Huawei Executive Director Richard Yu talks to T3 about its pioneering 5G Mate X foldable phone

"The important thing is to bring the best technology, the best innovation, to the consumers"

Huawei Mate X foldable phone
Richard Yu - Huawei Executive Director, CEO of the Consumer Business Group

T3 is currently reporting live from Mobile World Congress 2019 and after attending the most anticipated event of the show, Huawei's Connecting the Future conference, and reporting on its dramatic unveiling of the Huawei Mate X foldable phone, we proceeded to go hands on with the device so we could bring you our early verdict Huawei Mate X review.

Naturally, we also caught up with the man who is currently at the forefront of the Chinese maker's innovation drive, Executive Director, CEO of the Consumer Business Group Richard Yu, for an interview to discuss exactly how the Mate X fitted into Huawei's plans over the next year and to discover his thoughts on the 5G revolution that his company is currently at the vanguard of.

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

T3 in attendance at the Huawei Mate X unveiling at Mobile World Congress 2019.

T3: How important was it for you, in terms of timing, to show off the Huawei Mate X foldable phone now?

Richard Yu: With [the launch] of a foldable, 5G smartphone at Huawei we [would] like the industry to know what the benefits are that 5G can bring to everyone. Because with 5G technology we have leadership.

So I think with 5G we can help people to do more – bring back the innovation. Not only 5G, not only for human beings, but also for productivity and for business – for everything.

"We want to show the world that 5G makes your life better"

5G is not only connecting people, but also it’s connecting machines. That’s why we relaunched with 5G. It’s to lead with foldable 5G – a very compatible, innovative, foldable, 5G phone. And then our infrastructure is ahead of the industry.

We want to show the world that 5G makes your life better. It makes your business more high-efficiency. It makes every country using 5G have more advantages. It brings more advantages to your business, to the efficiency, and to society.

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

The Mate X's folding screen is supported by Huawei's Falcon Wing Mechanical Hinge.

So this is why we launched [the Huawei Mate X]. And hopefully this phone will carry us for a few to trial, for the commercial 5G trial. Maybe they need two or three months for a few of the networks to learn [how] to launch the service.

"With this innovative technology, you can inspire"

Because people can buy these phones. It’ll be the middle of this year. Maybe in June, July. I think 5G phones are similar to this. 4G phones are not good. They don’t inspire people. With this innovative technology, you can inspire. You can encourage and inspire more people to use 5G services. We can sell [the Mate X] and the best technology. It’s the best innovation globally. Nobody can do this on 5G.

On the smartphone side, I think we have at least half a year to one year of leading time.

T3: Is that leading time particular to 5G?

RY: In 5G phones, yes. Because even when you can see some launch and a demo – that’s not for commercial [sale]. The difference is that we can make the 5G commercialised [handset]. We can use it. Not only for a demo, but for commercial. So that’s different.

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

The Huawei Mate X's FullView OLED screen measures eight inches when fully unfolded.

T3: Will there be a Huawei 5G phone that comes out before the Mate X?

RY: We have other phones we’ve upgrade to 5G, also, but [they aren't brought to market yet as] the carriers are not ready. So we have to wait.

This is bigger innovation. That’s why we launched [the Huawei Mate X at Mobile World Congress 2019]. The carriers are building the network now. They need to progress. So we need some time to launch it, to wait until they’re ready to launch their services.

T3: Do you think the Mate X will launch in China or Hong Kong before Europe?

RY: I think maybe a similar time. It’ll depend on which carrier can make their network ready. If they can make their network ready in May, maybe we can start to sell in May. We have discussed it with the carriers. Most of them, we’ll start a commercial launch in maybe June to July of this year.

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

The Huawei Mate X foldable phone's internal hardware is located in a vertical sidebar, which doubles as an ergonomic grip for one-hand use.

From the first day, we’ll give 5G phones for the commercial launch, the commercial services, so they can sell to the consumers. Before that, we gave it to the executives, to the test engineers to do that, to the employees, and then the customers will try. A few will try.

T3: When do you expect the price of foldable phones to reach the price of the current Huawei Mate and P series now?

RY: It’s difficult. Currently, the cost is very high. Maybe we need at least two years. So with time, we can reduce the cost to a similar cost in maybe two years. I’m not sure. We need more hard work to lower the cost.

"I love it, personally. I really love it."

Currently, the cost is really, really high. But it’s worth it. But I love it, personally. I really love it. I use this. I won’t use the other smartphone anymore. It’s so light and [has] a big screen.

T3: Are you not worried about it cannibalising your other product categories with the Mate X?

RY: I don’t worry. The more important thing is to bring the best technology, the best innovation, to the consumers.

With this people will use the PC less than a tablet. They can all use this for their work. My email, my PowerPoint, my Office… to be honest, reading books… it’s very, very good. So I don’t worry about this cannibalisation.

If we don’t do that, a competitor can do that. We’re kind of spoiled by our innovation. We should bring the best available to a consumer. That’s our key.

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

Huawei CEO Richard Yu demonstrating the Mate X's functionality to T3 at MWC 2019.

T3: We've gone hands on with the Huawei Mate X and for that we'd like to thank you. We've not been able to touch some other unveiled foldable devices, though. Do you think that that invites a lot of scepticism about whether or not these things work or are real?

RY: You can see that this is real. To be honest, I’ve been using this for many days. I already use it. I feel it is really good.

The other ones? I don’t know. It’s because they’re not ready for commercial [use]. Because they heard that we are launching, so they hurried to launch ahead of us. I heard that they got the information that we were launching foldable phones, and they wanted to do it earlier than us. But I think they are not ready.

"To be honest with you, this is the most difficult project we’ve had on smart devices"

But we are not ready. Currently, with 4G, we can sell it, and allow everyone to use it. But with 5G, we need more time to guarantee the 5G networks are in calibration. This is a 4G phone today, and everyone I deal with in the media, each one of you, is fortunate, you can use that. But this is 5G, so we need more testing to guarantee there are no issues.

T3: Durability of the foldable phone hinges is something quite a few people are concerned about over the long term. What kind of testing can you talk about that you've undertaken on the Mate X?

RY: Oh, we are designing the durability for 100,000 times. I think that’s enough, every year, for everything you’re paying for. It’s strong enough, I think. You know, we are doing the drop testing, too. So we test this capability to make it stronger, the drop test. Because it’s a flexible screen.

Huawei Mate X foldable phone

The Mate X's 4,500mAh battery capacity can be recharged from zero to 85 per cent in 30 minutes via Huawei's 55W SuperCharge tech.

T3: Have you had trouble with discolouration on the folding part of the screen during development of the Mate X?

RY: At the beginning of the drop testing, during those months we had good progress solving these issues.

In the past this was really a problem. Now we don’t have this issue. That’s why we have a lot of technology know-how. This is not easy to do. It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult to do, to be honest. Very, very difficult.

To be honest with you, this is the most difficult project we’ve had on smart devices, on smartphones. The most difficult up to now.

Huawei Mate X folding phone

The Huawei Mate X is set for launch later in 2019, and will cost  €2,299.

T3: Lastly, we're curious about app support for the Mate X. How do you plan on getting developers to build or optimise their apps to run on this design?

RY: Most apps, they can adjust [automatically]. The classics like YouTube or Google Maps – [there is] no need for adaptation [for them] to work. The popular apps in China, they all work very, very well on this.

So there’s no need for adaptation. There’s automatically adaptation to use that. So it should be OK. In the beginning, we had some concerns, but finally, I used the apps, and we found that it’s OK.

T3: Richard, many thanks for the chat, it is much appreciated.

RY: No, thank you.