Huawei P50 Pocket: Thoughts from a first-time flip smartphone user

This story was originally published on May 12, 2022, and last updated on July 26, 2022.

When Huawei offered to send over the P50 Pocket, I jumped at the chance to try it out. I have been covering foldables here on LiTT, but I haven’t been able to try one myself. I wanted to find out if these were worth the hype.

Short answer: The potential is there. I want to see Huawei and more companies experiment with the form factor. If you want a longer explanation, then read on.

That unique design

While I like being prepared, I’m trying not to lug around too much stuff. But with the work I do, that’s sometimes inevitable. So, if something can be more compact, that’s a gift. Plus, the Huawei P50 Pocket’s design is such a wow factor. The moment I posted about it on my social media, I had friends immediately comment and ask about it.

The Korean drama lovers in my life immediately pointed out they’ve seen something similar. I’m willing to guess those are mostly Samsung’s. However, the form factor is both familiar enough and unusual to them that they’re interested to learn more.

And it is unique. I don’t have the gold model Huawei worked on with Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Still, this white “diamond-inspired” model is equally striking. When Huawei debuted the P50 Pocket, it was teased in Harper’s Bazaar China, so immediately you know what market the brand is trying to reach. It’s not just designed to be a functional, useful gadget. Instead, it’s meant to be an accessory. Something you show off. And it really does make me want to do just that.

The build of this phone is excellent. It might be Huawei’s first attempt at a flip-style smartphone, but it already had a few book-style foldables under its belt. And that experience shows itself here. It sports this “3D Micro-Sculpture Design” in white to mimic the “brilliance of diamonds.” It has that subtly engraved on the ultra-thin glass. The texture makes it easier to hold, on top of it not being a smudge magnet.

Huawei then chose to adopt an approach similar to what Motorola has done with the Razr to remove that gap between the two folded halves of the P50 Pocket. In Huawei’s case, it refined the “Multi-Dimensional Hinge Design” and introduced its “Multi-Dimensional Linkage Lifting Design” to give it a larger bending radius, less stress, shallower crease, and a smaller hinge width for that gapless design when folded. I’m not worried about getting pieces of debris between the display when it is folded shut. This design also helps minimize the bend creases, so you shouldn’t be bothered by it when the phone is completely unfolded.

The company promises that the P50 Pocket has a wear-resistant, smooth, and durable hinge system to ensure you get long-term use. I was a bit careful with it initially, but I’ve been more and more comfortable with it as the month progressed that I will occasionally forget I’m using a folding phone. On that note, though, you will feel the hinge part under the display, but I don’t really see it if I’m holding it face on.

The downside of this hinge design is that it won’t stay open at certain angles. You have to adjust it a bit before you get it to stand because you’ll run the risk of the phone unfolding entirely. But it’s fun to open and close nonetheless. I grew up during the era of flip phones, so I still find it so satisfying to open and close the P50 Pocket. Closing it after a phone call? So satisfying.  

The phone’s engineering allows it to keep a slim silhouette. It’s 15.2mm when folded and 7.2mm when unfolded. It is a taller device unfolded, and it’s definitely meant for two-handed use. But it doesn’t feel heavy or straining when used for hours.

There is an unintended benefit to the Huawei P50 Pocket, too. I find myself using the phone less because there is that extra step of having to flip it open before I see what’s inside. I can check the notifications from the Cover Screen, so if nothing important comes in and I don’t have to open the phone.

Plus, it’s just fun to use. It’s like a mini-computer when you have the screen open halfway with the top half as your monitor and the bottom part as your keyboard. and you’re just using that bottom part to type. It also makes it easier to read hands-free. When in hand, it also makes me feel like I’m in Totally Spies. 

Even when completely unfolded, the experience is as familiar as it would be with other smartphones. I can’t speak about long-term durability, but I haven’t been worried about damaging the phone over the past month I’ve been using it. Of course, you shouldn’t use it when you’re around water because it doesn’t have water resistance or durability rating like Samsung’s flip phones. But I hope that something Huawei develops for future versions of this phone.

Let’s talk about the display

There are technically two screens on the Huawei P50 Pocket. The inner display is typical of what you’d see on 2022 flagships. It’s just slightly bigger and crossing over into mini tablet territory with a 6.9-inch flexible OLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio, up to a 120Hz refresh rate, and a 300Hz touch sampling rate.

