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Huawei Mate XS: It looks fantastic!

Hello again, dear reader. It has been quite a while. Too long.

I said to myself I wouldn’t write anything here on Mobile Industry Review unless I felt like doing so. Couple this with a crazy busy work life and you’ve got an idea why I haven’t contributed much anything at all recently.

Last night I properly sat down and hat a look at the Huawei Mate XS. Virtually, you understand. (I am not, sadly, at the top of the list of the Huawei press team anymore I don’t think. I still love their work, though.)

The Mate XS is astonishing.

It’s the first device I’ve seen in the longest time where I feel we’re seeing some independent thought, some decent, much-longed-for innovation.

I have – thanks to the aforementioned press team – been the recipient of quite a few Mate devices over the years to test – and I’ve bought quite a few myself. Invariably they have been fantastic products. Huawei has an excellent history producing Android devices. I’ve always appreciated and respected their EMUI interface: Sometimes I love it; sometimes I like stock Android. Either way, I’ve always been pleased with the result from the Huawei team. And when it comes to the P-Series or the MiFi units too – I’ve bought a few of those – I’ve always been impressed.

So, as you can tell, I’m fairly warm when it comes to Huawei devices. I’ll get to the Google issue later on.

Before that though, the first observation I have for you is a reflective one for those who have been following the mobile world for quite some time: I got all the information I needed from the Huawei Mate XS website. Really.

I didn’t look at any unboxing videos. I didn’t immediately feel the need to search other websites. No. I got everything I needed from the Huawei consumer facing webpage.

Do you remember when looking up the official webpage of a handset was a frustrating reality? When the press release contained more details than the product webpage? Those were frustrating times.

Last night I sat and scrolled through the XS product page in wonder. What a superb looking product. What ingenuity. What an excellent sales pitch. Yes, Apple have got the whole scroll-and-salivate concept down to a fine art, but so do the Huawei team.

I know, I know. Samsung’s done it. Others have experimented with the folding device. I was particularly enamoured with the Motorola RAZR 2020 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, yes. They looked good. I almost bought a Samsung Fold (indeed, I’m still thinking about it). But the way the Huawei team have clearly thought somewhat differently about the XS, that’s what struck me.

Favourite Features

You know my favourite feature? You can actually see yourself when someone is taking a photo of you. I know that might sound silly but goodness me I think it’s awesome:

See yourself on the other screen. Love it.

Then when you look at the huge screen. I love it:

Look at all that space.

I’m not going to do the specific comparisons between the other folding phones – just – it looks big. 8 diagonal inches of screen real estate. In your hand. Big enough to be able to have your inbox open on the left screen and the reader window open on the right.

I like the fact there are two batteries. I always like phones with two batteries. One is never enough. Combined the XS has 4,500mAH. That’ll probably get me through a day!

I also liked the fact you have the finger print sensor ready for your unlock. I’m not sure how this works in real life yet but it sounds like good thinking:

That big button on the side is the finger print sensor too. Yes, I like this.

Are you buying one then?

Well there are two barriers.

Barrier number 1: Cash. It’s almost GBP 2,000. Or thereabouts. This is more expensive than a MacBook Pro. Considerably more than an Apple Fanboy’s top of the range iPhone Max S XS Pro Max Duo Ghia.

Barrier number 2: The Google thing. This don’t-you-dare post from Google is a good example why a lot of consumers in the West will undoubtedly be put off anything Huawei. It doesn’t stop them buying MiFi or Home WiFi routers from Huawei but the absence of ‘Google approved’ is a bit of an issue for a lot of people. Me included.

Sort of.

You see, I moved to Muscat, Oman back in February for work. The country is heavily, heavily Android-centric. There are Huawei branded shops in almost every shopping mall. There are a lot of Huawei devices in use here in the Middle East. This has normalised the experience of owning a Huawei for me. I still have lingering doubts.

I do use Gmail a LOT. But then again, I also use Reddle’s Spark email client to manage my Gmail on Android which, I presume, is available through Huawei’s own AppGallery App Store. Although I just checked their website and there’s no mention of ‘also available on AppGallery’ yet. There are quite a lot of UK-related apps that I would miss too given much of them are only available on Google Play. Then again, I imagine side-loading will be possible with most of them. This does, however, get you into the risky world of side-loading APKs from non ‘official’ sources. It could be a real problem trying to replicate your mobile life that you’re enjoying on Samsung. Right now for example I’m using a Note 10 (I know, I know, I haven’t upgraded yet) and I’m readily using all the Google services extensively.

That said.. I use the web browser a lot.

What’s interesting, though, is looking at how my friends and colleagues here in Oman work around the Google issue. They literally work around it. It doesn’t bother them at all. They just use another app. The China issue? There isn’t one – not as far as they are concerned. They just carry on using their awesome Huawei devices.

Which brings me back to the Mate XS. It’s about 990 Omani Rials – that’s approximately GBP 2,000. In the same ballpark as the Samsung Fold on Amazon right now at GBP 1,957. You can buy the top of the range 13″ MacBook Pro (GBP 1,999) for the same price.

But as my good friend Alvaro reminded me a while back: The return on investment on a mobile device like a phone is infinitely greater given you’re using it for perhaps 5, 6 or more hours every single day.

Yes, but are you buying a Huawei Mate XS?

I’m seriously thinking about it.

I will put on my mask (as one is obliged to do here in Muscat) and walk into the Huawei store shortly and admire the device. Maybe… just maybe… I might buy one.

Good work Huawei.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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