Huawei Mate XS2 One-Month Review

Let’s start with the conclusion: for those who need a large screen, it’s a must-have and incredibly enjoyable. However, it lacks universality, so it’s important to assess your own needs before deciding whether or not to get it.

Reason for Purchase
Due to professional requirements, I often need to view images, edit photos, review spreadsheets, read PDFs, and perform simple editing tasks on my phone. It’s inconvenient to constantly zoom in and out while on the go, and tablets are not portable. I also enjoy playing older games on emulators, reading comics, and I don’t have a need for Google Suite. I’ve always desired a large-screen phone, so a foldable screen is a must-have for me.

Many people claim that foldable screens are not the future direction because office work on mobile devices is just a pseudo-demand. I won’t make judgments about the future, and I also dislike how manufacturers often promote tablets as productivity tools. However, I don’t agree with the notion that tablets have no productivity value. Being able to temporarily address light office needs such as viewing, annotating, and sketching is great. Why must we define this matter in such black-and-white terms?

A couple of years ago, I even used the Huawei M6 high-end version tablet as my primary phone for a while (it was actually very usable, not awkward at all, especially since I used Bluetooth earphones and didn’t have a 10-inch tablet’s inconvenience in terms of portability). If it weren’t for its small 128GB storage, not being fast enough with the Kirin 980+UFS 2.1, the disappointing single camera, and the inability to fit in many pants pockets, I wouldn’t have wanted to replace the 16:10 8.4-inch screen. Of course, its weight of 340 grams can’t be compared to the XS2.

Huawei had already released four foldable screen models, but they were known to have various immature flaws and were not available for purchase for a long time. However, I had been closely following the XS2 since its release because it solved almost all the pain points of previous foldable screens. Recently, I noticed that constantly staring at the phone was causing eye strain, and a larger screen would be more comfortable. So, purchasing the XS2 became an urgent necessity.

Buying Process
After its release in May, I would diligently try to purchase it online every morning. Surprisingly, it was extremely difficult to get. As far as I remember, it was rare for Huawei products to be this hard to obtain. Previously, models like Mate 30, 40, MatePad Pro, etc., could be easily purchased online after a few attempts, or there would be ample stock available for offline pre-orders. But this time, it would be sold out within seconds every day, and I hadn’t experienced such a feeling of urgency for many years. I checked all the offline stores, but none of them had stock, and they didn’t even accept pre-orders. On other platforms, the prices were initially marked up by at least CNY 3,000 (until yesterday, I saw that the base model still had a markup of a couple thousand yuan, while only the top-end model in purple had fallen below the original price. Even used devices that were activated and used for a month were being sold at the original price or with an additional CNY 300-500 premium. It’s mind-boggling. It means that if I managed to get one, I would essentially make a profit, and even if I used it for a month and sold it, I would break even. It’s just incomprehensible). Luckily, I managed

to get one through good fortune—an Alpine White top-end collector’s edition with 12GB RAM and 512GB storage. It was priced at CNY 12,999, and I timidly purchased the screen protection plan for CNY 1,495 (originally CNY 1,699). So, the total cost was CNY 14,494.

Among the current foldable phones, the Huawei Mate XS2 stands out with its impressive feel. When I tried the physical model in the store, it was exactly as I expected. The Mate X2 feels bulky and lacks a sense of sophistication. The original Mate X, although thin, was heavy at nearly 300g and had noticeable creases. The Mate XS2, on the other hand, has undergone significant improvements. Weighing only 255g, it is slightly heavier than the iPhone 13 Pro Max but feels like a regular phone when folded. Its thickness of 11mm is mitigated by the curved edges on both sides, which eliminates the blocky feel of the X2. Additionally, the X2 has a thickness of 15mm, making it incomparable to the XS2. When unfolded, the XS2 is even more enjoyable to use. It’s been a while since I held a device that was 5mm thin, and it feels great. The thin and premium design of the XS2 sets it apart from the X2, despite the X2 having higher specifications and a higher price. The X2 feels bulky, giving off a cheap vibe with its matte plastic edges, while the XS2’s electroplated edges have a more refined and exquisite feel.

