If you follow Huawei in any capacity, by now you should be aware that the firm released an updated version of its foldable phone yesterday with the Mate Xs. We were on hand yesterday at the firm’s Johannesburg campus to a closer look at the Mate Xs, compare to its predecessor, as well as get a feel for the improvements that Huawei has made.

Huawei Mobile South Africa had three devices on display yesterday for local media to take a look at, but it should be noted that these versions may differ from the ones that hit the market in coming weeks and months. Speaking of which, Huawei has not divulged what the local pricing and availability of the Mate Xs will be, but have confirmed that it is earmarked for launch soon.

The price of the device should be particularly interesting, as it is recommended to retail for €2 499 in selected markets. Given the current exchange rate it would place the Mate Xs at ~R40 919. As such we could see the actual asking price near the R50k mark, which is more than the original Galaxy Fold went on pre-order for in SA.

What the appetite for such a device will be, remains to be seen, but let’s focus on our hands-on for now.

Design

In terms of design, Huawei has not deviated much here, with the Mate Xs featuring the same form factor as its predecessor. The key difference though is the materials that the Chinese firm is using this time around, as well as a new hinge for the second iteration of foldable phone.

Looking at the screen for a moment, Huawei has employed a tougher form of polymer compared to the original Mate X. This version does indeed feel more hard wearing, and the Mate Xs seems capable of taking a bit more punishment. That said a longer review period with the device would better indicate if this is indeed the case.

The new polymer also makes the crease at the fold of the display less noticeable. Hold it in the right light though, and you can spot it. Use the device in its unfolded mode though, and there aren’t any telltale signs. How that changes over time, remains to be seen.

As for the hinge it’s less of the fulcrum design utilised in the original Mate X. This version moves more easily, but is still rigid enough to prove solid. The mechanism to pop open the screen from its folded position is a little “intense” for our liking, and could open a little less forcefully.

It should also be noted that the screen is a serious fingerprint and smudge magnet, and when folded, the rear portion of the display is filled with oily marks, which are easy to see as the screen has been blacked out.

Multitasking

Huawei is really talking up the multitasking ability of the Mate Xs. It features a few options for users who want to work in different applications at once. The greater amount of real estate, 8 inches, on offer here allows you to snap two apps together, and having a third app floating above both, such as the notes tool.

During a demo of this feature, Huawei explained that this has not been fully optimised for every application running on the device or indeed in the App Gallery, with a window icon on the top right hand corner of each indicating whether it can indeed be used in the multitasking feature.

Sticking with the multitasking, much of what we were shown in involved intuitive dragging and dropping of text and media. This worked fine, but we really thing a stylus akin to the Galay S Pen would have been a more elegant solution here.

It’s a similar feature we thought would work on the original Mate X, and one would have liked to see in this second iteration. Perhaps third time’s a charm?

First impression

Our initial impressions of the Huawei Mate Xs is that it is indeed a better quality device compared to its predecessor. The stronger materials, refined construction and powerful internal specifications make for a very intriguing device.

While we do not know how much it will cost yet, all those features will no doubt cost a premium, and right now the form factor and functionality of the device don’t quite justify a massive price tag.

We cannot pass full judgement yet, with a proper review period offering that opportunity, but our first thoughts are that Huawei, much like the rest of the industry, are still trying to find out how best to make use of foldable display technology.