Huawei's MateX foldable 5G phone. Photo: Handout

Huawei’s sleek flagship handset sporting an eight-inch OLED display that can be folded outwards to form two separate screens and is also compatible with 5G cellar networks capable of downloading an ultra-HD movie in the blink of an eye is flying off the shelves.

The MateX, which went on sale last Monday across mainland China, has instantly become the favorite toy of the country’s parvenu riche. Huawei boldly set the price of the baseline model at a whopping 16,999 yuan (US$2,420).

The buzz about the futuristic device grew after the initial batch of the MateX were snapped up in a few hours on launch day, with stocks emptied on Huawei’s official online store as well as other key online venders including Tmall and JD.com.

The MateX’s tight supply has fueled a speculation bonanza among scalpers and tech nerds in China, unseen for years since the release of the iPhone 4 in 2010.

The MateX sports a gorgeous display that can be folded outward. Photo: Twitter via TechRadar

The cutting-edge technology behind Huawei’s foldable phone has made rival offerings from Apple look “medieval” as the iPhone maker uses the same boring design with merely piecemeal improvements for three generations – the iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone 11 – in three years, say many speculators.

Some who were lucky to be the first to get hold of the hotly sought-after MateX are now reselling their devices at a fat markup on xianyu.com, Alibaba’s peer-to-peer platform for unused or second-hand items, with prices fetching up to 120,000 yuan ($17,000).

That said, some suspect the eye-watering resale price is a marketing gimmick by speculators eager to whip up more curiosity about the device and make some talking points.

Phone dealers in Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei market, a prominent exchange of phones and electronic components where reference prices of unused and second-hand gadgets for traders across the country are set, told local papers that MateX’s asking price had been hovering between 50,000 and 80,000 yuan in recent days, meaning a guaranteed markup of about 30,000 yuan.

Huaqiangbei is not far away from Huawei’s headquarters campus in the city.

Tech analysts say the long journey from the MateX’s global debut in Barcelona in February to Monday’s launch of sales is proof that Huawei had taken time to perfect the quality and durability of the flexible display as well as its caution in not letting any potential glitches or design or manufacturing flaws mar or even delay the launch. This is because of Samsung’s problems with its Galaxy Fold, whose display cracked during a small-scale trial by a few selected tech reviewers earlier this year.

It is also said that the MateX is being held back by a bottleneck as its flexible display is expensive and difficult to mass-produce. Huawei has not disclosed the supplier of the display, which is covered by plastic and secured by a push-button latch when closed.

Huawei is rumored to be in a process of finalizing a new foldable phone as well as a tablet computer for a potential launch early next year with a faster processor and more versatile 5G chipset that supports more 5G networks to be rolled out in other countries so users can roam seamlessly.

Read more: Huawei ups the ante with foldable 5G phone debut

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