You've probably seen the Huawei P50 Pocket online in the hero Premium Edition livery with golden-colored ornamented glass panels. That's not the one that ended up at our doorstep, but after the initial mild disappointment, we came to appreciate our white unit's less flashy appearance.
Mind you, even in this comparatively more restrained attire, the Pocket is anything but ordinary. It almost feels redundant saying that about a foldable phone, but even as foldables go, this one is hard to miss.
Huawei made sure to craft the Pocket in such 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 bendy 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 screen that still folds in half on the inside.
Going back to our white review unit, we have to reiterate that we are fans of both the color and the crosshatch pattern that's just barely felt by your fingertips yet can't go unnoticed by your eyes. It is debatable just how grippy it is, and the answer will probably vary from person to person, but we'd say it feels more secure than a frosted matte back and about on par with a glossy glass one.
We also found ourselves unable to reach a consensus whether the back feels nice and premium, or cheap and tacky. For what it's worth, the reviewer writing these words is in the former camp.
The two black circles serve a different purpose each. One houses the cameras and is raised up a bit, so we can call that an island. The other is home to the cover display and sits flush with the back panel. 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 here, 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 cameras.
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 onto 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 screen 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 implementation 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 matter that the Pocket manages to be visibly and tangibly thinner. That's in part just perceptual, thanks to the curved frame (it's flat on the Flip), but also very objectively measurable due to the different screen bending concept and consequently the gapless closing.
Oh, and why didn't we start with this? The Pocket's crease in the middle of the display when opened is both shallower and less... sharp than the Flip's. It's something you easily can 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 ignore as time passes.
We haven't seen Huawei claim a certain number of folds that the hinge and display are tested for, and that probably makes sense at this point. With the technology now several generations old, there's no need to raise unnecessary doubts about its soundness.
The Pocket's build does have its downsides compared to the Flip, though. For one, its hinge doesn't particularly like to stay in any intermediate position and will tend to either close or open up fully - the Z Flip3 can be left at pretty much any angle. Now, we're not ones to find a great deal of use for keeping the Flip part-way open, but if you can see yourself using this 'functionality' as a makeshift 'tripod', the Pocket may not be as good.
Also, we can't help but think 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 is some. This reviewer recently bumped into an LG Flex2 at the office - the Pocket is nowhere as concave, but the association was there.
This got us thinking, and we checked the Flip3 only to find out that in its open state, its display isn't completely flat either. It's just that the Pocket somehow manages to draw more attention to that fact.
Moving on, Huawei didn't make the P50 Pocket water-resistant. We get that it's a huge engineering 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 a bit more reassuring.
Having said that, the SIM tray does have a gasket, so even if there's no formal IP rating on the Pocket, measures clearly have been taken to minimize exposure to the elements.
Speaking of, the tray will take two nano SIMs, or a nano SIM and a Nano Memory card, Huawei's more or less proprietary external memory standard. It's not quite as useful as a microSD, but it's still better than no expansion at all. Then again, with at least 256GB of built-in storage on the Pocket, you're unlikely to even need the extra space anyway.
Physical controls on the P50 Pocket include a power button with an embedded fingerprint reader and a volume rocker, both on in the top half of the handset (when unfolded), on the right side.
Using the fingerprint for unlocking makes for a somewhat clunky two-step process - you need to open the phone first, then touch the capacitive reader to unlock. That's a similar experience to the one we got with the Z Flip - it's essentially the same implementation. As we said back then, however, the very nature of the form factor makes 'locking' the Pocket a lot less essential than on a regular bar type of phone - it's not like you're going to accidentally touch the display when it's folded on itself.
The sensor works as expected - it unlocks with a similar rate of reliability with both the left index finger and the right thumb, and it's nicely fast. It's a bit of a stretch to reach with the left index finger, but they couldn't really have placed it any lower, so we can't complain.
The bottom holds the main loudspeaker (earpiece makes that a pair of speakers) and the primary mic, as well as the USB-C port. Up top, there's another mic.>Primary speaker and USB-C port on the bottom * Extra mic up top
The Pocket measures 87.3x75.5x15.2mm when folded and 170x75.5x7.2mm when you open it up. As we already mentioned, it's thinner than the Flip3 when both phones are in their closed states, which is all the more impressive, given that the Galaxy's halves are actually thinner. The gapless design does indeed work miracles for the Pocket.
Huawei's foldable is wider, though, by more than 3mm, and it's a difference you can feel. Not so much the 4mm of extra height on the Huawei - you won't be reaching the top of either phone anyway. The Pocket's 190g weight is essentially the same as the Flip's 183g.
Still, Huawei's handset does seem to make a slightly more solid 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 make you perceive it as getting more phone in as much or less space.