Huawei releases 5G foldable Mate X
Analysts say it's proof that US blacklist isn't blocking company
Published: Oct 23, 2019 07:58 PM

A person uses the Huawei Mate X, the first 5G foldable smartphone from Huawei, during the 17th China Digital Entertainment Expo, also known as ChinaJoy 2019, in Shanghai, in August, 2019. Photo: IC

Huawei released its 5G foldable Mate X in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province on Wednesday. The much-anticipated release, which was slightly delayed by three months, is strong proof that the company is moving steadily forward under the impact of the US blacklist, industry analysts said.

The high-end series equipped with its self-developed Kirin 980 chips will officially hit the market in China on November 15, with a starting price of 16,999 yuan ($2,400).

The Mate X series makes the Chinese technology company a direct competitor of Samsung, which released its Galaxy Fold in South Korea on September 6 at a price of about $2,000.

Media reports said the Galaxy Fold is set to be available in China market from online stores as of November 1.

"Development of foldable phones is still at a starting point, but since Huawei has officially announced the release, it proves that Huawei is confident of the Mate X's quality," Ma Jihua, a veteran industry analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Samsung previously scheduled the launch of the Galaxy Fold on April 26, but delayed the move after problems in its test units arose due to fragile screens and hinges.

Ma noted that the Mate X is using domestic display maker BOE's flexible AMOLED displays instead of Samsung's, indicating that the company will not be "held hostage" to screen supplies from the South Korean company.

Even so, Huawei still has to prove that its design is a more reliable one than the Galaxy Fold's, Ma said. "But both models can be early tests of whether the new folding technology could be accepted by consumers."

Other brands are also aiming for the market. Microsoft, for example, has attempted to dabble in the foldable devices market with its Surface Duo, a dual-screen prototype that consists of two screens and can be folded and unfolded like a book. Surface Duo is expected to launch in 2020.  

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi also showcased its foldable phone earlier this year in a video. Although the device is yet to be launched or priced, a report by in March said that the price might be only about $999, drastically lower than most of its competitors.

Apart from the Mate X series, Huawei also announced a series of new 5G products on Wednesday, including the Mate 30 5G version, which started pre-sale at 18:08 pm Beijing time on the same day with a price starting from 4,999 yuan.

The company also announced sales of its 5G module, with a price of 999 yuan, which industry analysts said will reshape the sector and allow thousands of industries to take advantage of 5G networks. 

It also released the world's first 5G dual-mode full Netcom accompanying WiFi - the Huawei 5G accompanying WiFi -- allowing non-5G devices to share 5G high-speed broadband. 

He Gang, head of Huawei's mobile phone division, said on Wednesday the company had already sold more than 200 million smartphones this year as of Tuesday. It hit that mark more than two months earlier than it did in 2018.

Although standing high amid the US trade ban, experts noted that uncertainties persist for the Chinese company. For instance, the Mate X and Mate 30 series face risks of being banned from using Google apps and the Android operating system.

"The US ban will not influence its domestic sales, but its overseas sales have already been affected by the US ban, and we are not sure how long the impact will last," Xiang Ligang, a veteran industry analyst who follows Huawei closely, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"The company could have become the world's No.1 smartphone maker by surpassing Samsung, but it likely will attain the second place this year with the uncertainties ahead," an industry insider said.