Smartphones have grown steadily bigger over the years as screens have increased in size and manufacturers have tried to balance things by shrinking down bezels so that our devices are still manageable. This is a trend that can only be pushed so far, and there’s a new design on the horizon that could bring us phones that are easy to handle one-handed and slip into a pocket, but that also fold out to give us more screen space. If folding phones are to herald a new age of creativity for smartphone design, the success of the first two big releases in this category will be paramount.
After teasing for months we finally got a better look at the Samsung Galaxy Fold recently, though it remains behind glass and off limits for hands-on testing. Meanwhile, the Huawei Mate X popped up as an alternative that we were allowed to touch. We don’t know everything about these two folding phones, but we have some details, so let’s take a look at how they measure up.
|Samsung Galaxy Fold||Huawei Mate X|
|Size||Unfolded: ? × ? × ?mm, Folded: ? × ? × 17 mm||Unfolded: 161.3 × 146.2 × 5.4 mm, Folded: 161.3 × 78.3 × 11 mm|
|Weight||TBC||295 grams (10.41 ounces)|
|Screen size||7.3-inch AMOLED and 4.6-inch AMOLED||8-inch AMOLED folds down to 6.6 and 6.3 inches|
|Screen resolution||2,152 x 1,536 pixels and 1,960 x 840 pixels||2,480 x 2,200 pixels and 2,480 x 1,148 pixels, 2,480 x 892 pixels|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 9.0 Pie|
|MicroSD card slot||No||Yes|
|Tap-to-pay services||Google Pay, Samsung Pay||Google Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 (TBC)||Kirin 980|
|Camera||Triple-lens ultra wide-angle 16-megapixel, standard 12MP with OIS and variable aperture, and telephoto 12MP with OIS rear, 10MP front closed, 10MP and 8MP front open||Quad-lens ultra-wide-angle 16-megapixel, standard 40MP with OIS, 8MP telephoto, and TOF camera rear|
|Video||2160p at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps||2160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes (side)||Yes (side)|
|Battery||4,380mAhQuick Charge 2.0 (18W)
Qi wireless charging
|4,500mAhHuawei SuperCharge (55W)
|App marketplace||Google Play Store||Google Play Store|
|Network support||AT&T, T-Mobile||TBC|
|Colors||Cosmos Black, Space Silver, Martian Green, or Astro Blue||Interstellar Blue|
|Price||$1,980||2,300 euros (around $2,600)|
PERFORMANCE, BATTERY LIFE, AND CHARGING
When Samsung showed off the Galaxy Fold, it didn’t specify the chip inside, merely calling it a 7nm processor, but given that it’s using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in the S10 range, and doesn’t seem to have developed a 7nm chip itself yet, we’re going to assume it’s the Snapdragon 855 here. It goes up against Huawei’s Kirin 980 in the Mate X. These processors offer similar performance, but benchmark tests suggest the Qualcomm chip has a very slight edge and may be a touch better for mobile gaming.
Samsung has also thrown in a whopping 12GB of RAM, which seems excessive until you consider that the Samsung Galaxy Fold has two screens to transition between and enough screen space for you to use three apps simultaneously, as it showed in the demo. Huawei has gone with 8GB of RAM in the Mate X, which will likely be plenty. Both have 512GB of storage, but only the Huawei Mate X has a MicroSD card slot for expansion.
There is only 120mAh difference in the battery sizes, but the bigger Huawei Mate X battery can also be charged up faster thanks to Huawei’s 55W SuperCharge, which can take the battery from zero to 85 percent in just 30 minutes. By contrast, Samsung has stuck with Qualcomm’s older Quick Charge 2.0 standard, which goes up to 18W. When you plug in the Galaxy Fold, it is going to take a lot longer to charge than the Mate X. The Samsung Galaxy Fold does also support Qi wireless charging, though, which is lacking in the Huawei Mate X.
