Huawei has been doing an excellent job design-wise, for a long time now. Software is usually the main thing that is holding back the company’s smartphones and tablets, and the US ban is to blame for it. We’ll talk more about software in this review, during our deep dive into the world of Huawei P50 Pocket. I just wanted to get that out of the way, as many people dismiss Huawei phones due to software these days, but if you can live without Google’s apps, this phone is definitely worth considering. I’ll try to explain why in this article.
The Huawei P50 Pocket, for those of you who are not familiar with the device, is Huawei’s very first clamshell foldable smartphone. The company released several foldable smartphones thus far (three, to be exact), but neither of them was folding vertically. The Huawei P50 Pocket is, and it’s a direct competitor to the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Spoiler alert, the phone delivers in pretty much every way, but there’s, of course, the software caveat that we have to talk to. We’ll tackle that later in the article, as we usually do in our reviews. That being said, let’s get started, shall we?
The Huawei P50 Pocket comes in several different color variants, and we received the most expensive one for review, the one with the “Premium Edition” attachment. This phone looks… well, great. It screams premium, both in images and in real life. The phone is gold-colored, with protruding line patterns on it. It kind of looks like some thin leaves are placed all over the phone, and yes, you can feel them (they protrude a bit). It sounds tacky, but if you ever get a chance, check out the phone in real-life, if the images are not enough for you. The Huawei P50 Pocket really looks great, and I’m not even a fan of gold-colored products, at all.
Metal & glass combo with notable details
The device is made out of metal and glass, and it definitely feels premium in the hand. It’s quite compact when folded, and really, really tall when unfolded. It’s not too thick when folded, as Huawei really managed to keep a thin profile in general. It is slightly thinner than the Galaxy Z Flip 3 when folded, and slightly thicker when unfolded. It doesn’t really make sense, but that is what the official specs report, you need to keep in mind that the devices are not identically thick in all areas.
It’s quite slippery, though
It is also not too wide to handle, at 75.5mm, though it loses in that aspect to the Z Flip 3, as Samsung managed to keep a slightly narrower profile. The device has a 21:9 display aspect ratio when unfolded, similar to what you’ll get on a bunch of Sony phones these days. It’s really tall, even if you’re used to tall phones. It is slippery, but not as slippery as I expected. Huawei obviously used some sort of coating on the device. It does attract fingerprint scanners, but they’re less visible than on most other colors, and they’re easy to get rid of.
A side-facing fingerprint scanner is included
There is a display camera hole on the main display, and a secondary display on the back. That secondary display is very small, but it’s usable as a viewfinder, music control area, and so on. In other words, you can comfortably use the phone’s main camera to take selfies, for example, and they end up looking great. More on that later. A fingerprint scanner is also included, and it’s placed on the right-hand side of the device. It’s fast and reliable, and it doubles as a power / lock key. All in all, Huawei did a great job with the design here, and with the hinge, which we’ll talk about more in the next chapter, as it relates to the display.
The Huawei P50 Pocket’s main display is excellent
The Huawei P50 Pocket sports two displays, though the second panel is really small. The main display, however, is excellent, and large. It is a 6.9-inch 2790 x 1188 OLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. This panel is big, bright, and beautiful, while being foldable at the same time. The colors are excellent, the display gets bright enough, even outside, and the viewing angles are great. On top of that, it’s also more than sharp enough. Touch responsiveness is good, no complaints here, and the fact it’s a 120Hz panel is definitely a bonus. I really don’t have a single complaint when it comes to this display.
Huawei did a great job with the hinge, as the crease is minimal
Before we get to the secondary panel, let’s talk about the crease. You’ll be glad to hear that it’s not as pronounced here. I don’t know what will happen after prolonged use, and constant (un)folds, but it’s barely noticeable now. Huawei did a great job with the hinge here, that’s why. It used a teardrop design, which is not officially called that, but there you go. Motorola used it in the past, so did OPPO. It makes the display fold in a teardrop shape, rather than a V shape. That not only makes the crease hard to notice, but it also helps to make the device gapless. You can still notice the crease, of course, under certain light, and feel it with your finger, but it’s not as bad as on some other phones. In fact, it was a non-issue for me.
The second display is really tiny, but can be useful
What about the second display? That is a 1.04-inch panel with 340 x 340 resolution. It’s also an OLED panel, and it’s good, but it’s small. Still. You can utilize this display to quickly check your notifications, see the time, your battery life, control your music, take a picture, film a video, and so on. It is usable, but not as usable as it would be if it were larger. Still, this is better than nothing, and because of its size, it sure does do wonders for battery life. If you get the habit of using that panel as well, you’ll be able to get great battery life. More on that later, though.
