Huawei Impresses with the Launch of the Foldable Mate X

Published March 4, 2019

As expected, Huawei announced its first foldable smartphone, which it calls the Mate X, on Sunday February 24th, the day before the Mobile World Congress (MWC) started. It is an outfolding design as you can see below which has 3 display configurations:

  • 8.03” 2480 x 2200 when unfolded, which works out to 413 PPI. The aspect ratio is close to square at 3.4:3.
  • When folded, the front display is 6.6” with 2480 x 1148 resolution which works out to 414 PPI and 19.4:9.
  • The rear display when folded is 6.38” with 2480 x 892 resolution which works out to 413 PPI and a tall 25:9 aspect ratio.

The display comes from BOE which is producing the LTPS TFT backplane on its 4.5G R&D line at B2 with the OLED frontplane coming from its 2.5G R&D facility in Beijing. The frontplane capacity is limited. Given yield losses, they may only be able to produce 1000 units per month. If they intend to hit the volume targets they have been discussing, they will likely need to transfer production to B7 Phase 2 which we currently show ramping from July.

Huawei’s Mate X (It stands when folded)

The Mate X is expected to available from June at a record breaking price of 2300 Euros or $2600. In the case of the other specifications vs. the Galaxy Fold, they are shown below. The outfolding approach offers both a front and rear display when folded, while the infolding Galaxy Fold only offers a front display. The Mate X is also higher resolution than the Galaxy Fold at 413 PPI vs. 362 PPI.

Other differences include the thickness. The Mate X uses a clever Falcon Wing to house the cameras which can be used when folded or unfolded. It also serves to support the foldable display and can serve as a grip to hold the foldable smartphone with one hand and use the other hand to take photos, swipe the display, etc. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, it also can fold completely flat. The Mate X is quite a bit thinner when folded than the Galaxy Fold at 0.43” vs. 0.67”. However, when unfolded, the Mate X is thicker at 0.43” vs. 0.28” due to that Falcon Wing. If this Falcon Wing was excluded, then the Huawei Mate X is thinner at 0.21” vs. 0.28”.

Mate X vs. Galaxy Fold

Huawei Mate X Falcon Wing

The Mate X fingerprint reader is integrated into the power button while the Galaxy Fold is side mounted. The Galaxy Fold comes with more memory and comes with 6 cameras vs. 4 on the Mate X with cameras on every display. It also appears to have built in the capability to seamlessly move apps and other content to the bigger screen when it is unfolded. I did not hear anything about having 3 apps open at the same time as the Galaxy Fold has achieved. However, if Android makes that functionality available to all, it won’t be a differentiator.

The Mate X has a larger battery than the Galaxy Fold which is important. Samsung may need to increase the battery size for the 5G configuration. Both have fast charging capabilities.

The price difference is significant, but will likely be closer when comparing the Galaxy Fold 5G configuration. One would think the Galaxy Fold would have a longer lifetime with an in-folding display.

Many mainstream media came away from MWC thinking that foldables will eventually become a big deal. They stole the show according to some members of the media, generating more press than 5G, with the Huawei Mate X a primary reason. We are now seeing major smartphone brands putting more emphasis on foldable smartphones. We believe one brand may even have 3 models in the market this year. Our current forecast for foldables is shown below with 1.65M panels shipping in 2019 and over 80M panels shipping in 2023 to smartphone, notebook and tablet manufacturers. Both panel makers and set makers need foldable to succeed. Panel makers need it since they are struggling with fab utilization and foldable will consume more capacity with their larger sizes and lower yields. Set makers are dealing with markets that have plateaued and need high-end products to boost revenues. Thus, foldable should inevitably succeed and I believe our 2022-2023 forecasts may even be cautious.

DSCC’s Latest Foldable Panel Forecast

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Written by

Ross Young