The moment I laid my eyes on it, I had the same thought that went through everyone’s minds: “Could this be an improved Z Flip 3?”
Don’t get me wrong. I liked the Z Flip 3 (between this and the Z Fold 3 though, my heart lies with the latter, but shh…), but its small battery capacity (3,300mAh) and subpar camera specs disabled it from becoming the lifestyle foldable phone.
So, it seemed like the P50 Pocket with its 4,000mAh battery and Huawei’s high quality camera hardware would have the potential to end the Z Flip 3’s career. But as I would find out later, things were a little more complicated.
Normally if we were speaking in person I may have asked, “Good news or bad news first?”. In this case, you don’t have that luxury. I’m telling the bad news first so we can (maybe) end the piece on a high note.
The bad news
1. No Google Mobile Services (GMS) makes it near-unusable here.
To get the elephant in the room out of the way, I must acknowledge that the lack of GMS on the P50 Pocket immediately makes me reluctant to consider a future with it.
The thing is, I don’t like holding this against Huawei as it’s something out of their control. They’ve certainly tried to do their best with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), but the fact of the matter is that it’s not enough.
So many of my daily-use apps are still missing from HMS. Google’s own suite of apps for my work aside, even my entertainment is dependent on GMS.
Living my life downloading APK after APK is just not my style, so unfortunately, I must dock points for this.
2. Small cover display that sticks to the P50 theme, but isn’t too useful.
I understand wanting to stick to a similar visual theme for the P50 series, but to sacrifice better usability just for aesthetics isn’t a scenario I can see working out in Huawei’s favour.
The 1.04-inch cover display is not only smaller than the Z Flip 3’s 1.9-inch one, but it’s also circular, making it tough to view notifications or even check yourself out with the selfie function.
3. Hinges that are smooth but also too “snappy”.
When my colleagues and I first got our hands on the P50 Pocket, we all agreed that its hinges felt a lot smoother than the Z Flip 3’s.
Once I began using the P50 Pocket more though, I realised that there was a flaw. I think Huawei prioritised the ease of opening and closing the phone more than making its foldability actually useful.
Because of that, the phone snaps open and shut very easily, but this also means that it’s hard to fold the phone at a certain angle (for example, 45° or 120°) without it snapping completely closed or open.
On the Z Flip 3, the slight stiffness of its hinges allowed the user to utilise Flex Mode while propping the semi-folded phone on a flat surface to use hands-free.
Flex Mode is a Samsung feature on its foldables whereby apps will resize themselves automatically when the phone is partially-folded or opened.
The stiffer hinges of the Z Flip 3 also allowed for more versatility when taking pictures hands-free.
4. No Huawei version of Flex Mode or a multi-window feature.
As mentioned above, there’s no Huawei version of Flex Mode, which isn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s a convenient feature to use that actually gives more value to a phone’s foldability.
Following that, the P50 Pocket also doesn’t have a multi-window function whereby once folded, you can operate two separate apps on either half of the phone screen.
This feature gave the Z Flip 3 a productivity slant, since it meant you could be watching a video on the top half while taking notes on the bottom half.
The P50 Pocket completely lacks this ability, although there aren’t many apps I could use for productivity in the first place anyway.
All these cons aside though, the P50 Pro does have its perks.
The good news
1. Good (but not yet great) cameras.
Of course, it’s Huawei, so good cameras are to be expected. Compared to what the P50 Pro dishes out though, the P50 Pocket leaves more to be desired.
But compare the P50 Pocket to the Z Flip 3, and the Huawei’s cameras absolutely shine with no competition.
I don’t even want to mention the Z Flip 3’s cameras because they were pretty subpar, but while the P50 Pocket’s are miles better, it still has its shortcomings.
For example, sometimes when taking pictures in Aperture or Portrait mode, the artificial background blurring can get wonky and blur out chunks of the object that I actually want to focus on.
But I won’t necessarily say it’s a con, because in my experience, most phone camera software that use artificial means to achieve the bokeh or portrait look tend to suffer from odd, splotchy blurring or difficulty in focusing on the right object every now and then.
2. An eye-catching design (though it may not be to everyone’s tastes).
Visually, the P50 Pocket is stunning thanks to Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen, who designed its back.
Her iconic wave design gives the phone an haute couture edge, and if the P50 Pocket’s foldability wasn’t already a conversation starter, its back would be it.
The design itself isn’t too loud, but the extremely shiny and reflective back certainly brings the texture to light.
On the front, the P50 Pocket boasts a slightly larger main screen (6.9 inches versus the Z Flip 3’s 6.7 inches), but I didn’t find that it made a huge difference usage-wise.
3. A foldable phone that actually folds all the way shut.
Another area where the P50 Pocket has a leg up over the competition is in its ability to shut pretty seamlessly.
The Z Flip 3 suffered from something I’d like to call a “thigh gap” when shut, meaning there was an awkward empty space by the hinge where keys or other small objects could get in between, leading to scratches.
Aesthetically, the P50 Pocket’s seamless fold is much more eye-pleasing. When opened, the screen crease is also less noticeable, but I can’t say the Z Flip 3’s deeper crease impacted my use negatively at all.
4. For battery and storage, bigger is always better.
I’ve heard reviewers and users say that the Z Flip 3’s 3,300mAh battery was an issue, and my colleague who owns one (her 3-month review here) even bought a power bank just to keep it juiced up during the day.
On the other hand, thanks to its 4,000mAh battery, a fully-charged P50 Pocket lasted a good 6-7 hours with its camera being frequently used and its brightness set quite high during our recent vacation in Cameron Highlands.
Storage-wise, the P50 Pocket starts at 256GB, 8GB RAM, and has a 512G, 12GB RAM version, compared to the Z Flip 3 starting at 128GB, 8GB RAM and only going up to 256GB, 8GB RAM.
But here’s the killer: the Gold P50 Pocket designed by Iris Van Herpen costs a whopping RM7,299 (512GB, 12GB RAM). If you’re not into the design, then there’s a White version costing RM5,999 (256GB, 8GB RAM), but it’s still a steep price tag to pay.
This is especially because the main pro of the P50 Pocket is its cameras, but is that upgrade alone worth the RM2K-RM3.3K price difference compared to the Z Flip 3 (starting at RM3,999)?
Most of the P50 Pocket’s other improvements feel very aesthetics-focused, and the lack of usability in its software and foldable features makes it tough for me to genuinely recommend this phone at this point in time.
I’m aware that the US bans have had an impact on Huawei, and it’s likely that it’s been unable to get the necessary components to upgrade its hardware and software.
It puts the brand at a disadvantage, and it’s not one that it’s able to overcome just yet outside of China. So, until HMS improves and more apps can be used on Huawei phones, I’d say forego the P50 Pocket if you’re looking for a usable foldable.
My main takeaway from this whole experience is actually that a perfect foldable phone could exist—it may just take a marriage of what the Z Flip 3 and P50 Pocket each have to offer.
|Good cameras||No Google Mobile Services|
|More exciting design||Small cover display limits functionality|
|Seamless fold and a more shallow screen crease||Smooth hinges disrupt hands-free usage|
|Larger battery and storage capacity||Limited app resizing and multi-window usage when folded|
- Learn more about the P50 Pocket here, and read our review on the Huawei P50 Pro here.
- Check out more VP Verdicts here.
VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page.