Huawei P50 Pocket review

Huawei P50 Pocket review

Introduction:

The P50 Pocket is the half-phone-to-full-phone kind of foldable, similar to the Galaxy Z Flip series,leaving the tablet-sized Mate X2 for those with deeper pockets (and access to the Chinese market). Although the phone looks small (folded state), the Pocket when opened up to reveal a gorgeous 6.9-inch OLED display on the inside, so it’s that little bit bigger than the Flip. It’s also a bit heavier, but has a larger battery to show for it.

As part of the high-end P50 family, the Pocket is powered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset, only minus the 5G capability because of the USA-China feud that’s been dragging Huawei’s smartphone business down for more than 3 years now.

The Pocket is missing an IP rating so is the wireless charging support, but it does promise faster wired charging despite the larger battery. As usual with Huawei phones, Pocket is lacking the Google Play Services. To make up for the lacking areas it would have to be pretty convincing in other departments.

Body

170.0×75.5×7.2mm, 190g; glass back, aluminum frame.

Display

Internal display: 6.90″ Foldable OLED, 1B colors, 120Hz, 1188x2790px resolution, 21(-ish):9 aspect ratio, 442ppi;

Cover display: OLED, 1.04 inch, 340 x 340 pixels, 328 ppi.

Chipset

Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 4G (5 nm): Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680); Adreno 660.

Memory

256GB 8GB RAM, 512GB 12GB RAM; NM (Nano Memory), up to 256GB (uses shared SIM slot).

Rear Camera

Wide (main): 40 MP, f/1.8, PDAF, Laser AF;

Ultrawide angle: 13 MP, f/2.2, 120˚, AF;

UV: 32 MP, f/1.8, 1/3.14″, 0.7µm, AF.

Selfie Camera

10.7 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide).

Video capture

Rear camera: [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/120/240fps, gyro-EIS;

Front camera: [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/120/240fps.

Battery

4000mAh; Fast charging 40W, Reverse charging 5W.

Operating System

HarmonyOS 2.0 (China), EMUI 12 (Europe), no Google Play Services.

Misc

Fingerprint reader (side-mounted); NFC; UV illuminator.

Unboxing:

The box is rich in content compared to the cable-only Galaxy. The box contains a 40W Huawei SuperCharge adapter and USB-A-to-C cable to go with it – this proprietary charging solution still relies on USB-A on the brick end.

A two-piece protective case with adhesive strips along the side edges is also included to help keep it attached to the phone. The metallic-looking outline mimics the phone’s frame, while the clear back panel allows you to flaunt that textured glass back.

The P50 Pocket (White color option) comes in a standard white cardboard box, as opposed to the Premium Edition that has a patterned golden box with a low profile and a larger footprint.

Design:

Huawei made sure to craft the Pocket in a way that it stands out thanks to the two circular islands on the top half and the distinct finishes of the panels. Having said that, if you’d prefer your folding phone to be less conspicuous, the black variant, if it’s available in your market, may be just the right understated flat shell with a display that folds in half on the inside.

Both color options are gorgeous with the crosshatch pattern that’s just barely felt by your fingertips yet can’t go unnoticed by your eyes. The grip is a matter of debate and the answer will apparently vary from person to person, but we’d say it feels more secure than a frosted matte back and nearly on par with a glossy glass one.

We are in a pinch here, we can’t decide whether the back feels nice and premium or cheap and tacky. For what it’s worth, we will join the faction supporting the former opinion.

The two circular islands each have a different purpose. One houses the cameras and is raised up a bit, so we can call that an island. The overall look is in line with the non Pocket P50 and P50 Pro, only there the two black circles are placed on a common raised platform. On the Pocket, Huawei managed to fit the display within the available thickness, so no protrusion was necessary for the bottom circle.

The display is on the small side at just over an inch in diameter, but that’s the size that worked well with the camera cluster so you can have two identically-sized circles. It’s useful for showing a clock and notifications as well as a basic viewfinder for the rear camera.