DESIGN AND DURABILITY
The designs of these two folding phones are very different. While Samsung has opted to go for a separate cover display which you will use when the main display is folded up, Huawei has gone with a single folding screen. Both fold down to phone size like a book, but Huawei’s screen is the cover, whereas Samsung’s Infinity Flex display is tucked away inside. This design allows the Huawei Mate X to go from an 8-inch screen with a camera module on the back to a 6.6-inch screen with the camera on the back or a 6.3-inch screen with the camera facing you (the device switches on whatever one you’re looking at automatically). The Huawei Mate X is 11 mm when folded.
Samsung’s design necessitates a notch on the main 7.3-inch display for a dual-lens front-facing camera, then there is a triple-lens camera on the back, and another single-lens camera on the front with the 4.6-inch cover display. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is 17 mm when folded.
These are both expensive, fragile-looking devices, and case manufacturers really have their work cut out, but there’s no obvious difference between them in terms of durability. Neither has any stated IP rating for water resistance.
Not only does Huawei’s design mean more screen real estate, it also seems like a more elegant solution to us.
You have a 4.6-inch display with a 7.3-inch display inside in the Galaxy Fold or an 8-inch display that folds down to a 6.6-inch display on one side and a 6.3-inch display on the other in the Mate X. Both the Huawei Mate X and the Samsung Galaxy Fold have AMOLED screens with very similar resolutions and the differences in size translate to almost identical pixel densities, so they are both plenty sharp enough. Samsung has an edge in display quality in the smartphone market generally, but it’s not yet clear if this translates to the folding category. Given that the real raison d’être here is a larger display, we think the Huawei Mate X has an obvious edge.
On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Fold has a whopping six lenses, with a triple-lens main camera on the back, a dual-lens front-facing camera in a notch at the top of the main screen, and a single-lens front-facing camera above the cover screen. The main camera looks to be the same as the triple-lens setup in the S10 range which combines a 12-megapixel standard lens with a variable aperture (f/1.5 to f/2.4), an ultra wide-angle 16-megapixel lens with a 123 degree field of view and an f/2.2 aperture, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture that allows for 2x optical zoom.
The Huawei Mate X has one quad-lens camera module that combines a 40-megapixel standard lens, an ultra-wide-angle 16-megapixel lens, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, and a Time of Flight (TOF) camera that can map depth by measuring the distance between the sensor and objects. We haven’t had a chance to try out the camera suites on either device, so we can’t call a winner here, but both seem to be very well-equipped.
SOFTWARE AND UPDATES
You can expect to find Android 9.0 Pie on both devices, but the Samsung Galaxy Fold will have the One UI on top while the Huawei Mate X features EMUI 9.1.1. Both offer a range of handy extras and some clutter, but we prefer One UI on normal phones. Much depends on how the software handles screen switching and multitasking, which we simply can’t say much about until we get some proper time with these folding phones. The way Android is designed, most apps and games should adapt to the different sizes automatically.
Sadly, both Huawei and Samsung have a poor track record with Android updates and both tend to take quite a few months to update their devices when a new version comes out.
The folding screens are obviously the real standout features, but both manufacturers like to offer a lot of extra value. Samsung showed off the Multi-Active Window with three apps open at once and talked about App Continuity enabling you to switch screens seamlessly. You’ll also get support for the Dex desktop mode, Bixby, Samsung Pay, Knox, Health, and a few other bits and pieces.
Huawei seems to be sticking with Android’s usual split-screen mode, but the Mate X does support Mirror Shooting when folded, enabling subject and photographer to preview shots in real time. There’s also the impressive 55W SuperCharge, which will enable that incredible zero to 85 percent wired charging in just half an hour.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Samsung Galaxy Fold will come in 4G LTE or 5G versions starting from $1,980. The 5G version will presumably be more expensive. We know that AT&T and T-Mobile will carry it, but other carriers may pick it up. It will be available from April 26 in the U.S. and May 3 in Europe.
The Huawei Mate X will only come in a 5G version costing 2,300 euros (around $2,600). It will be released around the world when carriers and 5G networks are ready, which is likely to be early summer this year. There’s no word on a U.S. release, which is unsurprising given Huawei’s difficulties in the States.