Unfolding Mechanism
As usual, there’s a button on the back of the right-hand side that pops open the phone, but it only opens halfway. The rest of the process requires manually bending it, which is not elegant at all. The resistance is significant, even more so than with any inward-folding screen! My child says she can’t bend it. I guess it’s designed tightly to maintain a flat position when unfolded. As a result, this process cannot be done with one hand. Moreover, because it’s troublesome to bend, I don’t feel inclined to repeatedly open and close it like I used to with flip phones. It’s a completely different habit.

Phone Case
Despite the good feel of the official case provided, there is an inherent flaw when it comes to using a case with an outward-folding screen: there is no perfect solution. The included case protects the phone when folded, covering the left, right, and back. However, the process of unfolding is extremely cumbersome. First, you have to pry open the left side of the case (fortunately, it’s easy to pry open once you get used to it), and then bend the screen at the back out. This falls under the first category. Other cases available online can be classified into two types: the second category protects the unfolded state with a frame-like design, similar to a tablet. While it provides peace of mind when unfolded, once closed, neither the front nor the back screen is protected, and they can rub against each other in the pocket (although the screen protector is said to be very hard and I haven’t seen any scratches yet). The key issue is the curved edge on the left side when folded, which is all screen and has no protection. If dropped in this state, the left edge is prone to impact. The third category includes cases that do it all. They have a frame-like design that covers the unfolded state and a large case that covers both the front and back when folded. However, they are incredibly thick and heavy, and it’s hard to imagine who would buy such a case.

So, what about going without a case? At half a kilogram, with curved glass edges on both sides, it’s the slipperiest phone out there. Even if I have phone insurance, I dare not go without a case. Therefore, I continue to use the official case, and after a month, I’ve gotten used to it. The case can even act as a stand. One-handed users can also get an additional official case for free… Well, thank you.

Among all the foldable phones currently available, the XS2 has the least noticeable crease, hands down. While the X and XS both have outward-folding screens, the creases are really pronounced. Even with the screen on, a slight change in viewing angle reveals the crease, not to mention when the screen is off. It significantly affects the overall viewing experience. The XS2 has made significant improvements by adopting a waterdrop hinge to address the crease issue, but it’s still visible at a glance. As for the P50 Pocket, there’s no need to even mention it. I don’t know how people who bought it can tolerate that crease. The XS2 utilizes new technology where the screen is movable rather than fixed, but I won’t go into detail as there are many detailed explanations from reviewers. In practice, the crease is almost invisible, and the screen appears almost mirror-smooth when the display is off. When it’s on, it’s even more difficult to notice with the naked eye; you can only feel a slight bump when touching it.

Also, it’s impossible to apply screen protectors on your own. Unofficial protectors, in particular, won’t work and will inevitably cause bulging when folded. That’s why the phone comes with an official screen protector. It’s said to be a special type of film, and the box explicitly states that it shouldn’t be removed. I don’t know if it will turn yellow over time. The new phone comes with the entitlement to replace the screen protector twice for free, and after that, it will be at your own expense, but I’m not sure about the price. It will likely test the skills of the technician.

Furthermore, because the screen is movable, dust and debris can accumulate between the left side of the screen and the frame when it’s in the unfolded state. It’s difficult to remove with your fingernail, and you have to fold it slightly to widen the gap and wipe it off.

It’s fantastic! BOE has finally stepped up its game. The screen is vibrant and translucent, and all the reviews have been positive. It’s far superior to the various screens endorsed by Zhou Dongyu. With a high refresh rate of 120Hz and the aforementioned design, it visibly outperforms the X2’s hazy display.