Huawei did a really good job with both displays, though some of you would probably prefer a larger outer panel. Still, there’s a reason why Huawei did this, for both battery life and design purposes. That cutout goes hand-in-hand with the camera island cutout on the back. It goes a long way when it comes down to design.
The performance is excellent
What about the performance? Is it good enough? Well yes, and then some. The global variant of the device comes with the Snapdragon 888 SoC. That is Qualcomm’s most powerful SoC for last year, and it packs in quite the punch. Do note that it is limited to 4G connectivity, though, it does not support 5G here. That’s also a long story, and yes, the US ban has something to do with it. Either way, Huawei paired 8GB and 12GB of RAM with that SoC, depending on the model you get. Our variant has 12GB of RAM, and it performed flawlessly.
It was buttery smooth
The phone was buttery smooth, regardless of what I did with it. It managed to multitask like a champ, and that 21:9 display came in handy for that. I used split-screen very frequently here. It was also great for multimedia consumption, just note that you’ll get noticeable black bars on each side, unless you find content made in 21:9 format. You can always zoom in, but you’ll lose quite a bit of content on the display, so that’s not recommendable.
It can also handle some heavy games, though it does get warm
What about gaming? Or other processor-intensive tasks? Well, that wasn’t a problem either. The phone pushed through anything I threw at it. It chewed through Asphalt 9 without a problem, and I also played some MetroLand on it. That is essentially a different variant of Subway Surfers made exclusively for the AppGallery, and yes, it comes from the same developer. The phone did heat up a bit in the top portion, near the cameras, but it was never too hot to handle, not even close to it.
So, as far as sheer power is concerned, you don’t have to worry about a thing here. The phone performs really nicely, even when it comes to processor-intensive tasks. It also managed to keep apps in the background, to a degree. There is a solution for that, if you want to keep something in the background at all times, there’s a way to lock apps in the background. More on that in the software section.
I was worried about battery life, but the P50 Pocket delivered
I was rather skeptical when it comes to battery life on this device. Why? Well, the phone has a 4,000mAh battery, and a giant main display which is also extremely sharp. I thought I’d be opening the phone all the time, and I did, quite frequently, but I also used that secondary panel quite a bit. Once I found the perfect setup of widgets, that fit my needs (close to the default one, actually), I was good to go. I used that panel for everything I could, basically, and I hope that Huawei will keep adding new widgets for it, and possibly allow for third-party ones to take advantage of it.
Gaming may mess up your battery
So, what numbers did I get? I was able to cross 6 hours of screen-on-time on the phone, on several occasions, which is categorized as good battery life in my book. Do note that your mileage may differ quite a bit, though. It all depends on how you use your phone, what apps are on it, how much you use the main and secondary display, your cell reception, and more. That’s why I hate giving out exact numbers, but when I do, I leave a warning next to them. I’ve seen drastically different battery life performance from the same devices (as in models) used by different people, so… take note of that. Also note that I did not game much on the phone, just for testing purposes. On that day, it did fly under the 6-hour screen-on-time mark.
40W wired charging is supported
The Huawei P50 Pocket does support fast charging. It supports 40W fast wired charging, and the charger is included in the box. Now, it does not support wireless charging, but you do have 5W reverse wired charging at your disposal, in case you need it.
Its camera performance is good, but a step behind the P50 Pro
The Huawei P50 Pocket has three cameras on the back, which you can use as front-facing cameras as well thanks to the secondary display. It also has a single camera on the main display, in form of a centered hole punch. The company decided to use a 40-megapixel main camera on the back, backed by a 32-megapixel wide-angle camera, and a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. The phone can also capture fluorescent images, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. A single 10.7-megapixel camera sits on the phone’s main display.
The shots are well-balanced, with occasional color misrepresentation
So, is the camera performance any good? Not only is it good, it’s excellent. The Huawei P50 Pocket is just a small step behind the Huawei P50 Pro, which is astounding. It’s not using the same camera setup, and yet it can almost match the camera quality, save for telephoto images, of course. The main camera provides extremely well-balanced shots, with a lot of detail, and excellent color rendering (most of the time). It manages to do a good job during the day in pretty much any condition. It does a great job with landscape photography, when it comes to taking images of foliage, people, various objects, and so on.
Macro photos turned out really nicely
This camera setup also does a great job with macro photography, despite the fact it doesn’t have a separate macro camera. In fact, it’s probably better it doesn’t, as the phone has a lot more megapixels to work with this way. I didn’t shy away from utilizing that macro mode (which turns on automatically), as the results were really, really good. Ultrawide camera follows the main camera with great photos. In fact, it does a great job of matching the color temperature of the main camera, while keeping details at a high level. That’s not something many OEMs can achieve.