The two halves of the Pocket are outlined by metal frames on the sides, shiny polished silver ones for the white colorway. The side frame continues on to the back, where two aluminum strips meet in the middle of the unfolded phone, making for something of an accent amidst the checkered pattern. It’s a very similar construction, in principle, to the Z Flip3’s.

The hinge and the way the display folds inside is different between the two, however. The Pocket’s inner display bends around a larger radius than the Flip’s and it forms sort of a water droplet shape at the fold inside the body, with the two halves left parallel when closed. That’s in contrast to the Flip that folds with a smaller radius and leaves the two parts at an angle.

The Pocket’s different bending solution allows it to essentially close tight, leaving no gap between the two halves. That is, there’s no gap that you can see between the frame, but there’s inevitably some air between the two halves of the display – which, of course, you want, in order to avoid damaging them.

Next to the Pocket, the Flip looks almost like an early prototype design with its non-parallel halves and 2mm gap at the hinge end.

There’s also the gimmick of Pocket being visibly and tangibly thinner. That’s in part just perceptual, thanks to the curved frame (Flip is totally flat), but also very objectively measurable due to the different display folding concept and consequently the gapless closing.

The Pocket’s crease in the middle of the display when opened is both shallower and less sharp compared to the Flip3. It’s something you can easily appreciate with your eyes, but also with your fingertips. Creases on foldables are among those things we like to say are there if you look for them, but tend to disappear as you become one with your phone, but on the Pocket, there’s just less of it, to begin with for your brain to learn to ignore as time passes.

There is no detail about Huawei claiming a certain number of folds that the hinge and display are tested for, and that probably makes sense at this point. With the tech now several generations old, there’s no need to raise unnecessary doubts about its soundness.

The Pocket’s build has its flaws compared to Flip, though, Firstly, its hinge doesn’t particularly like to stay in any intermediate position and will tend to either close or open fully – the Flip3 can be left at pretty much any angle.

We can’t ignore that the Pocket doesn’t quite extend and open up entirely flat, particularly after it’s been left closed for a while. It’s the subtlest of angles, but there are some.

The P50 Pocket isn’t water resistant. We understand it’s a huge challenge on a foldable device with moving parts and exposed openings and all that, but the Galaxy Z Flip3 does have an IPX8 rating, so even if it’s just protected against water but not dust, it still sounds slightly more reassuring.

The SIM tray doesn’t have a gasket, so even if there’s no formal IP rating, the company has clearly taken measures to minimize exposure to the elements. The SIM tray is positioned on the left side of the frame, top section when unfolded.

The tray has slots for two nano SIMs, or a nano SIM and a nano Memory card. It’s not quite as useful as a microSD, but it’s still better than no expansion at all. Since there is 256GB storage, it is unlikely that you’ll be needing the extra space anyway.

The right side of the frame (top half when unfolded) houses the power button cum fingerprint scanner and the volume rockers.

Using the fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone makes for a somewhat clunky two-step process – you need to open the phone and then touch the scanner. That is similar to the process on the Flip – essentially the same implementation. 

The bottom accommodates the main loudspeaker (earpiece makes that a pair of speakers) and the primary mic, as well as the USB-C port. Up to, there’s another mic.

The Pocket measures 87.3 x 75.5 x 15.2mm in the folded state and 170 x 75.5 x 7.2mm when unfolded. The P50 Pocket weighs 190 grams that’s essentially the same as the Flip’s 183g.

Huawei P50 Pocket does seem to have a stronger case for being ‘compact’ – not having wasted space between the two halves while also getting two parallel surfaces on the outside, and the general feeling of density makes you perceive it as getting more phone in as much or less space.

Display:

P50 Pocket is all about its foldable display. The Pocket is equipped with a 6.9-inch OLED display (in its open state), with a resolution of 1188 x 2790p – a little odd than other phones’ standards, but Huaweis tend to be like that. The aspect ratio is also a similarly unusual 21.1:9, but it makes sense if you look at it as 1.35:1 – the widescreen cinema aspect. Pixel density is rated at 442 ppi.

The display has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz and a touch sampling rate of 300Hz. Huawei points out that it uses a 1440Hz pulse width modulation for dimming (basically, very rapid flickering).

