When he announced the price – unbelievable 2,300 euros ($ 2,600) – the audience gasped.
The price tag makes the Samsung Galaxy Fold ($ 1,980), which was unveiled on Wednesday, a bargain.
Huawei is sure to tell the participants at MWC Barcelona – and for once, it's a controversy they'll probably love.
The Mate X appears as Huawei sees a heightened scrutiny of the safety of his equipment and its ties to the Chinese government. Meng Wanzhou, the company's CFO and daughter of the founder, isand awaiting extradition to the US for alleged violations of Iran. The controversy is compounded by growing tensions between the US and China over trade negotiations and the prospect of tariffs.
What is a small debate about the price of innovation with all these other issues?
Huawei's presence at MWC is more than just a single phone. The industry sees the debut of foldable devices as a defining moment in history, much like the launch of the original iPhone, and Huawei wants to be at the forefront. It's a chance to rewrite the narrative that was rightly or wrongly imposed on the Chinese telecom giant.
"We want to show the world that 5G can improve the world," Yu told a handful of MWC reporters. "We are leading the way."
Huawei founder and president Ren Zhangfei interviewed CBS This Morning this week for all espionage activities and politically motivated his daughter's arrest. (Revelation: CNET and CBS This Morning share the same parent company.)
Yu denies that the allegations have had a negative impact on global consumer business.
"Our customers trust us," he said.
How the Mate X feels
Unlike the Galaxy Fold, which has a larger display that folds inwards like a book, the Mate X unfolds with a large continuous display to the outside. When folded, the front panel is a 6.6-inch display, while the back panel is 6.38-inch. Both sides swing out and form an 8-inch panel.
I had the opportunity to try out the device and found it surprisingly smooth, considering how protective it is against the device. The two sides are a bit stiff when you fold them in and out, and they lock the clicks with a small latch. You press a button on the spine to release the other side.
Yu said the phone is rated 100,000 times. He said that would be more than enough for an average consumer. I replied that if I spent $ 2,600 on this thing, I would open and unfold it all day.
The spine acts as an ergonomic handle for the device when it is unfolded. A screen of this size can become unwieldy, and holding it with one hand while photographing with my smartphone was feasible because of this grip. Do not try to fold it up with one hand – I almost dropped it when I tried.
"They've made some interesting design decisions that not only make the Mate X look different, but in many eyes are better than Samsung," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies.
Since launching Samsung Galaxy Fold on Wednesday, folding devices have become a hot topic at MWC Barcelona, the world's largest telephone show. Even TCL, a Chinese company primarily known for its TVs, has shown a family of folding devices with its Dragon Hinge.
Mate X vs. Galaxy Fold
Huawei's one-upmanship at the press conference was clear from the start.
Yu announced his 5G connection, which the Galaxy Fold does not have. The company says that the Balong 5000 modem can reach theoretical top speeds twice that of the Qualcomm 5G modem, the X50.
Qualcomm declined to comment.
Yu also shot at the right-hand notch on the larger display of the Galaxy Fold and found that the Mate X offers a complete, "uninterrupted" screen. The Mate X embeds its cameras in the thicker right rail. The Mate X's 8-inch display also surpasses the Fold's 7.3-inch display.
He also suggested that Samsung has postponed the introduction of its foldable phone because of the Huawei Mate X. However, the Mate X will not be released until the middle of the year. The Galaxy Fold will be released on April 26th. Samsung could not answer Yus comment.
The Mate X is not sold because of the continuing controversy in the US. Yu said the airlines wanted to work with Huawei, but not because of political hurdles.
Elsewhere in the world, Huawei still has to convince consumers that $ 2,600 is not too much for a phone.
Yu admitted that the price was high and said that it would take at least two years before costs dropped to the level of one of its mainstream phones. He emphasized, however, that the degree of innovation of the Mate X justifies the price, as the company seems to consolidate its reputation as a pioneer.
"Huawei needs to change the conversation," says Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research. "Can you convince people that they are innovative? Sure, but it does not change the overall market momentum for them."