It does a good job in low light as well
What about low light, though? Well, the Huawei P50 Pocket does a great job in such conditions as well. Even when the light is scarce, the phone manages to keep the noise at a minimum, and provide great colors and detail. Once again, it’s side-by-side with the Huawei P50 Pro in this regard, it can keep up without a problem. That also puts it right up there when it comes to camera quality, it can compete with basically any phone out there in terms of low light performance.
The fluorescent factor
The P50 Pocket allows you to take fluorescent images during the night. This feature is kind of gimmicky. The phone activates a fluorescent light when you switch to this mode, and it can shoot some interesting pictures, presuming you’re shooting the right items. I have a couple of pictures in the gallery below for you, to see what I mean. I found out that white-colored fabric does nicely in this mode, and other white-colored materials, in nighttime conditions. You can actually capture some really nice flower shots and so on. Still, it’s kind of gimmicky, and likely not something you’ll use often.
Overall, the Huawei P50 Pocket is a great camera smartphone. I was afraid this phone will lag behind the Huawei P50 Pro, but if you don’t need the telephoto-periscope camera performance, don’t shy away from getting this phone for its cameras, it does a wonderful job.
Huawei P50 Pocket camera samples (Flickr)
The speakers are good
The Huawei P50 Pocket does include stereo speakers, though not a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is perfectly normal these days. The sound coming from its speakers is good. It’s not the best I’ve heard, not even close, but it’s a nice full sound from two separate speakers. That’s what most people want from a modern smartphone, especially a flagship one, and that’s exactly what you’re getting here.
Voice call quality was excellent
Now, when it comes to voice calling, you don’t have to be worried at all. Huawei has always been good in that regard, at least when it comes to its higher-end phones that I’ve used. The same is the case here as well. People I talked to were able to hear me without a problem, and there were no complaints. The sound coming in through the earpiece was also quite good. So, no real complaints here.
EMUI 12 is not for Google users
As pretty much everyone knows these days, Huawei smartphones and tablets come without Google services. That is the first thing you should note here. If you can’t live without Google apps, for some reason, this is not the device for you. If you can, well, then read on. Huawei’s AppGallery app store is actually really well-equipped, even though it’s nowhere close to Google Play Store. Getting basically any non-Google app working on this phone is not a problem at all, though. Huawei made sure you’re able to track all apps from app repositories, in the simplest way, and with an app like APK Updater, you can keep everything up to date without a problem. Apps that are installed via the AppGallery, you can update via AppGallery, if you want. The only real problem here are Google’s apps. You can get them working as well, via an app called GSpace (a virtualizer), but that’s not something we’d recommend. Now, if you tend to log into most apps with your Google account, well, that’s a hit and miss. I was able to log into some apps with my Google account, like Feedly, for example. Others, like SofaScore, I didn’t even have an option to do so.
Huawei did a good job with software optimization
That being said, the Huawei P50 Pocket comes with EMUI 12. That is the skin Huawei is using on top of Android here. My experience with the phone’s software has been really good, to be quite honest. It performed great, as Huawei did its best to optimize things to the max. Everything ran buttery smooth, and that goes for games as well. The phone did get quite warm during gaming sessions, near the camera array and secondary display on the back. Still, it never got too warm to the touch, nor did it warn me about overheating or something of the sort.
EMUI 12 is a bit different to what you’re used to
Huawei’s EMUI 12 skin is a bit different than most other launchers you’re used to. In order to access your notification shade, you’ll need to pull down from the top-left side of the phone’s display. If you do the same from the top-right side, you’ll access quick toggles. That is something you cannot change, at the moment, at least it’s not something I’ve found an option for in the settings. You also cannot swipe down across the screen in general to access your notifications, and so on.
Other than that, for the most part, this is your regular Android launcher. You can choose whether you want to keep all your apps on the home screen, or utilize an app drawer. There are also a ton of additional settings available here. You even have some additional options when it comes to that tiny secondary display. The software is, in general, really good and functional. It doesn’t feel unfinished, or anything of the sort, not at all. It’s perfectly viable if Google apps are not your thing.
The Huawei P50 Pocket is an excellent, pricey, and has some software tradeoffs
The Huawei P50 Pocket is an excellent smartphone. Granted, it’s quite an expensive one as well, but it’s a great competitor to the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Huawei cannot really do anything to revert the US ban, so Google apps are out of reach, but everything else is fair game. Once you set up this phone app, you’ll really be able to enjoy it. It feels really polished, in both software and hardware portions, and it looks truly great. Gold is really not my color, but I actually like the way this phone looks, that’s for sure. It feels premium, while it has a great display, and an excellent camera setup that is side-by-side with the Huawei P50 Pro in terms of performance. The bottom line is, Huawei did a great job, and if you’re in the market for a clamshell foldable smartphone, and don’t need Google apps, this phone is worth considering.