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The Huawei Mate X3 is a hard phone to review. On one hand, it has the most impressive foldable hardware I've ever seen— and I've tested every single foldable phone ever commercially released. Speaking purely of hardware, it makes the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 look a generation behind. But the Mate X3 is also missing easy access to services used by billions of people on Earth, and it's priced on the highest end of the mobile phone spectrum. Due to the latter two factors, the Mate X3 has no chance of being anything other than a niche enthusiast phone in regions outside its native China.

But even with limited mass commercial appeal, the Mate X3 is a device worthy of coverage and attention because it's doing things at the hardware level no other company has been able, or willing, to do. It sets a standard that foldable enthusiasts and mobile reviewers can reference, so when other companies release foldables with compromised hardware, we can evaluate those decisions objectively.

About this review: Huawei sent me a Mate X3 for testing, the company did not have input in this review.

huawei mate x3 render
Huawei Mate X3
A pricey foldable
7 / 10

The Huawei Mate X3's hardware is highly impressive, with two brilliant screens, a great zoom lens, and a very sleek build (for a foldable phone). But its high price and software limitations make it a very, very niche device. 

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 (4G)
7.8-inch P-OLED, 120Hz (main); 6.4-inch OLED, 120Hz (cover)
256GB, 512GB
Operating System
EMUI based on Android
Front camera
8MP; 8MP
Rear cameras
50MP wide, 12MP periscope, 13MP ultrawide
66W wired, 50W wireless
IP Rating
Micro SD card support
  • Unbelievably light and thin
  • Periscope zoom lens
  • Two great screens
  • No Google Mobile Services
  • Very pricey
  • No 5G

Huawei Mate X3: Pricing and availability

The Mate X3 launched in China at the beginning of the year and is available now in the U.K., and it'll be rolling out in other European markets like Germany in the coming weeks. In China, the phone is priced at 17,730 yuan (about $2,400). In Europe, it's priced at £1,999 ($2,540) in the U.K. and €2,199 ($2,400) in other markets.

Hardware and design

Unbelievably thin and light

Huawei Mate X3

The Huawei Mate X3 is one of the lightest book-like foldables I've seen. In fact, the only other book-like foldable that's lighter is the Oppo Find N2, which is noticeably smaller. Compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the Mate X3's sleekness is particularly jarring (it's 24g lighter and almost 5mm thinner). It actually weighs 1g lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max and is just a little bit thicker. I mean, just at the photos below. This is one of those times when a picture does a much better job than words.

Here's the thing, the Mate X3 isn't entirely unique in its sleekness. Xiaomi launched a foldable last year that is comparable to the Mate X3 in weight and thickness. However, Xiaomi's Mix Fold 2 had to compromise in a few areas: It lacked a fully articulate hinge, water resistance, wireless charging, or a real zoom camera. The theory was that those compromises were needed to achieve the slimming down, but the Mate X3 proves that's not the case because it has none of those compromises. Its hinge can stay in place at any angle; it has IPX8 water resistance; it has 50W wireless charging; and it packs a periscope lens that can achieve 5X optical zoom.

The rest of the hardware package is mostly top-notch too. The inner main screen is a 7.8-inch, 120Hz, 2224x2496 OLED panel in an almost 1:1 square aspect ratio. The display uses the same waterdrop folding mechanism that leaves a much more subtle crease than Samsung's harsher folding mechanism. Even the Pixel Fold's crease, which is better than Samsung's, is far more noticeable than the Mate X3's. But this isn't new; all Chinese foldable phones have a less prominent crease than Samsung's foldables. But even compared to some other Chinese foldables from Xiaomi, Honor, and Tecno, the Mate X3's crease feels more subtle. I'd say it's on par with the Oppo Find N2's crease.

The outside cover screen measures 6.4 inches with a 21:9 aspect ratio. The refresh rate is also 120Hz, but the resolution drops to 1080x2540. This is not quite the WQHD+ resolution seen on most other flagships, but the panel is more than sharp enough. The more conventional aspect ratio means the phone feels much more like a normal phone when folded than the narrower screens seen on Samsung's foldables. The phone's powered by a 4G version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. The lack of 5G support is due to ongoing sanctions by the U.S. government, which also prevents the phone from accessing Google Mobile Services. As for the decision to use the last-generation chip, I'm not sure if that's also sanction-related or purely a decision on Huawei's end.

