Last evening (East African Time), Huawei unveiled the P9, its 2016 flagship smartphone, at an event in London.
Huawei has in recent years upped its game when it comes to the kind of products it releases to the market. This can be seen in the quality of its more recent premium devices like the P8, Mate S and the Mate 8 (which we recently reviewed).
The P9 is further testament to the progress made over the years as it builds upon the foundation set by past Huawei devices while also setting the pace for the competition. Last year, the market responded accordingly by taking in over 100 million smartphones that the Chinese company shipped. This year, the P9 is expected to lead that charge to the top again.
1. There will be two variants of the Huawei P9
Huawei will be making available in the market two versions of the P9. The difference will be in the specifications. There will be a P9 variant with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage and there will be another with 4 GB RAM and twice the storage (64 GB). This is nothing new. Huawei did the same thing with the Mate 8. Obviously, the two will differ in pricing as well.
The “enhanced” P9 (with 4 GB RAM) will also have two exclusive colour options: Ceramic White and Haze Gold.
2. Huawei did not just launch the P9, it launched two smartphones. The P9 Plus is the other smartphone unveiled yesterday
The endless circus of leaks and rumours prior to the launch had led us to believe that Huawei had four devices in store for us. Maybe it actually did have four different devices modelled around the P9. However, what we got to see were just three devices (give or take the variants). The P9 (“standard” and “enhanced” models) and a much larger sibling, the P9 Plus.
The Huawei P9 Plus has a much bigger 5.5-inch full HD Super AMOLED (yes, Super AMOLED). The size and type of display is the biggest difference between the P9 Plus and its smaller sibling, the P9. The P9 has a 5.2-inch LCD display.
A big device almost always means a bigger battery. The P9 Plus has a 3,400mAh battery unit.
There is one difference that may not be so visible to the naked eye but so visible when it comes to the usability of the device in question: pressure sensitivity. The P9 Plus’ display is pressure-sensitive. In case you had forgotten, Huawei released the first Android smartphone with a pressure-sensitive display last year when it unveiled the Mate 8.
3. The dual-camera setup is real
Huawei is heralding a new generation of smartphone cameras with the dual-camera system in the P9. Don’t get us wrong, dual-cameras are not new to smartphones. However, what Huawei is doing with the two cameras on the P9 is a first. One camera is a traditional red, green and blue (RGB) sensor i.e. the colour camera. The other is a monochrome sensor i.e. the black and white one. However, while users will be able to take advantage of the monochrome sensor to take some really popping black and white snaps, Huawei’s intentions for the camera are different. It’s meant to provide more detail when processing images taken with the phone so that you get more detail.
Huawei makes some really bold claims about the P9’s dual-cameras. For instance, that they capture between 70% and 270% more light than other competing devices (the Apple iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S7 respectively).
The P9 happens to be the first Huawei product since it entered into a partnership with renowned German camera and optics maker Leica. It is only fitting that the P9 has some Leica components, right? Indeed. The P9 (and it’s larger sibling the P9 Plus) uses Leica optics. Leica co-engineered the dual-cameras we just highlighted. Spot the ‘Leica Summarit lens’ branding in the images of the P9? That’s what’s up.
5. Better specs all round
Like any product upgrade, in the P9, last year’s P8 has a fitting successor. While the design is rather evolutionary, the core features and specifications have been updated not only to keep up with other 2016 devices we have already seen so far but to also set the tone for future device releases from Huawei.
For instance, you can count on upcoming Mate series devices to rock the Kirin 955 chipset made by Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon that the P9 packs. There’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow with several updated features in the Emotion UI overlay (version 4.1).
Sound is expected to be better. For the first time ever on a P series smartphone, there will be a fingerprint sensor on the P9. Like we have seen on the Mate 8, Huawei really knows how to nail it when it comes to the fingerprint sensor at the back of the device. We can’t wait to take the P9 on a spin and let it show us what it is capable of. The battery life is also expected to be better. There’s a larger 3,000mAh battery unit sealed inside.
Like we have seen on the Mate 8, Huawei really knows how to nail it when it comes to the fingerprint sensor at the back of the device. We can’t wait to take the P9 on a spin and let it show us what it is capable of. The battery life is also expected to be better. There’s a larger 3,000mAh battery unit sealed inside.
At 6.95 mm, the Huawei P9 has grown a bit thick (but still maintained its weight at 144 grams). However, so did just about every other recent phone. So the P9 ends up being thinner than Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge and Apple’s iPhone 6S Plus.
Features we saw and loved on the P8 like Signal+, which enhances signal quality when in fast moving scenarios like vehicles or trains and makes sure you don’t lose signal when you hold your device in a funny way, has been updated to version 2.0.
There’s USB Type-C as well.
One more thing: everything you had heard about a home button was totally wrong.
6. Even then, there’s still no QHD display
Like we have already noted before, the Huawei P9 and P9 Plus pack 1080p displays. Not those fancy Quad HD panels on other devices in their price range. Since Huawei is not looking forward to selling you a pair of virtual reality (VR) headsets, full high definition displays will be just fine. In the past (on the P8, Mate S and Mate 8), Huawei has used some really vibrant IPS-Neo LCD panels from Japan Display Inc. If those are the same panels on the P9 (and probably even tuned to be better) then we are in safe hands. We don’t have to doubt that.
The P9 Plus has a Super AMOLED display. It’s not the first time Huawei is using an OLED display on a smartphone, though. The Nexus 6P it made for Google has one.
7. NFC is a yes-no-yes affair
Now, we are not so sure about this but the P9 product pages on Huawei’s website show that dual-SIM versions of the P9 won’t have near-field communication (NFC) which is very useful these days for making mobile payments. The P9 Plus is listed as having NFC. We’ll need further clarification on this, though. With rumours of Huawei introducing its own mobile payments system to rival Samsung Pay, Android Pay and Apple Pay, we are not sure it can afford this kind of a slip-up if it has such plans.
8. There’s a Rose Gold colour option
Yup. Rose Gold is the new white. Remember when white-coloured phones (and their corresponding white earphones) were all the rage? It’s Rose Gold’s age now. The P9 will be available in that colour option too. Alongside Prestige Gold (what is that, surely?), Titanium Silver and Mystic Silver. The P9 Plus will, in addition to being available in colours the standard P9 will be available in, also be available in the colours of the enhanced model of the P9, Ceramic White and Haze Gold. P9 Plus buyers will also have a limited option of getting the device in Quartz Grey.
9. Just like any other top-of-the-range smartphone, the Huawei P9 is pricey
Want a premium smartphone? Be prepared to pay a premium fee for it. The P9 is expected to start at US $680 for the base model. The P9 Plus will go for, don’t faint, US $850.
10. It drops on April the 16th globally
April 16th is the global release date of the Huawei P9. However, you may have to wait a little longer for it to get to your country/region. That may range from anything like a few weeks to two months at most if last year’s P8 rollout is anything to go by.
We’ll have more to say about the P9 when we have it in for a review.