Huawei equips the P50 Pocket with a new nano-optical layer that reduces light reflectivity. I noticed during my test that it didn’t really suffer from too much glare even when I was outdoors. And the company boasts that it can retain picture quality when watching content which this display is built for. So, even if you’re watching a dark film, the details in the shadows should be retained and displayed.

On the back of the phone, Huawei adopts the P50 series’ double-ring design, which houses the camera module and the cover screen in two rings stacked on top of each other. It might be slightly less functional than how Samsung implements its external display, but it does give a bit of symmetry to this phone. It makes it recognizable. And it also makes it look like it has googly eyes on the back, which is fun and quirky.

The Cover Screen gives access to features like music playback control, the camera, notifications and messages, and other widgets that Huawei pre-installed on the device. I hope we eventually get more third-party options to add to this screen, but that would require developers to work with Huawei to support this part of the hardware. It also gets different themes that you can customize to suit your style or preference.

Its most important use is for the camera. It allows you to use the rear camera to shoot photos and videos of your face using higher-quality cameras. You just need to make sure to open the Camera app while the phone is folded so it won’t open the inner display when you want to prop the phone someplace to shoot.

But what about daily use?

Many comments I’ve seen about this phone have been about its operating system. If you’re in the loop when it comes to smartphone news, you know that Huawei isn’t using Google Mobile Services right now due to restrictions by the US government. That means Huawei had to develop its own operating system for its new phones to run on.

The Huawei P50 Pocket runs on EMUI 12 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of internal storage. A downside is that it only supports 4G connectivity, which might seem like a sin for a flagship phone that costs this much. Unfortunately, that’s another restriction Huawei has had to work around because of imposed sanctions. I’ve primarily used it at home, so it hasn’t bothered me. And I’m not a heavy data user outside of social media or the occasional video call. But I haven’t really noticed the difference in speed. I’ve been able to use it fine, even as a hotspot while working in the field.

It gets expandable storage, which comes in handy if you take a lot of photos and videos. It supports up to 256GB via nano memory card.

Similar to my experience on the Huawei MatePad, the first trouble I ran into was if an app sign-in was linked to a Google account. But this phone seems to have given me less grief than the tablet. One tip I’ve picked up from Mr. Mobile’s review on this phone is that you can use Outlook or other Microsoft services to access things like your Gmail without resorting to the barebones web version Huawei enables on this phone. I also use Microsoft Edge as my default browser on this phone.

The learning curve for the P50 Pocket is not really that steep. The interface is similar to what you have seen on Android. You swipe from the top left to access your notifications or on the top right to access the Control Panel. Swipe from the bottom, and you get the app drawer. The gestures are the same ones I’ve used on Android phones. And you can still use the navigation icons if that’s more your speed.

Its real disadvantage is the lack of access to Google Services. I’ve had Huawei users mention using apps like Gspace to get to more apps that they can’t access through the AppGallery or Petal Search, but some people wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of accessing another app just to get to the ones they want to use. You’re also putting a third party between you and the apps you need. It’s an extra step some people won’t be bothered to take, especially since you’re paying a premium price for this phone.

I’m also not a big fan of the ads Huawei includes in its first-party apps. Every time I open the AppGallery fresh from a restart, I get served an ad. It doesn’t match the premium experience I expect and get from the P50 Pocket.

This flip smartphone excels in its ability to work with other Huawei devices. With its Super Device feature, you can easily link the P50 Pocket with a supported Huawei tablet or laptop. I’ve used it fine with a MateBook D 15MateBook 14, and MatePad Pro 10.8. This makes it easy to transfer files, but it gives you the option to control the phone on these devices’ displays, which is one of my favorite things to do.

I don’t have to pick up the phone to use it. And Huawei simplifies the connection process since it’s built into the settings of the other Huawei devices. This mode transfers audio from the smartphone to the laptop/tablet and lets you do things like playing your games or watching content on the larger screen. It also turns the P50 Pocket into external storage for your laptop. And it can even easily record your laptop’s screen if you need that.

The P50 Pocket is a “charge by the end of the day” kind of device. I can sometimes get it to the following day. But typically, it’ll have drained its battery then. The slim form factor can only accommodate a 4,000mAh battery, but it does support Huawei’s 40W SuperCharge tech, so it just takes me around an hour or so to fully recharge this phone from 0%.