There's a sizable 4,800mAh battery that can be charged at 66W wired or 50W wirelessly, and the 66W charger is included with the package. The battery size is another impressive feat of hardware engineering, considering the Mate X3's thinness. I mean, when it's folded, the Mate X3 feels like a "normal" large slab phone.


The zoom sets it apart

The Huawei Mate X3 packs five cameras. The main camera module houses a 50MP main camera with f/1.9 aperture, a 13MP ultrawide, and a 12MP periscope. There are two additional 8MP selfie cameras housed in a hole-punch on each of the two screens. The main camera is likely a Sony IMX766 sensor with a 1/1.56-inch image sensor size and is backed by OIS. This camera hardware is nothing to write home about on a slab flagship, but you'll get some of the better sensors you'll find on a foldable. It's worth noting the main camera uses Huawei's RYYB filter array and gets Huawei's "XMAGE engine," an image processing algorithm.

Mate X3 camera module

What this means is that the main camera can capture very good images, with a slightly shallow depth-of-field and a natural ability to take in light at a hardware level without resorting to night mode too much. In the gallery below consisting of all photos captured by the main camera, notice dynamic range is spot on, with great sharpness and contrast. I can vouch that the colors are mostly accurate too, although Huawei's night shots tend to have a warm tint due to the RYYB array being more sensitive to yellow light.

The ultrawide camera is fine during the day but suffers from the usual soft noise and graininess in low-light scenes that plague most ultrawide cameras. Only the Oppo Find X6 Pro's ultrawide camera with its gigantic sensor can snap photos at night and not lose too much quality.

The star of the show, however, is the periscope zoom lens. For the longest time, we've had to deal with non-existent or mediocre zoom cameras on foldables. While the option here has a slow f/3.4 aperture, it uses periscope technology, which sees the sensor placed sideways in the phone's body to allow more room for image information to travel. The Mate X3's periscope zoom can produce 5X optical zoom and a respectable 10X zoom. In the below gallery are two sets of photos, captured at 1X, 5X, and 10X focal length. Even the night set's 10X shots look great for a foldable phone.

And yes, the Mate X3's Periscope zoom lens produces a sharper image than Samsung's Fold 4's telephoto lens, as you can see in the samples below. The difference isn't too noticeable at 10X, but go to 20X zoom and the periscope zoom image is clearly more detailed and less processed.

The front-facing cameras are fine, and they're the rare Chinese brand to be able to record at 4K resolution. Overall, the Mate X3's cameras do not reach the heights of the much heavier Mate X2, or any premium Chinese slab Android, but it's my pick for the best foldable camera right now, with one major caveat: I haven't tested the Pixel Fold long enough. While the latter's camera hardware does not appear better than Huawei's, Google's software could be the difference maker. I'll update this paragraph when I get to test the Pixel Fold soon.


Just how usable is the phone without Google Mobile Services?

OK, let's address the elephant in the room. The Mate X3 does not have official access to Google Mobile Services, which means the phone can't run apps like Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Play. This situation is not new — we are approaching year five — but it's still something that must be addressed.


How "bad" the problem is depends on your perspective, and as usual they're quite extreme. Many average consumers, or reviewers writing for that group, find the lack of GMS completely crippling and a non-starter. But then there are enthusiasts who've been able to install Google apps on Huawei phones, either via modding methods or using third-party sandbox software. And this group (which can be found in XDA forums) often scoffs at the idea that Huawei software is limited, claiming they've been using Huawei phones perfectly fine over the past few years.

I am somewhere in the middle. I'm obviously not a casual smartphone user, but I don't enjoy rooting or installing custom ROMs. And so my experience of using a Huawei phone is a compromised one, but not entirely broken.

This is purely an enthusiast phone, but one that shows what's possible with foldable phones.

There are official workarounds for the missing Google apps. You can't run the YouTube app on a Huawei phone, but you can access YouTube's web version on a browser. Microsoft's Outlook app, which runs perfectly fine on Huawei devices, supports Gmail and Google Calendar sync.

To find and install apps, Huawei offers two solutions: its own app store, called the AppGallery, or Petal Search. The AppGallery is surprisingly good if you live in Asia or European countries where Huawei has a presence since the company has worked hard to get local apps onto its app store. In Hong Kong, for example, all the major banking and service apps are officially available on AppGallery. But I'm currently living in the U.S., and American apps are, not surprisingly, all but missing here.

