The Huawei Y9a is an interesting phone, and I have come to appreciate what it brings to the table at a time when other phone makers are equally busy churning out phones for the masses.
Interesting because the Y9a is not without competition: I can mention three, perhaps more devices that cost nearly the same (KES 31000, if you are asking), and they all have their fair share of good points and compromises as the Y9a.
And what does the Y9a do well? Quite plenty actually, and I am going to mention as you read through this assessment. What about where it fails to deliver? Of course, that angle exists too, and some of you can guess what is happening here.
With that in mind, here are the specs for the Y9a:
Huawei Y9a Specifications and Price in Kenya
|Fullview display | TFT LCD
|2400 by 1080
|EMUI 10.1 and Android 10
|MediaTek G80 processor
|Octa-core (2x2.0 GHz Cortex-A75 & 6x1.8 GHz Cortex-A55)
|microSD, up to 512GB
|Dual 4G Volte
|64MP quad rear camera setup that includes the main 64MP wide(f/1.8), 8MP ultra-wide(f/2.4 and 120-degree FOV), 2MP depth sensor(f/2.4) and 2MP macro lens(f/2.4)
|16MP pop-up selfie camera
|4300mAh battery that will charge using a 40W Supercharge
|Midnight Black, Space Silver and Sakura Pink.
|side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Let’s try to put the specs into perspective because as they say, numbers never tell everything.
Now, the device has 4G support, but that has become a norm now even for phones that cost under KES 10K. A normal thing, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless. Oh, our unit is a single SIM variant, but we are certain retail units have dual SIM support.
The phone tips the scales at 197g, which is on the heavy side for folks who love their phones light. Huawei, however, has tried to make handling better with the Y9a: the screen is big at 6.63 inches, but it doesn’t feel that huge; ergonomics have been improved with volume buttons that are placed slightly lower on the left side; and the power button has an integrated fingerprint scanner, so you wouldn’t need to reach behind the phone for ordinary placement.
Even better is that the scanner is not under the display: those ones are slow, and are yet to surpass the reliability of the trusty ol’ capacitive scanners. The one used in the Y9a is speedy and accurate with zero misreads. It is sad that this kind of scanners will be phased out soon when under the display scanners trickle down to affordable smartphones.
Speaking of that display, it is what you would expect in a midrange Huawei phone. It is big, gets plenty bright outside, and is immersive because there is no notch here interrupting your viewing experience. Where is the selfie snapper? It is under the body of the phone, and can be summoned using motors. Good choice in my book.
Looking at its platform, you will notice some interesting choices. Of course, the Y9a runs Android with EMUI 10.1, but you are not getting Google apps and services here. You know it, I know it, but it the biggest issue here. An elephant in the room. But listen on…
Tech-savvy customers will use the device just fine, and can find their apps from other sources, but only those that do not need Google services framework to run. That is a bummer even for me. Imagine using YouTube on a browser, or not use mySafaricom app at all (the telco might update the app to run just fine of HMS, but that development usually takes time).
It is a good thing that some local apps are here, especially financial ones such as Eazzy Banking and KCB.
If you dig deeper in AppGallery, you will find other popular titles too (Telegram, Snapchat). Still, the lack of Google Apps is a big thing here, and we hope, really hope, that the political landscape in the US changes so that Huawei can renegotiate its stand and start doing business with American companies (these are just too many words for ‘we hope Biden wins come November’).
That aside, its other side of the platform is impressive: the Helio G80 chipset has sufficient horsepower to do all the weight-lifting. In fact, in terms of speed, the Y9a felt slightly responsive than my ageing S10 that has started to show its white hairs.
Part of that speed is partly due to the ample RAM (8 GB). Internal storage is more than enough too at 128 GB. We are at that time when these phones come with a huge room for your apps and media files, and can longer complain about storage issues as we used to some years ago.
Now, the cameras are, without a doubt, very good for the price, perhaps better than the competition. Huawei has been equipping its midrange devices with good snappers for a long time now, and has experience in doing cameras right (its high-end phones such as the P40 Pro have some of the best cameras in the world).
The main 64 MP sensor is complemented by an 8 MP ultrawide lense, alongside two 2 MP sensors for macro shooting and depth sensing. The macro sensor is as useless as they come because no one uses it, but I understand why it is there.
The front camera, as said before, pops up from the body. It has a 16 MP sensor.
There is no way to make the camera performance clear (sorry) besides sharing a couple of pictures we snapped around town. They deliver, if you need a short answer to the camera story.
Now, how about that battery? The 4300 mAh juicer is competent, but that is not all. Huawei decided to replicate what it did with the nova 7i by including a 40W charging brick. This means you can fill the tank from 0 percent to 70% in under 30 minutes. In practical use, it a couple of minutes more than that, but still, these are impressive numbers.
Standby time is excellent too; the device hardly loses power at night, a feat that Samsung should emulate.
Overall, it is obvious that the Y9a is a good phone, and punches above its weight, save for that software case. It won’t be for long though, and we want things to work for the company because it, among other Chinese phone makers, has popularized low-cost phones, which was not the case at the start of the last decade. At KES 31000, the price is right, and is deservedly higher than other Y9 series of phones from the past, but with these features, it just can’t cost lower. Are there better options, sure, but it is better you consider these observations before you make an informed decision to drop those thousands at a retailer next to you.