When folded, it has a 6.5-inch screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio. When unfolded, it becomes 7.8 inches with an aspect ratio of 8:7.1, which is a rather peculiar ratio. Personally, I hope future products will adopt a 4:3 aspect ratio directly.

Some people say that this non-standard aspect ratio doesn’t make videos appear larger and instead results in substantial black bars at the top and bottom. Indeed, when watching movies, there’s not much difference compared to regular smartphones. However, the upper and lower black bars provide space for displaying comments without obstructing the content, similar to an iPad. On the other hand, for conventional 16:9 videos, it offers a significantly larger display. After all, current smartphones have elongated screens with black bars on the sides, and when stretched to fill the XS2, it adds at least an inch of additional screen space. When watching old 4:3 videos, it’s simply unbeatable! It’s on a completely different level than regular smartphones. The same goes for viewing photos. Most photos are still captured with a 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio, and often, you need to zoom in to examine details. Now, it finally feels comfortable to do so!

And then there’s the emulator gaming I mentioned earlier. Old games almost fill up the entire screen, it’s incredibly satisfying! Even for games with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the buttons can be placed at the bottom without blocking the screen. Reading manga is also more comfortable. Holding a tablet for a long time can be cumbersome, and on a phone, you often have to zoom in to read dialogues. Now, I finally have the best of both worlds.

It’s also more comfortable for work-related tasks like viewing and annotating images. It’s much better when everything is bigger. In the past, I used to miss out on many details when colleagues sent files, but now it’s much easier.

Furthermore, I’ve always felt that an outward-folding screen provides a better user experience. It eliminates the interruption caused by flipping the screen inward or outward. Whatever you’re looking at when it’s folded, it instantly becomes larger when unfolded. This uninterrupted continuity is something that an inward-folding screen lacks, and that’s one of the reasons I didn’t buy the X2. Also, for apps like Bilibili, when using a regular smartphone, the video area is very small when not in fullscreen mode. To watch in fullscreen, you have to rotate the phone 90 degrees, which can be a fragmented experience. With a foldable screen, there’s no need for constant flipping because when unfolded, it’s almost a 1:1 ratio. Many times, there’s no need to rotate at all, and the experience is full-screen, much larger than a regular flat phone, even bigger than the 8.4-inch M6 tablet as shown in the picture below. In other words, all similar scaling experiences are continuous, further enhancing browsing efficiency.

System-wise, HarmonyOS has been continuously improving over the past year. The ecosystem has become more user-friendly, integrating smart screens, laptops, tablets, glasses, watches, treadmills, and rowing machines. Those who use it know how convenient it is. The XS2’s biggest improvement is the addition of Smart Multi-Window, which allows more apps to be suspended in small windows or icons, enabling multitasking. It’s like having a mini desktop computer. This is where the advantage of a large screen shines.

The new update also introduced the gesture of swiping from the upper left, making split-screen mode more convenient. Even after going to another app and returning, the split-screen tasks remain intact.

Combined with the large screen, many apps’ service cards can be displayed in a larger layout on the pages. Many colleagues who have never used it before find it quite advanced.

Software adaptation, which used to be a pain point for foldable screens, has been greatly improved. In addition to the expanded parallel field of view, which significantly improves browsing efficiency for shopping apps and Bilibili, Huawei has introduced an adaptive adjustment engine that works remarkably well. Even lesser-known applications like the Xiao Ma emulator can automatically adapt to the unfolded state without encountering the bug that sometimes occurs with other brands where the UI doesn’t readjust properly when folded back. Currently, almost all apps have perfect adaptation to this automatic adjustment. However, there’s one exception, and it’s a commonly used major application: Meituan. It’s just an enlarged version of a regular app interface and feels very unimpressive. It’s a complete oversight not to have adapted this app properly.

