Despite the fact that the Huawei Mate X was announced at MWC 2019, with promises of a June release, that particular foldable has yet to be released outside of China. Which is a huge shame for all the people who were willing to drop over £2,000 on a phone that would be obsolete in a year or two. And obsolete it may be, because Huawei has announced that the Mate X is being replaced by the Mate XS - a foldable that may actually be released here. So is there much difference between the two?
The short answer is no, the long answer is a bit more complicated.
The Mate X and the Mate XS, on the outside, look almost completely identical. And that's because they are. Same folding mechanism, same handle, same camera design, and so on. The spin is ever-so-slightly different, but at a glance nobody is going to be able to tell the difference between the two. The internals is where it counts, and the big difference is that the Mate XS has a totally new chipset - with Huawei pushing in the Kirin 990 over last year's Kirin 980.
A year is a long time in chip-making, so naturally Huawei wants to release a phone with the latest chips - especially when it makes those chips itself. But the Kirin 990 is more than just faster and more powerful than the 980. It's also a 5G SoC (system on chip) which means the one chip contains the processor and 5G modem, rather than the 980 which was a 4G SoC that required a separate 5G modem to be installed. We discussed the Kirin 990 back when it was announced at IFA, but the short version of the story is that it's faster, more powerful, takes up less space than the 980 equivalent, and is more energy efficient. All of which are good things.
The hinge itself has had some minor tweaks to help improve the mechanism and make it both firmer and sturdier. Apparently this helps the Mate XS feel slightly different (firmer and stronger, no less), but based on my limited time with both Mate X models I can't say I noticed anything. Maybe if I had them both side by side, but considering the original isn't available outside China nobody is going to be able to do that.
Given the design is nearly identical, it makes sense that the display is identical too. It's the same 6.6-inch main display, 6.38 rear display, and 8-inch unfolded tablet display - all with the same resolutions as before. The display itself is plastic, so there's no magical flexi-glass layer like the one Samsung has been bragging about. Battery is identical too, with two different batteries offering a total of 4,500 mAh capacity. The camera has the same quad lens system with a 40MP wide angle lens (f/1.8), a 16MP wide angle lens (f/2.2), an 8MP telephoto lens (f/2.4 with OIS), and a time of flight depth sensor. Likewise it has 55W fast charging which Huawei says can offer 85% power in 30 minutes - the same as last year's model.
Huawei also bragged about the butterfly cooling system, which I assume is the same as the one in the Mate X. Sadly I can't find anyone mentioning the cooling in the original, so I'm not quite certain about that. Pretty much everything else is the same, so...
The only other key difference is that the Mate XS runs on Android Open Source 10, while the Mate X came out before the whole Google Play ban and ran Android 9.0. Naturally it has EMUI 10 over the top, as is the Huawei way.
The Mate XS will come with a single variant that comes with 8GB RAM and 512GB of storage, and will go on sale globally from next month. UK release details haven't been announced yet, but the price in Europe is set to be an extortionate €2,499 (compared to last year's €2,299) - which likely means a £2,499 price tag when it arrives here.