The Pocket has a good level of max brightness of just over 800 nits in bright ambient conditions with the adaptive mode turned on. Upon manually swiping the slider, the brightness was recorded at 521 nits.

Color handling is done by a two-mode switch in the display menu, with further temperature tweaking possible via a color wheel. The default Normal mode should auto switch between the sRGB and DCI-PI color gamuts depending on content. The average dE2000 was a truly excellent 1.3 for the sRGB color swatches in our testing. Vivid mode gives colors a kick and makes things more saturated – with no claims for color accuracy.

You get to choose between three refresh rate modes – Dynamic, High and Standard. The Standard is easy – it locks everything at 60Hz. The other two are different types of auto switching behavior.

Dynamic mode tends to keep things at 90Hz for most things, switching to 120Hz when you’re in the settings menu. If there’s no activity for a few seconds, it will drop down to 60Hz across the board, but will shoot up to 90Hz or 120Hz when you touch it.

High mode is more of an always-on 120Hz, with no inactivity-based down-switching. The phone will maintain 120Hz across the UI and in most apps, including browsers.

What seems amazing is the 120Hz for games which support high frame rate.

One unusual behavior that seems bothering is a switch down to 60Hz when the phone heats up too much. That’s suboptimal, given that gaming, for example, causes heat build-up (quite a lot, actually), but it is also one of the use cases where you specifically want the high refresh rate.

The P50 Pocket does have a Widevine L1 certification and in theory should support FullHD HDR playback. That does require some cooperation on the part of the streaming services, and the Pocket isn’t getting it. Sideloaded Netflix and Amazon Prime wouldn’t get you FullHD or HDR. Sideloaded YouTube doesn’t work, and YouTube in a browser maxes out at 720p and no HDR.

Battery life & Charging speed:

The P50 Pocket is equipped with a 4,000mAh battery, which doesn’t sound like much for a 6.9-inch phone, but it’s a good deal compared to the 3,300mAh battery on the Galaxy Z Flip3.

Despite its large battery, the phone isn’t really impressive in terms of battery life. The handset can go on for 11:04h while watching videos (at 60Hz as usual) or browse the web for slightly over 9 hours over Wi-Fi (that too at 60Hz). The phone can handle voice calls for 23 hours, that’s fairly decent.

The retail bundle of the P50 Pocket consists of a 40W charger that adheres to the company’s proprietary SuperCharge standard. Using that adapter, a half an hour charge refueled the battery from 0% to 70%. It took about 54min from scratch to full 100%.

There’s no wireless charging on the P50 Pocket, while Samsung did manage to fit one of the induction coils in the bottom half of the Z Flip3.

Speakers:

There’s a conventional stereo speaker setup on the P50 Pocket, one at the bottom, while the other one on the top which also serves as the earpiece. The logic is standard, too – the earpiece is the left channel when the device is held in portrait, and the phone switches channels to correctly reflect its position in landscape. The earpiece isn’t as loud or full-bodied, and the bottom unit will have noticeably more presence, but the channel separation in the mids and highs is still there.

Performance:

There’s a Snapdragon 888 under the hood of Huawei P50 Pocket, but it’s not your average SD888 – this one is missing 5G capability (or it’s just disabled) as a result of Huawei being banned from using US IP in the 5G segment. The SD888 is a familiar sight and its  lack of next-gen connectivity in the particular implementation doesn’t change its CPU and GPU configuration. The Pocket is available with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage and 12GB RAM and 512GB onboard.

In Geekbench, the Pocket achieved a score of 1,092 points in the single-core test while in the multi-core segment it scored 3,077 points. It lags behind the P50 Pro in both departments. Moving on to the AnTuTu benchmark, the P50 Pocket lags behind by nearly 18,000 points compared to the P50 Pro. The P50 Pocket got a score of 768,513 points while the P50 Pro got a score of 786,215 points.

The P50 Pocket seems to be struggling with thermal management in particular. Putting pressure on the handset results in peak performance dropping to as low as 30%. As temperature spikes the display refresh rate experiences a drop.

