The US trade ban that prevents companies like Google from selling tech to Huawei may have crippled (in the West, at least) one of the most impressive foldable phones 0f 2019/2020.
The Mate X’s clever reverse fold design is better than Samsung’s book-shaped Galaxy Fold, largely because it folds flat. It also doesn’t need a third screen, which means it transforms comfortably from smartphone to tablet – and back again – easily. Combined with Huawei’s camera tech, the Chinese company’s device could’ve caused real problems for Samsung and Motorola.
Both companies probably can’t believe their luck. The Trump administration’s decision all but wiped out a major competitor with a single decree, which gives Motorola and Samsung a clearer shot at vacuuming up more high-spending customers in the upcoming foldable phone war next year.
But, if Huawei’s own Harmony OS becomes a reality, what kind of competition will it face in Motorola’s 2019 Razr?
As I say, the Mate X’s reverse book-shape design is a significant improvement on Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. It’s clever, too. When the display is folded back the exposed edge blacks out and turns into a bezel with the help of palm rejection technology.
But there’s two issues with this: firstly, the durability of flexible displays is questionable – especially when it’s constantly exposed like that. Secondly, the Mate X – as impressive as it is – doesn’t necessarily solve a usage problem in the way Motorola’s Razr does. The Razr folds into almost half of its extended size, and therefore half of the size of a traditional smartphone. That makes it compact and pocketable. There’s a clear reason for it to exist. That’s less the case with the Mate X (and Samsung’s Fold) which essentially transforms from a big device into an even bigger device.
Size is an issue, too. The book-shape foldable phones are essentially double the thickness of a standard handset when collapsed. It’s cool to have the functionality but when you’re using them as a phone, rather than a tablet, they just scream ‘compromise’. You’re trading away a sleek, slim phone for the ability to have a tablet in your pocket.
There are, of course, obvious benefits to having a handset that extends into a larger screen – productivity being one of them. But reversing an almost decade-long trend of smartphones continuously growing in stature is far more impressive.
That display though..
The Mate X’s exposed display that acts as a bezel when collapsed gives me anxiety. There will be problems and, in preparation, Huawei needs to have a fair and robust replacement/repair policy.
The problem is that early indications suggest replacement displays for the Mate X could be upward of $1000, according to a leak. In comparison to Samsung’s $149 replacement price and Motorola’s free repair/replacement policy, Huawei’s fee is astronomically high.
That may not be the final price (leaks have to be taken with a pinch of salt), but Huawei does need to be competitive here. Foldable displays will usher in a new era of problems for manufacturers when it comes to warranty, and every company will have to balance a fair replacement/repair policy – for notoriously flimsy technology -with what is financially realistic for their companies.
Motorola has kicked off the warranty price war by offering a free “24-hour turnaround service” if the display fails. If there are other problems with the display “during normal use” then it will be repaired or replaced, too. For display or damage that occurs outside of this guarantee, replacements will cost $299.
It’s clearly best policy of the three manufacturers and, I suspect, will force Huawei and Samsung to rethink their respective warranty offers.