Huawei launches new Mate X2 foldable smartphone amid US sanctions

Huawei on Monday launched a high-end Mate X2 foldable smartphone amid growing questions about its future of handset business which has been badly impacted as a result of US sanctions. The Mate X2 is Huawei’s second foldable smartphone, which succeeds the original Mate X. It will be made available in China on February 25 at a starting price of 17,999 Chinese Yuan (or approx Rs 2,01,566).

Unlike the original Mate X which had a single display panel that wraps around the entire phone’s body, the Mate X2 is heavily inspired by the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. When you open up, the phone gives access to its large 8-inch tablet display. And when it’s closed, and you interact with a separate 6.45-inch phone screen. Both are OLED displays and have refresh rates of up to 90Hz.

Under the hood, the phone is powered by Huawei’s very own Kirin 9000 chipset, the same processor that made its debut in last year’s Mate 40. There are four cameras on the rear of the phone, including a 50MP wide-angle lens as well as an 8MP “SuperZoom” camera with a 10x optical zoom.

The launch of the Mate X2 comes at a time when Huawei’s future seems uncertain in the smartphone market. The former Trump administration had put Huawei under on a Commerce Department “entity list” in May 2019, cutting off access to key components used in smartphones. The Trump administration allegedly called Huawei a national security risk due to its alleged ties with the Chinese government. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegation, saying the US government had never produced concrete evidence of the charge.

Last year, Huawei briefly rose to the number one position in the smartphone market worldwide, beating both Apple and Samsung. But its market share soon collapsed as the company could not get access to the raw materials and chips used to power smartphones. Huawei announced in November it sold its budget Honor phone brand to a Chinese government-backed consortium for an undisclosed amount. The pressure is mounting on Huawei to exit the handset business altogether, but Huawei recently said it would never “sell” its smartphone business.

The future of HarmonyOS

Huawei has been barred from using Google’s Android mobile operating system in its phones. It may not be a big deal for consumers in China as Google services are already banned. But for consumers in India and other international markets, it possible to live without Google apps on an Android-based smartphone.

Instead of admitting the defeat, Huawei said its future smartphones would run on its own operating system called HarmonyOS. During the launch event for the Mate X2, Huawei said the second-generation foldable phone will be one of the first Huawei smartphones able to run the HarmonyOS mobile operating system. Huawei said consumers will be able to upgrade their phones to HarmonyOS starting April.

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