LiTT Tip #1: If you need to teach someone how to do something on their Huawei MateBook, the P50 Pocket can easily record the screen for you. Make sure your smartphone is connected to the MateBook. In my case, it’s the MateBook 14 (2022). When they’re linked, the Huawei Share card in your phone’s notifications will have the option to Record Computer Screen. Tap that, then just start recording. The video file will be saved in your P50 Pocket for easy sharing.

LiTT Tip #2: With a compatible Huawei MateBook, you can easily access the P50 Pocket’s files on the laptop. It appears as its own drive in the File Manager, making it easier to drag and drop files to and from the phone. 

Flagship-worthy camera

Excellent photo quality is something I have high confidence in Huawei to produce. The company has refined its smartphone’s photography capabilities throughout the years, and it shows in the P50 Pocket. Its Ultra Spectrum Camera has a 40-megapixel True-Chrome Camera, 13-megapixel Ultra-Wide Angle Lens, and 32-megapixel Ultra Spectrum Camera. And then you get a 10.7-inch camera inside.

It has a great dynamic range with fewer details lost. I’m even surprised at how high quality the selfie portraits I’ve taken on this phone are. I like how the colors turned out on this phone. I don’t think I edited an image shot on the P50 Pocket when I posted them on social media.

It has many fun features, but I’ve mostly kept to just using the default Photo mode, Portrait, and Night when I wanted to check its low light performance. Its unique form factor allows it to be propped up to take steadier pictures and videos. (You can check out its zoom capability here.)

I try to take as many pictures with the rear camera as possible. The selfie shooter in the display is not as sharp as those taken with the higher-quality rear cameras. But suppose you’re trying to shoot selfies or videos when it’s folded. It takes a bit of getting used to because when you’re holding the phone naturally, the cameras will be underneath the Cover Screen. Of course, the solution is to flip it around so the cameras are on top.

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The video quality is pretty good. It’s not the best I’ve seen on a flagship, but you can still get great footage. I recorded some of our content on our socials with the P50 Pocket. I like that I can position the phone to take some interesting angles or better closeups like in that Netflix tutorial below. It’s best used propped up or on a tripod to get steady shots. This isn’t the phone that’s on top of my mind when I think of devices with excellent video stabilization. It does give you the flexibility to record up to 4K at 60 frames per second. (You can check the in-app tests on TikTok and Instagram here!)

I am concerned that this phone can run pretty hot when I record or shoot for extended periods. Or when I’ve been editing videos on the phone for a while. This might fall under the other categories in this story, but I’ve experienced the issue the most when recording or live streaming. I’ve had the P50 Pocket shut down on me in the middle of a live stream. Cooling is definitely something Huawei needs to address in the future version of this phone.

Huawei recently updated the P50 Pocket to add a useful feature I was missing while testing it the first time around. The outer display can finally be used as a second screen for your camera. So, if you shoot by yourself, you could see how you look in the frame when shooting with the rear cameras. You can also use it when you want your subject to see how they look in the photo or video.

LiTT Tip #3: Speaking of quirky features, the Huawei P50 Pocket can actually check if you’ve applied enough sunscreen. In the Mirror app, you can take a Sunscreen test that shows if you’ve evenly applied your sunscreen. You pull this up from the Cover Screen, and it uses the sensors and cameras at the back to check your skin’s status and highlight in purple where you’ve applied sunscreen.

Final thoughts

The Huawei P50 Pocket addresses that need to have a phone I can easily tuck away in any bag or smaller pockets. It also ticks that box for an eye-catching, well-built device. And I like how there seems to be a ritual to opening it because I only ever do that to get something done.

It’s not a phone that scrimps on performance either. It might be compact, but it is a powerful flagship. It’s not perfect, though. No device ever is, but I hope Huawei continues developing this form factor and plugging the holes. I want more powerful smartphones I can easily fit into tight jean pockets or clutch bags.

The Huawei P50 Pocket has a starting price of PHP 69,999 / EUR 1,299.

Buy the Huawei P50 Pocket from Lazada HERE. *

Buy the Huawei P50 Pocket from Shopee HERE.


UPDATE 1: 2022/07/26, 2:28 P.M. GMT+8 BY NICOLE BATAC

Added information on the second screen update for the Camera app


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