Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Huawei Mate X Hands-On: It Can Run Google!

The Huawei Mate X running the Google Play Store without issues.

I was among one of the lucky first dozen or so journalists to have touched the Huawei Mate X (for, like, 45 seconds) when it was first announced almost a year ago at the 2019 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. After numerous delays — caused likely by a combination of technical issues and the Google issue — the phone is finally on sale, in very limited quantities, which has resulted in resellers jacking up prices.

In Hong Kong, the Mate X is selling for HK$29,800, which is US$3,836, about a US$1,000 markup over the actual retail price of the Mate X. This is already on the low end, as westerners trying to import through sites like Aliexpress can expect to pay five or six grand American dollars.

First of all, I’m not going to sit here and lecture anyone who actually pays that much for a phone, because the value of money is relative. Four thousand American dollars could seem be half a year’s salary for those living in poverty in rural China or Africa. But US$4,000 could also be barely a night’s out for bankers in New York or tech bros in San Francisco. The point is, some people can afford to pay four, five, six, seven thousand dollars for a phone. Let them — it is not our place to judge and call them stupid or what not.

I can say that the Mate X feels highly premium and is about as cutting edge as any gadget can get right now. I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Fold for almost half a year now, and the Mate X is just more impressive. It looks better, it feels better. The hinge is sturdier; it folds close completely flat. When closed, the Mate X feels like a very solid “regular” phone, without the wobbles and “hollow center” (due to the slight gap in the hinge) that you feel from the Galaxy Fold.

The Mate X’s hinge closes more evenly than the Galaxy Fold’s.

Now, of course, I’m talking purely look and feel from a tech geek point of view. From a practical viewpoint, the Galaxy Fold is more practical because the screen folds in and is protected when in folded form. The Huawei Mate X’s gorgeous screen is exposed at all times because it folds out. This means if you ever drop the phone, the screen is hitting concrete. Even placing the phone on a table — an action I do like 200 times a day — means a part of the screen is touching hard surface. This problem is compounded because the screen of the Mate X is soft plastic OLED (just like the Galaxy Fold) and it is less durable than glass. A hard press with a sharp fingernail should be able to scratch the screen. So now imagine leaving the screen exposed at all times to everything from keys in your pocket to a slight bump on a wooden table to a sharp corner on your bedstead.

But this won’t, and hasn’t, matter to hardcore tech geeks, who are still buying the Mate X every time stock is available. Tech geeks don’t care about practicality, we want the best and the greatest, and the Mate X is that.

Unfortunately, because the phone has been delayed so long — it was originally set to be released in June of 2019 — the specs are a bit outdated. The processor inside is a Kirin 980 (not the 990 running on the Mate 30 series) and the camera system is a slightly inferior version of the Huawei P30 Pro’s system. The main and wide-angle lens remain the same, but the Mate X lacks the periscope zoom lens of the P30 Pro, instead using just a standard 8-megapixel telephoto zoom lens.

These specs are still very capable, however, and other than the 60Hz OLED screen which will feel outdated in a few weeks when 120Hz screens hit the market, I don’t think any other part of the Mate X’s performance will seem behind compared to anything else on the market.

The software that transitions between phone and tablet mode worked surprisingly well. During my testing I folded and unfolded the phone repeatedly and saw no hiccups in the software and UI. I also love the look and feel of the phone when it’s in closed form. It still resembles a 2019/2020 flagship, with minimal bezels and no notch interruptions. The Galaxy Fold, by comparison looks a bit weird and quirky when in folded form.

And yes, the Mate X can run Google Mobile Services fine on the phone, albeit not officially. To get Google apps on there requires the same hack that was discovered late last year using the Huawei Suite backup. It’s not too complicated a process, but it may open up backdoors on the phone, so it’s still not recommended for people with a lot of top secret shit on their phones. On my unit of the Mate X I was able to install Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, and everything worked fine without hiccups. I also have gone through the same process on my Huawei Mate 30 Pro and Google services ran on that phone for months without problems.

Anyway, I’ll have more on this phone as I test it out further. This is definitely gan-one of a cutting-edge new mobile trend that regular consumers shouldn’t even consider buying, but for geeks, this is it.