All that said, the phone won’t be going through the same stuff as the extreme benchmarks in real life, the Pocket shouldn’t really struggle with most things. The reality of such thin, ‘lifestyle’ devices is that heat dissi[ation simply isn’t a top priority, so you must understand and be okay with their limitations.

Camera & Photo quality:

Rear Camera

Wide (main): 40 MP, f/1.8, PDAF, Laser AF;

Ultrawide angle: 13 MP, f/2.2, 120˚, AF;

Wide: 32 MP, f/1.8, 1/3.14″, 0.7µm, AF.

Selfie Camera

10.7 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide).

Daylight photo quality:

The photos taken from the main camera are great. There’s plenty of detail – 10MP may not seem much, but it’s not dramatically worse than 12MP, and the handset does have a very crisp rendition of the pixels it does capture. Noise is minimal to nonexistent, whether you look in the shadows or in areas of uniform color like the sky.

The Dynamic range is great, with well-judged falloff into the highlights and shadows, giving you both nicely high global contrast and good development in the extremes. Colors have a good liveliness without being over the top, and white balance is reliably accurate.

The 40MP camera does a commendable job at the 2x zoom level, too, and it’s a very compelling alternative to a dedicated short-range zoom module.

The 5x zoom level is a bit less exciting. It’s beyond the limits of the sensor and whatever computational trick Huawei came up with. And the best we can say about it is that it looks half decent at fit to screen magnification.

At the nominal resolution, photos don’t seem to offer benefits in terms of detail. There’s a bit more nuance to that statement in that the 40MP AI mode, which does some image stacking routines, may deliver better results. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem worth it, though.

The ultrawide cam may not be attractive on paper but delivers solid results regardless. Detail levels are good even if things aren’t exactly pin sharp, particularly for distant subjects. Closer ones, on the other hand, do appear to be better defined. Noise is, again, not a part of the picture. Sometimes there can be minor differences in colors between the ultrawide and the main camera, but for the most part we have no objections against the ultrawide’s color rendition. Dynamic range is nothing short of amazing.

Low-light photo quality:

The P50 Pocket is a capable performer in low-light. It captures sharp and detailed images with its main camera and controls noise very well. Dynamic range is excellent too, giving shadows good development and leaving highlights well preserved, with no blooming around bright light sources. White balance and color rendition are accurate.

Night mode kicking in is more of a liability. Firstly, it would often pick some crazy duration like 13s or 17s, leaving you with few options to proceed – you could cancel the shot, but it would then go on execution whatever processing it had lined up for the entire stack and that you can skip. The outcome of more trivial 2s or so Night Mode exposure ends up being ever so slightly blurrier than the regular photo mode images, with no visible gain to make for a worthy trade-off.

The 2x zoom level is pretty much usable in dark too, and it can even stand up to some pixel-level scrutiny in relatively better lit scenes.

Night mode kicks up the sharpness, but there doesn’t seem to be any considerable effects on the photos.

The ultrawide doesn’t harm the positive impression – when keeping in mind that there’s no cutting edge hardware behind these images, of course. The level of detail and sharpness is average and noise seemingly nonexistent, though the noise reduction is preferred to be a little less aggressive. Dynamic range is great and while there are some halos around bright lights, the Pocket manages to contain them quite well.

Once again, the Night mode doesn’t seem to add any beneficial point to the ultrawide shots. In fact, it’s more often detrimental, delivering underexposed images despite taking a few extra seconds to capture.

Macro:

Building up on the ultrawide’s preference for nearby subjects and leveraging its autofocusing capabilities, you can capture some pretty great close-up with it, even if there’s no ‘macro’ mode per se. The fact that it’s a proper camera shooting this and not a 2MP or even 5MP afterthought certainly helps with detail and you also get full-power HDR, which isn’t always the case with the lesser units. Naturally, the ultrawide focal length means you need to be very close to your subject, but that’s a common trait of most smartphone ‘macro’ implementations.

