The Huawei Mate X3 is the latest foldable from Huawei. It looks very different to the previous-gen foldable Mate Xs 2, which had an outward single folding screen. The Mate X range is Huawei’s folding tablet devices, whereas the P50 Pocket from 2022 was a clamshell form factor.
The Huawei Mate X3 has two screens; one cover display, and one large inside when opened. Regarding the design direction, it clearly looks like Huawei is still playing around in the space. Comparatively, it felt less secure to carry a phone around with screen wrapped around it outwardly. It didn’t fit any pocket so if it was in a bag, I had to make sure it wouldn’t scratch anything inside it.
The Mate X3 has a narrow 6.4-inch display when folded (2504×1080 pixels), and a larger 7.85-inch tablet display when opened (2496×2224 pixels). Both are 120Hz OLED displays, and everything looks vibrant on it. It is a high-res bright display with a barely visible crease because you’re too busy looking at what’s on-screen. This is something people comment on first, but you eventually don’t notice it, like a notch.
Regarding the back, I like the leather like green design, but it feels wasted if you’re going to use the supplied clear cover in the box to cover it up. The cover is only for one back panel, the front display is still exposed. I think it’s worth getting a screen protector for the front.
When opened, it is 156.9×11.08×141.5mm and 239g in weight. When you compare it to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, it is 155.1×130.1×6.3mm and 263g, which makes the Huawei lighter.
LET’S GET STRAIGHT TO IT
The Mate X3 costs R45 000, as of 14 June 2023, and it is currently bundled with a Huawei Watch GT 3 SE and FreeBuds 5i, jointly worth R6 200. In comparison, the most expensive iPhone, the 14 Pro Max 1TB version costs R41 799. It is ridiculous amount money for a phone. And it’s impossible not to mention the fact that it runs on a barebones version of Android without the Play Store. It does have Huawei’s App Gallery.
INTRODUCING GMS… KIND OF
And what it does have now is access to Google Mobile Services (GMS) through a third party app called GBox. It simplifies the side-loading process of getting apps that are not on Huawei’s App Gallery. The developers describe GBox as: having Google services, Google framework, and the ‘Google Store’ built into it.
Here’s a screenshot of GBox from the Huawei Mate X3 that I’ve been testing, to give you an idea of what apps you can easily download directly, without searching for source files from APK sites.
I found it to be a huge improvement over the last Huawei device I reviewed, the P50 Pocket. GBox is really simple, you don’t have to worry about searching for links or accidentally download something malicious, it’s just convenient and streamlines the process. The apps that you see above is the total number of apps inside GBox.
Another thing worth mentioning is that it does not have ads.
If you are a Huawei fan pre-US sanctions days and still want to find a way to use it, you will love GBox. AppGallery itself has loads of other South African relevant apps and services.
USING IT ON THE DAILY
The phone is snappy, there is no lag. For anyone who is unsure about the experience without the full Android OS, getting apps is simplified but still limited. I would have preferred to use Chrome as my browser but disappointingly, GBox does not have it so I opted for the next best thing available, Opera. Watching multimedia content is great, sounds is good. The audio jack is a the USB-C charging port though; choose wisely.
I know Huawei is putting out its best hardware, except it does not have 5G connectivity, which is the norm in 2023, and could be a dealbreaker, in addition to the obvious software limitations.
The phone is large to carry around, it does not fit my pockets so it has to go in my bag. Inside the box, there is a clear cover supplied, but the screen feels like it needs a protector.
50MP TRIPLE CAMERA
The Mate X3 has a 50MP rear main camera, supplemented with a 13MP ultra-wide and 12MP Periscope telephoto. It has a huge camera bump and it does not sit flush, like most phones today.
The camera is really impressive, but Huawei always had excellent cameras. And if you’ve read my previous reviews on various platforms, I said that nobody buys a folding phone for the camera. Well, I am here to say if you’re buying the Mate X3, the camera is definitely going to be one of the main reasons.
Here are two portrait shots that speak for themselves. I’ve made the image clickable for you to see it in slightly better quality.
I took pictures in different light conditions, indoors, outdoors, food pics, etc. Here are outdoor shots, one is showing you what could have been a washed out shot with the sun behind, completely unedited, and next to it is not just macro, but wide angle macro. You can also zoom into it:
And lastly, here’s a night time shot:
Because of the two displays, it has two selfie cams: both 8MP on the folded and unfolded display (so the above 50MP triple cam means there are three sets of cameras on it). I didn’t bother using the selfie cam that much when the portrait mode was so good. Front and rear cameras shoot 4K videos.
Unlike a lot of other smartphones, the camera modes can sometimes be hit or miss, and inconsistent. With the Mate X3, I found the results to be consistently good.
I have to give it to Android land, battery life is hardly a concern with premium phones because most have super-fast charging and at least 4000mAh batteries. The Mate X3 has a 4800mAh and it has excellent standby time. I mention this a lot because when you pick up the phone between using multiple phones, you don’t want to see a drained battery. This phone doesn’t have that problem.
But it also comes with a 66W Fast Charge plug and a wireless charging speed of 50W (like, what?). A quick charge will juice you up in no time, so in all honesty, this isn’t a concern. This is also a direct relation to how much of the larger screen you are accessing, and how bright it is. The more you use it over the front display, you’re likely going to need an afternoon top-up.
REST OF THE SPECS
The Mate X3 is a powerhouse; it runs on a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, Adreno GPU, an on-device AI engine (Qualcomm’s 7th-gen), 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. It supports external storage up to 256GB. It is rated IPX8 for splash and water resistance. Connectivity options include dual-SIM, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and a Type-C headphone jack. There is no 5G support.
Recharged is an independent site that focuses on technology, electric vehicles, and the digital life by Nafisa Akabor. Drawing from her 16-year tech journalism career, expect news, reviews, how-tos, comparisons, and practical uses of tech that are easy to digest. email@example.com