not much longer.

The Mate X supports the fastest charging seen yet. It’s bundled with a 55W SuperCharge adapter which is said to charge the phone from empty to 85% in just half an hour.

Performance


  • Fold: TBC 7nm octacore processor, 12GB RAM, 512GB storage
  • Mate X: Kirin 980, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage

We don’t yet know which processor Samsung will use in the Galaxy Fold, but it’s hard to believe it won’t go for the same chip as in the Galaxy S10: the Snapdragon 855. It can’t be Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 as that’s an 8nm processor.

Neither company has released a full spec sheet, so in terms of other connectivity, but you’d assume the latest standards for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and other components given the top-end prices.

The Mate X has a dual-SIM tray, and one of the slots can be used for the company’s proprietary nano memory cards.

Conclusion


It would be ludicrous to draw any conclusions at this early stage. These are two of the first folding phones, first-generation devices which each company is using to test the waters. Samsung reckons it will sell at least a million Galaxy Folds, whereas Huawei has basically said it “might” launch the Mate X, so whether or not you’ll even be able to buy one will depend on the state of the 5G rollout in your country.

Whatever happens, these devices are surely the shape of things to come, and we’re excited to get hold of them and try them out to find out how they cope with real-world use.

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