Fluorescence mode:

Fluorescence mode uses the UV light emitter on the back of the phone to illuminate objects that respond to those wavelengths. Mind you, it’s the main 40MP camera that captures these images and not the 32MP one used for the Sunscreen test feature. As such, you can get similar results with any phone and an extra UV flashlight, though it’s not like a lot of people carry UV flashlights on them, and here it’s bundled inside the phone.

Huawei says you should use Fluorescence mode in the dark, and it does help since the UV light is relatively low-powered, and its effect is quickly diminished when there’s more ambient light in the visible range of the spectrum.

Portrait shots:

Portrait mode on the P50 Pocket gave a very hit-and-miss experience – leaning towards miss, even. After a couple of okay shots with simulated blur and all that, it would just stop doing the bokeh effect altogether. Our best guess is that it heats up beyond a certain limit after which it deems this particular processing non-essential – because it does quite quickly heat up when taking portraits.

The Pocket sometimes left portions of the background in focus which should have been blurred. It does perform fare in certain scenes, completely isolating the subject from different types of background (solid/busy, near/far). It does a great job with skin tones and facial detail at 1x zoom, too, so that’s good.

The 2x zoom level, on the other hand, is simply bad when it comes to detail.

Selfies:

Selfies on the P50 Pocket are captured with the internal ‘conditionally-front-facing’ camera have two zoom levels – the native wide one and a cropped one, similar to how Samsung has been doing it, only here the cropped ones are then upscaled to the nominal 10.7MP. Mind that the  Pocket has a very different selfie camera than the P50 Pro’s – this one is lower-res and lacks AF.

10.7MP should normally be plenty if everything is alright, but this camera suffers from varying issues in our experience. In bright light, the shots appeared to show what we think is image stacking misalignment, the other exhibited excessive noise, also HDR wasn’t playing a role.

While this would normally paint a pretty looking grim picture for your selfies, we’re willing to ignore these shortcomings on the Pocket in particular, because you can get spectacular results using the rear cameras and framing on the external display, and just how good do your video calls need to be?

Rear camera selfies:

Here’s how much better output the rear cameras can give you. On the main one, in particular, we’re talking crisp detail, likable colors, HDR aplenty (a bit much, even, occasionally).

There’s also the ultrawide that lets you bring more context or more people into your selfies, even if it’s not quite as sharp on a pixel level.

One potential issue you’d be wise to take out is fingers blocking the ultrawide camera’s view since it can be awkward to hold the Pocket when it’s closed to take pictures with the rear camera. The fact that the circular screen doesn’t show the corners of the frame doesn’t help either.

Final verdict:

Can you accept the fact that Google Maps and Netflix are missing on the phone? P50 Pocket doesn’t have them. Do you play games a lot? A Snapdragon 888 would be just the thing best for that. Do foldables make you uneasy because they’ll shatter when you so much as look at them? The IP rating missing on the Pocket isn’t going to help. Are you fond of the latest 5G connectivity, for whatever reason? Not in your Pocket, no.

There are plenty of reasons why the Pocket is a bad idea, but there’s a Pros list too. Fascinating in principle, foldables can be somewhat practical (like Samsung’s) or attractive (like this one here). And both current Samsungs seem to compromise this or that so as to fit the budget and not cannibalize other models in the lineup – Huawei doesn’t seem to be overly worried about either with the Pocket.

Pros

  • Foldables are striking to begin with, this one looks even more so.

  • Gapless folding design, fits in tighter pockets compared to other foldables.

  • Inner display is great all around, the outer display offers extended functionality.

  • Very fast charging.

  • Sunscreen test feature can be useful for the right buyer, the UV light offers cool photo opportunities on its own.

  • It has a great main camera, solid ultrawide, amazing selfie shooting potential when using rear cameras and external display.

  • EMUI 12 is quite powerful even without Google services.

  • Works and talks well with other Huawei devices.

Cons

  • No IP rating, doesn’t want to stay open at any angle.

  • Underwhelming battery life.

  • Underpowered speaker system.

  • No Google Service support.

  • Limited HDR-compatible apps.

  • No 5G connectivity support.

  • Throttles under continued load.

  • Unreliable Portrait mode, meh internal camera quality.

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