It folds! But this smartphone will cost you R37 000

The Falcon Wing mechanical hinge is easy on the eye and allows the screen the space to bend without affecting the screen too much. Picture: Muhammad Hussain
The Falcon Wing mechanical hinge is easy on the eye and allows the screen the space to bend without affecting the screen too much. Picture: Muhammad Hussain

The most expensive smartphone to hit South Africa will be foldable.

Huawei’s Mate X is set to debut later this year with a price tag of R37 000 (it might even break R40 000 when taxes and import duties are considered).

Why the huge price tag? Can it fly? Well, it does feature something called a falcon wing hinge that allows the 6.6-inch (about 16.76cm) phone to open into an 8-inch (20cm) almost square tablet.

But you can’t flap the screens and use them as a falcon does. Pity.

“Just the falcon wing hinge has been in R&D for three years and has over 100 components,” Akhram Mohamed, Huawei Technologies SA’s chief technology officer told City Press.

“This will be the most expensive phone Huawei has ever brought to South Africa,” Mohamed added. Because the entire phone has been in R&D for at least six years and it is first-generation technology, some of the costs will have to be recouped.

The other contributing factor is that the software and hardware specifications will be on par or better than Huawei’s current flagship, the P30 Pro, which retails at about R18 000.

The chipset, or rather, one of the two chipsets, that the Mate X will be fitted with is the Balong 5000, which was unveiled earlier this year. The chipset has been described as the “most powerful 5G modem in the world”.

Fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) aims for higher capacity than fourth generation (4G) and allows for higher density for mobile broadband users and massive machine communications.

The 8-inch tablet vision is that users will immerse themselves into entertainment or enhance their productivity with more surface area to play and work with. Picture: Muhammad Hussain

But 5G does not exist in South Africa yet ..?

“When 5G comes in, our phones will be future-proof,” Mohamed said, before mentioning that, unlike other chipsets, this one has the ability to “bridge existing 4G infrastructure to give you 5G experience”.

The really great thing about the coming 5G evolution is that, when it happens, the Mate X will be able to download a 1GB high-definition picture or video file in just three seconds.

It’s clear Huawei has put a lot of thought into their first foldable device and this is emphasised by the out-fold screen instead of the fold-in screen, like the now-infamous Samsung foldable phone.

Samsung’s phone broke when reviewers were testing it, with reasons ranging from removing a plastic sheet to folding one screen on top of another to the strength of the display.

The screen is made from a special plastic material instead of the traditional glass material of traditional smartphones. This is what gives the Mate X it’s bendable nature. Picture: Muhammad Hussain

Mohamed says that Huawei anticipated some of these problems that their competitors are experiencing. “That is why we decided to design it in this way,” adding that he does feel sorry for what Samsung are going through.

Samsung is unlikely to launch anytime soon in South Africa and, with Huawei making this country a “first-wave” country, Mohamed confirmed that “SA will launch at the same time as global, which is scheduled for mid-2019.”

City Press was fortunate to get a chance to view a concept Mate X phone in April and it really impressed us.

The bulge where the phone bends did look a bit too prominent, but Mohamed assured us that it would hold up even if folded a hundred times a day.

The crisp colours, lightweight design and easy-to-hold phone is one to look out for.

Asked what the future holds, Mohamed said that the plan is to have a foldable phone for under $1 000 (R14 260) in the next 19 to 24 months.

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August 2020

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