As for the signal, as we all know, it lacks 5G and even the 4G performance is not as good as the Mate 40 Pro. Previously, in some elevators and underground parking lots, the Mate 40 Pro would switch from 5G to 4G, and I would only have one bar of signal. I could still open web pages, but now the XS2 sometimes drops to 2G, and I can’t even open web pages. Although this situation has only happened once or twice, it’s still quite frustrating.

In terms of photography, it’s a step down compared to the Mate 40 Pro, but the algorithm is decent. There’s not much noticeable difference to the naked eye, especially in good lighting conditions. However, in low light, the noise is not stable. Additionally, due to negative optimization on the Mate 40 Pro’s side and occasional instances where the XS2 captures less noise than the Mate 40 Pro, the results can vary. The 5x optical zoom has been reduced to 3x, and the telephoto capabilities have weakened. But because of the large screen, both taking photos and viewing them are enjoyable.

One physical bonus is that when folded, the screen can be projected onto the back screen, allowing the person being photographed to see the current framing. My wife really likes this feature.

As for durability, I haven’t dropped it yet, but there’s a YouTuber on Bilibili who conducted comprehensive drop tests, spending 70,000 RMB to test various devices horizontally, and the XS2 performed exceptionally well. The claim of being 2.5 times more resistant to drops seems to be true. On the other hand, the more expensive X2 is not as durable, possibly due to its weight. To enhance durability, the XS2 has subtle protrusions along the edges, which supposedly provide cushioning. Because of these protrusions, when the phone is folded and placed on a table, the back screen doesn’t touch the surface; there’s about a gap of one sheet of paper, so it won’t get scratched. It’s a commendable attention to detail.

Battery life is the most significant drawback and could discourage some users. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is to blame! Despite being mentally prepared for it before purchasing, I was still surprised when I got my hands on it. This Snapdragon 888 is truly powerful, no wonder Android has been unable to compete with Apple in recent years. I don’t play resource-intensive games like Genshin Impact or PUBG, but even with daily activities like browsing the web and watching videos, the device noticeably heats up. Not only the screen but also the right side of the device, especially the stick, gets hot. I speculate that, for the sake of thinness, many core components are concentrated in that stick, which leads to poor heat dissipation compared to regular inward-folding smartphones. Fortunately, it handles emulator games fine, but I would advise caution for those wanting to play large-scale games.

The consequence of the heating issue is poor battery life. With my relatively high usage intensity, the Mate 40 Pro required two charges a day. If I use the XS2 continuously in its unfolded state, at a normal frequency, it would likely need two full charges, or even three if I use it intensively. Thankfully, it charges quickly with the 66W charger, taking less than an hour to fully charge.

Huawei seems to be gradually learning from its experiences. Last week, they released the 131 software update, specifically optimizing this area and significantly improving the heat and power consumption. However, considering the same 4,000mAh battery and a screen that is twice the size of a regular flat phone, even with the Kirin chip, the battery life is significantly shortened, let alone with the Snapdragon chip. The screen on time is probably around 5 hours or slightly more.

As for the value for money, it depends on your perspective. The previous top-of-the-line models were almost 20,000 RMB, so starting at 9,999 RMB,

the XS2 is indeed much cheaper. Those who feel it’s not worth it might consider other options like the 4G version with the Snapdragon 888, which costs around 13,000 RMB and still offers a high-quality camera system. However, I would say that it’s better to buy something new than old. The XS2’s thickness and weight give it a sense of cheapness that greatly affects the overall experience. Additionally, as mentioned before, the experience of an outward-folding screen is more comfortable than an inward-folding one. Furthermore, the drop test also demonstrated that the XS2 is prone to serious damage if it slips from your hand.