That's where Petal Search comes in, and it works great. Huawei has curated the search engine algorithm so that when you search for an app, it takes you directly to a reliable source to download the APK (this is usually APK Pure), and the software will also install the APK for you when the download is done. This means you don't have to dig around files to find the APK and manually install it. Through this method, I was able to get Netflix, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as my finance apps (Chase and PayPal), and they all ran well. Google Maps also surprisingly works on the Mate X3 (without any sort of hack); you just can't log into the Google account.

For the most part, I can use a Huawei phone as my main phone and still do 90-95% of the things I normally do with another phone. The biggest hurdles for me are that Slack can't push notifications on Huawei phones because it uses Google's Firebase app platform and I can't upload files to Google Drive.


Using a good Android skin

Other than not having GMS, Huawei's software UI is fine. EMUI (which is based on an open-sourced version of Android) still behaves like an Android phone, with a notification panel that you access by swiping from the top of the screen, and a gesture navigation system that's identical to Android's. (Random fact: Huawei actually adopted this current gesture navigation system before the Pixel phones, because Google had experimented with that terrible pill navigation for Pixel 3 series.)

The Mate X3 (right) and the Fold 4 (left)
The Mate X3 (right) and the Fold 4 (left)

EMUI's multitasking system is intuitive and practical. A swipe from the side and hold triggers a slide-over menu, from which you can drag apps into the screen. If you drag the app and hold it, the app launches in half the screen for split-screen action. If you just drag and drop the app, it launches in a smaller resizable floating window.

As a foldable with a large screen, I enjoyed gaming and consuming content on the phone, but the almost square aspect ratio does result in significant letterboxing in videos. I also find the Mate X3's stereo speakers to produce relatively flat audio. My iPhone 14 Pro Max and Fold 4's speakers definitely sound better.

Battery life is excellent, and among the best I've seen in a foldable.

The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip is still a great performer today, and I ran into no issues with gaming or editing short videos for Instagram. Speaking of that, EMUI's video editor built into the default photo gallery is excellent: it can trim videos not just from the beginning and end, but also in the middle. Of course, you can do these things with many third-party Android video editing apps, but those either cost money or have ads. EMUI offering full editing controls in a native first-party app is great.

The lack of 5G doesn't bother me much because I see no tangible data speed difference between LTE connectivity or 5G connectivity on T-Mobile in Los Angeles, in Hong Kong under the Smartone, or in Tokyo under Docomo. Honestly, the whole media hype around 5G back in the late 2010s (I took part in it too) is embarrassing to look back on today.

Mate x3 in the hand.

Battery life is excellent, and among the best I've seen in a foldable. Huawei's battery optimization has always been arguably the best in the industry — there was a period in 2017 when Huawei phones' battery life almost lapped rival Samsung/Apple phones in endurance. With the Mate X3, I would unplug the phone at 9 a.m., and by the end of the day at 1 a.m. (16 hours later), the phone would still have over 25% battery left. I'm a very heavy user, and most other phones I've tested in recent years would not fare as well.

Should you buy the Huawei Mate X3?

You should buy the Huawei Mate X3 if:

  • You are a foldable enthusiast who can afford the high price
  • You want the best foldable hardware
  • GMS limitations don't bother you

You should not buy the Huawei Mate X3 if:

  • You rely heavily on Google apps and services
  • You care about 5G connectivity
  • You care about finding better value foldables

The Huawei Mate X3's sky-high price (even when compared to other foldables) and lack of GMS means this is not a phone for the majority of people. This is purely an enthusiast phone, but one that shows what's possible with foldable phones.

If we think back to 2019 when foldable phones first came onto the scene, skeptics had three major concerns: foldables were too pricey, too thick/heavy, and too fragile. The Mate X3 solves two of the three concerns. It's a foldable phone that feels almost like a normal slab phone when folded, and that's something I wish Samsung would work on because the Fold 4 in folded form feels so clunky and awkward by comparison. But the Galaxy Fold 5 is just around the corner, and rumors say the upcoming OnePlus V Fold could rival the Mate X3 in hardware. Whatever the case, I am glad we have brands pushing hardware limitations, so other brands would step up their products too.

huawei mate x3 render
Huawei Mate X3
A niche foldable
7 / 10

The Huawei Mate X3's hardware is highly impressive, with two brilliant screens, a great zoom lens, and a very sleek build (for a foldable phone). But its high price and software limitations make it a very, very niche device.