The Huawei Mate Xs 2 is the company’s second foldable to officially launch in South Africa this year, after the P50 Pocket.

The Mate Xs 2’s form is different to the flip phone but, as a folding smartphone, it is unlike any other foldable on the market today. It folds outwards and uses a single screen, which is wrapped around the phone when closed, whereas the Samsung Fold has two screens and folds inwards like a book.

The single-screen design on the Mate Xs 2 makes it the thinnest folding device on the market at 5.4mm, weighing 255g. Its closest rival, the Fold 4, is 6.3mm and 263g.

The 20cm display uses Huawei’s new falcon-wing hinge which allows it to be opened flat, using a physical button on the right. The transition from the home screen is smooth and no crease is visible. Even when you look at it from the side, you cannot see the crease.

The display is a high-res OLED that has a 120Hz refresh rate and, when unfolded, has a 2 480 x 2 200 resolution. It folds into a 16.5cm elongated phone with a 2 480 x 1 176 screen resolution at 424 pixels per inch (ppi).

The bar that houses the rear cameras, which doubles up as the grip, is comfortable to hold in one hand and can be used similar to a tablet.

On the software side, it runs on Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and you download apps from the App Gallery, due to the notably absent Google Play Store.

I set up the phone from scratch and chose not to carry over data from another handset. It went better than I expected.

For starters, I downloaded apps like Instagram, Whatsapp and Chrome using the direct APK files (Android package file). Apps such as TikTok, Truecaller and Telegram are available on App Gallery. Others, for example, LinkedIn, Twitter and Netflix, can be downloaded via the Petal search integration inside the App Gallery which has a direct link to the APK file. It depends if you want to locate the installation files manually or not.

South African apps readily available include Woolworths, 22Seven, EskomSePush, Showmax and Sars. Banking covers Absa, Capitec, FNB, Discovery, Nedbank, Tyme, African Bank and Standard Bank.

Most of the apps you want, you should be able to find an APK file for, although YouTube and other Google apps will not work because that requires Google Mobile Services, so I accessed YouTube via the Chrome browser. I also couldn’t find a version of Disney Plus.

There will be software glitches relating to some apps not being optimised for a device this size. The Fold 4 has the advantage of running a new, unique Android 12L version. Instagram doesn’t look good when the phone is opened, because of the ratio, but it can be accessed when the phone is folded.

The Mate Xs 2 runs on a Snapdragon 888 4G octa-core chip, an Adreno 660 GPU and 8GB of RAM with 512GB of storage. It has a stunning display, so everything looks good, and performance is great for daily usage, but keep in mind the chipset is nearly two years old.

It supports multitasking and is probably one of the main reasons you’d want to buy the Mate Xs 2. It’s great for when you need to check in on work but don’t want to carry a laptop around. If you travel often for business, it makes sense to own one.

The rear camera is a trio of a 50MP true-chroma wide-angle, a 13MP ultra-wide angle and an 8MP telephoto with optical image stabilisation. It supports 4K video, optical zoom, super macro, light painting, etc. The selfie-camera is 10.7MP wide-angle and does slow-mo videos, portraits and panoramas. Cameras have always been Huawei’s strong point.

The standard photos and portraits work well but I found super macro and aperture a bit blurry with most of my takes. Huawei shines when it comes to night mode, light trails etc. However, while using the device, photography was not my main focus, as is with tablet-like devices.

It was large for my pockets and I was concerned about the exposed wrap-around display touching other items in my bag. A cover is in the box but it’s not obvious that it aids in holding the device up in tent mode. With the cover on when closed, you cannot unfold it without removing it entirely.

The exposed display also means fingerprints galore and you might end up wiping it a lot. Speaking of which, there is a fingerprint sensor on the power button for added security. I enrolled my thumbprint but, oddly enough, I received error messages while trying to unlock the phone and ended up using the passcode.

It has a 4600mAh battery but, let’s be honest, with a 120Hz OLED display you’d want to unfold and use, don’t expect “long-lasting”. That said, it lasts a day and that should be sufficient. It’s a device you want to use to its full potential and, for quick top-up, use the 66W SuperCharge plug provided in the box.

The Mate Xs 2 is an excellent foldable with a unique display, compared to what else is out there, even though it feels exposed when folded. The App Gallery is getting better, otherwise there’s an Android APK file. However, most apps are not optimised for the device. From a hardware point of view, there is no 5G support or wireless charging.

The Mate Xs 2, which comes in at R39 999, should be treated like a supplementary device, not a primary one.

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