Other Troublesome Issues:

  1. As mentioned earlier, applying screen protectors and using cases are extremely inconvenient for foldable phones. The cases for foldable phones are more expensive compared to regular ones, with prices ranging from a hundred to a few hundred RMB on platforms like PDD. The quality of the materials and workmanship is also average. It seems like they are trying to take advantage of “high-end customers,” and you won’t find any buy-one-get-one-free deals like you would for regular flat phones.
  2. The battery life of the XS2, despite not being a “fire-breathing dragon,” can’t withstand heavy usage due to the large screen. So I bought a 66W fast charging power bank for a couple hundred RMB.
  3. If you don’t purchase screen insurance, replacing the screen component costs 5,089 RMB for first-hand users with a discounted price. I commend those brave souls who go without any protection. Although screen insurance costs around a thousand RMB, I’ve heard that, like Apple, there are additional service fees of several hundred RMB when getting it repaired. Annoying!
  4. If the mainboard gets damaged, it costs 4,999 RMB. I think a foldable screen phone should be called a “Porsche” in terms of repair costs.
  5. When the outward-folding screen is in the folded state, you can’t apply force on the left edge since it’s the screen. So all the phone stands and those that use spring force to grip the phone won’t work and may cause damage. When it’s unfolded, it’s not as sturdy as a regular tablet, so I don’t dare use those tablet stands with strong clamping force. I still don’t know how to use a stand when I need it, or maybe use a tablet stand to grip the upper and lower hinges…
  6. The XS2 doesn’t support wireless charging in its unfolded state. Previously, I used a wireless charging car mount with induction, so I could simply place it and start charging when I got in the car, elegant and convenient. Now I have to buy a gravity manual mount that can accommodate the unfolded state for around 100 RMB and manually plug in the 66W car charger, which can’t be done single-handedly. It’s a hassle. Moreover, the official case can’t be gripped by the mount because it’s at the back and adds thickness. Either buy a different type of case suitable for the unfolded state or remove the official case before mounting. It’s really frustrating.
  7. When screen mirroring, in the unfolded state, the aspect ratio is almost 1:1, so you can’t watch videos in fullscreen. You have to fold it up and use it as a regular flat phone or use the computer mode. I heard that HarmonyOS 3.0 will have adaptive aspect ratio for screen mirroring, hopefully.

In summary:
Pros: Lightweight, thin, minimal crease, durable, relatively reasonable price, user-friendly system, powerful ecosystem, and amazing experience with the large screen.
Cons: The small camera compromises in front of the Snapdragon 888 can be overlooked. However, daily usage is delicate, subsequent repairs are expensive, and peripheral products are also costly.

In short, it has many outstanding advantages, and the only regret is the Snapdragon 888. It would be perfect if it had the Kirin chip instead.
What’s more important is the significance: it further advances the maturity and popularity of foldable phones. In previous years, various manufacturers tried to figure out how to achieve a full-screen display, squeezing a slightly larger screen into limited space. Now, the only option left is how to make it fold.

Is it worth buying?
For those who truly

need a large screen, it is definitely worth it.
Some say that the folded state of the phone is not much different from a regular phone, and they only unfold it for watching videos. They argue that buying a foldable screen is unnecessary. I think people who say this probably haven’t experienced the deep efficiency and advantages brought by a large screen. I mostly use it in the unfolded state, folding it only when I need to use both hands or put it in my pocket.

It practically combines the usage scenarios of both phones and tablets. When explaining things, sharing information with my wife, children, and parents through the phone, I no longer need to repeatedly zoom in and out or look for a tablet. When inspiration strikes, I can quickly sketch on the screen and send it to my employees. When receiving files, I can immediately annotate and provide feedback. Taking photos, navigation, shopping, browsing Bilibili, and more have all become more efficient. Comics, reading, and gaming are all greatly enhanced, and the immersion is intense.

So, no matter how much heat it generates, as long as it unfolds, everything becomes worth it. There will definitely be more models in the future, and now, picking up a regular flat phone with its 7-centimeter-wide screen, I realize that I can’t go back. After using it for a while, I always have the urge to pry it open and expand the screen.

For people who don’t have these needs or don’t perceive the enhancements, and for those who can’t accept the aforementioned troubles, then it’s completely unnecessary to buy one.