Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Huawei Mate X2: Two great foldables, but with different philosophies
For most of the world, the brand new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is hands-down the most cutting-edge foldable phone available right now. But for those living in mainland China, or enthusiasts who import phones (such as myself), there’s another contender for that title — the Huawei Mate X2. I’ve extensively tested both phones and each one has its own strength and weaknesses. Both foldables trade blows left and right, but which one wins overall?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Huawei Mate X2 Specs
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Huawei Mate X2: Specifications
|Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3||Huawei Mate X2|
|CPU||Snapdragon 888||Kirin 9000|
|Dimensions and weight||Folded: 158.2 x 67.1 x 16.0mm
Unfolded: 158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm
|Folded: 161.8 x 74.6 x 14.7 mm
Unfolded: 161.8 x 145.8 x 8.2 mm
|Memory||12GB RAM, 256GB/512GB UFS 3.1 storage||8GB RAM, 256GB/512GB UFS 3.1 storage|
|Battery||4,400mAh dual battery||4,500mAh|
|Network||LTE: Enhanced 4X4 MIMO, 7CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 20
5G: Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave
|Sensors||Capacitive fingerprint sensor (side), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor (analog), Proximity sensor, Light sensor, Wacom layer for stylus input||Capacitive fingerprint sensor (side), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor (analog), Proximity sensor, Light sensor|
|Colors||Phantom Black, Phantom Green, Phantom Silver||Black, White Light Blue, Rose Gold|
|Price||Starts at $1,799.99||Starts at $2,799 (converted from China price)|
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Huawei Mate X2: Build and Design
Both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Huawei Mate X2 use the same dual-screen, book-like, in-folding form factor. Extra points go to Samsung for pioneering this form factor, with Huawei initially going the other way (the single screen out-fold) before coming back around to this form factor.
However, the Huawei Mate X2 can be argued to have a more refined overall form from a visual/in-hand feel perspective. First, the Mate X2 folds almost completely flat, while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 still features a bit of a gap. On the cover display, the left bezel area, which includes the hinge, is thicker and asymmetrical on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, while the Mate X2’s left bezel on the cover display is thinner and, while still not equal to the other three bezels, is still closer in size to the right bezel.
The Mate X2’s screen crease is also much harder to see and feel compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s.
Finally, the Mate X2 managed to cram a premium flagship-level 10x Periscope zoom lens into its body, while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 still clearly has a compromised camera system with a relatively weak 2X telephoto zoom.
But then when it comes to practicality, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 wins by a landslide. It’s rated IPX8 water resistance, while the Mate X2 has no official water resistance rating. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 also has a new film material that feels more like glass than the plasticky feel of the Mate X2’s screen. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 also supports the S-Pen stylus, although that’s a separate purchase.
Although the Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn’t fold completely flat, it might be because Samsung’s hinge is more practical. It can stay locked in place mid-fold at almost any angle, allowing half the phone to essentially stand upright on its own for hands-free selfies or video calls. The Mate X2 has no such trick up its sleeve. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is also lighter at 271g compared to the Mate X2’s 295g, but the latter is thinner at 14.7mm to 16mm.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Huawei Mate X2: Screens
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Mate X2’s displays are roughly similar in height, but Huawei’s displays are wider horizontally. This is particularly noticeable when folded, as the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s 6.2 inch, 25:9 aspect ratio gives it a form factor similar to that of a candy bar or a TV remote control, while the Mate X2’s 6.5 inch, 21:9 aspect ratio feels closer to a typical slab smartphone.
If we’re talking strictly about the folded form factor, I prefer the Mate X2’s aspect ratio, as the Z Fold 3’s cover screen can still feel a bit cramped. However, I’ve heard other reviewers make a good argument for Samsung’s design. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an easy one-hand phone when folded, and a two-hand phone when unfolded; the Mate X2 doesn’t have that clear distinction, as even in folded form it may be too big to use one-handed for some. I can see why this appeals to people, as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has two distinct styles of use in the same device. But there’s no getting around the fact I get more typos typing on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 when folded than the Mate X2 when folded.
Open up both phones and you’re greeted by gorgeous large screens. The Mate X2’s inner 8-inch panel is completely uninterrupted as Huawei has omitted the selfie camera entirely on the inside of the device. The Z Fold 3 has one, but it’s that nascent under-screen technology, meaning the camera is underneath the screen. It’s not quite invisible, however, as the pixels covering the camera tend to flicker a mesh-like pattern that’s arguably more distracting than a hole punch camera.
When it comes to display fluidity, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s 120Hz for both screens is noticeably smoother than the Mate X2’s 90Hz (also both screens), but I’ve found the 120Hz really hurts the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s battery life, as it’s shorter than not just the Mate X2’s but also last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 2.
The Mate X2’s camera hardware is technically more impressive, its main 50MP camera is basically the same camera used in Huawei’s 2020 slab flagships, with a large 1/1.28″ sensor. Then there’s that aforementioned 10x Periscope zoom lens, and it’s flanked by a shorter 12MP 3x telephoto zoom lens. There’s also a 16MP ultra-wide with autofocus. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, meanwhile, has a triple 12MP array that’s virtually unchanged from the Z Fold 2’s, which means it’s not even as good as last year’s standard Galaxy S20 cameras.
And yes, the Mate X2 mops the floor with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in zoom shots.
But surprisingly, in other photos and videos using the primary or ultra-wide lens, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 keeps up well. I still think the Mate X2 has slightly better colors and image sharpness, but the Galaxy Z Fold 3 keeps it closer than it had any right to be. This goes to show software and ISP play as big a part as hardware in determining the quality of mobile photos.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs Android 11 with Samsung’s OneUI on top while the Mate X2 shipped with EMUI over a version of Android 10, but has since been updated to HarmonyOS 2.0. Despite the name change, the Mate X2 still behaves like an Android phone with the exception of not being able to run Google Mobile Services. Software is intuitive for both, with easy-to-use multitasking modes such as split-screen and floating app windows.
I do think the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is more useful for productivity tasks because of S-Pen support, the ability to do hands-free video calls, its system-wide app scaling for changing app aspect ratios, and the ability to force any app to run split-screen or in a floating window. However, I think HarmonyOS’s split-screen action is easier to pull off.
Ultimately, I’m aware it’s hard to do a direct comparison of these two phones due to several factors — the Mate X2 only sells in China officially, is priced $1,000 more than the Galaxy Z Fold 3, and can’t run Google Mobile Services. For the majority of readers, this article is merely an exercise in comparing the two best foldable phone hardware, not really a buying guide as one phone has far more mainstream appeal than the other.
I do wonder if, in an alternate universe where Huawei wasn’t sanctioned by the US government, a reality where Huawei successfully entered the US market and is allowed to operate as normal, would the Huawei Mate X2 have put enough pressure on Samsung to push for more camera innovations? I don’t think the Galaxy Z Fold 3 having just decent camera hardware is due to lack of technical know-how, but a conscious decision to meet a lower price point.
I think most consumers would say Samsung made the right move with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, aiming for practical improvements and the price drop rather than chase overkill specifications.