Huawei’s no good, very bad year continues to get worse. The company came into 2019 with a growing market share and some impressive technology. Huawei unveiled a folding phone just a few weeks after Samsung, and most would agree the Huawei mate X looked much sleeker than the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Now, Huawei is staring down the barrel of a politically motivated technology export ban, and the Mate X is taking longer than expected to finish. The company now says the phone won’t launch until late this year.
The Mate X was the second “real” folding Android phone. There have been uncountable trade show demos and sketchy developers devices like the FlexPai, but Huawei promised to sell the Mate X to consumers. And it looked gorgeous, unlike the clunky Galaxy Fold. When flattened out, the phone offers an 8-inch display. The Mate X folded outward, so the single flexible OLED covered the front and back of the device.
Huawei initially wanted to launch the Mate X in June, which was an ambitious timeline that would have put it up against Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Of course, the Galaxy Fold famously disintegrated in reviews’ hands last spring. Samsung hurriedly recalled the devices and set to work retooling the device, which still hasn’t launched.
While Huawei never specifically cited the Galaxy Fold’s issues, it delayed the launch of the Mate X soon after Samsung pulled the device. At the time, Huawei floated September as the new launch timeframe, but the company has announced at an event in its sprawling Chinese HQ that, no, the phone will not be ready next month.
The company still thinks the device will come out this year and leaves the door open to a “launch between September and November 2019.” The later timeframe seems more likely from what Huawei representatives have said when not restrained by PR. Part of the issue may be Huawei’s relationship with Google, which hangs in limbo as the government drags its feet on granting special export licenses.
It sounds like Huawei is trying to give itself some breathing room as it decides how to approach the Fold. It’s not even certain that Samsung’s design tweaks will make that device sufficiently robust, and Huawei doesn’t need any more negative press. The last thing Huawei needs is the president making fun of its broken phone on Twitter.
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