The Huawei P9 has been a long time coming for Australia, the launch in London a few months ago, then the Asia-Pacific launch in Bali in May and finally this week we get Australian pricing and availability. Normally, I don’t think I’d care so much, but let me tell you something – this is one hell of a good phone and the RRP in Australia is sensational.
I don’t normally get that pumped about a phone launch – Apple of course, but mainly because of the somehow inherent hype that comes with it. The P9 though got my attention when Huawei started to talk about design, camera, and overall performance in a way I had not heard them talk before.
This really felt like a flagship device for them. And having used it now for many weeks, I can tell you that’s exactly what it is.
The P9 feels comfortable in the hand, it’s not too big yet it packs a 5.2 inch screen into the full metal body. You can tell that Huawei’s design team have realised they need to have a solid feel and look if they’re going to compete.
Oppo and Huawei are really showing Apple and Samsung what for when it comes to Fingerprint readers. Adding new fingerprints is a breeze and on the Huawei the back panel placed Fingerprint reader is lightning fast and unlocks the phone with a tap not a press. It sounds stupidly simple, but its mega convenient. Top marks.
One of the challenges with Android is the way every manufacturer seems to change what is a pretty darn good operating system for their own good.
The redesign of icons is acceptable, giving a very brand style feel to things. Some will tell you this packs a bunch of “bloatware” but in my experience there wasn’t a performance impact on the operating system from what Huawei had done.
Two notable exceptions to the stock Android worth calling out though. One not so great, one great.
The not so great – For some reason Huawei has taken a radical approach to the swipe down notification and quick settings page. Notifications appear first, quick settings are a swipe to the left. Notifications are sometimes hard to clear and it didn’t dawn on me the small trash can was the “clear all” for notifications for some time.
To access airplane mode or other quick settings you have to swipe down then left to get the hot keys. Strangely, I found adjusting the brightness a challenge many times – it’s like the screen had my finger in the wrong spot – or I was having a parallax error. But to get it over and over again just seemed strange to me. Blow this up and go back to stock Android notifications folks.
The Great – That fingerprint sensor? Huawei have harnessed its power for your apps too. There’s a tricky little setting under Huawei’s “Phone Manager” called “App Lock”.
You can use this to choose ANY installed app and protect it with fingerprint. So put it on your browser, or your netflix account, so when you hand the phone to the kids, they can’t open those apps without your fingerprint. It’s brilliant, and doesn’t require the app developer to do anything. It’s at the operating system level. Sensational feature.
As is a bonus Great feature I’ll give you. Hidden apps. Got some apps you don’t want prominent in your home screens? Perhaps to hide from the kids (or Wife), or just to keep things tidy? Thumb and forefinger on the screen together (pinched) and drag them apart (Zoom motion) – boom – hidden apps!
Very simple, very cool.
It’s only HD. Only. What a joke, you’ll hear and read loads of people complaining that it could be greater, but why? I’ve used 4K screens, QHD screens, whatever you like – you know what those screens do? Suck battery. Big time. More pixels require more power. There’s nothing wrong with this screen at all. I never left myself wanting for more pixels. Even if you were watching 4K content, on a 5 inch screen you’re kidding if you think it makes a massive difference.
It’s bright, not the brightest I’ve seen, the colours aren’t as rich as I’d like either, but all in all its a solid high-level screen. Well above your mid-range smart phones.
Well, it’s a Leica. More correctly two Leica cameras. Not two lenses for different angles, two cameras. Two sensors.
One is monochrome, one is RGB colour. You can take monochrome shots – and they’ll be the best natural black and white’s you’ve taken on a smartphone – no filter required.
But the thing pops when you are in standard mode, the smarts behind the scenes combines both RGB and monochrome images to make a vibrant colour photo.
There are pro settings, for shutter speed and all sorts of things, and while they are great, the reality is they are a gimmick for 99% of folks.
Here’s three photos I took randomly as a general use – not intending to use them in review – just capturing a moment as we all do more often than not.
Standard images from this thing are sensational, top of the class fine. You’ll compete with your mates with any other phone on the market here, and frankly, I’d challenge anyone to find a clear winner in the camera stakes.
Though when it comes to just choosing a phone based on the camera I’d have to recommend the Huawei P9 – it has an overall image quality that I’ve enjoyed seeing, the shutter speed and camera app launch time are excellent and I never felt I was wanting for my iPhone in the weeks I used this phone.
While many companies tout a full day or multiple day performance for their battery, the Huawei P9 didn’t let me down once. I’m the type of user that on an average day will need a power boost at least once, in the car, at the office or otherwise, to get me through to the night.
With the P9 I never needed that. I could easily get to the end of the day and into the evening with 20% battery still remaining, and the low-power battery mode will get you dumb-phone features and a heap more talk and text time. But I never needed that.
Head to head with the flagship Apple, Samsung, LG and Sony phones this is a winner for me.
There’s nothing sluggish about this phone. I never once had a frustration over speed, though I did have some apps have the odd conniption – Snapchat just hated the phone after a recent update, but that’s the pain of Android Folks. With iOS a developer can test on the handful of devices in market. Can’t be done with Android – so bugs are always being ironed out.
Overall – again – I was never left wanting for more. And I think that’s the key thing here, will someone who’s used to an iPhone or Samsung feel like this isn’t as good. No.
I’ve discussed this product a lot over recent weeks, wondering if Huawei would try to place it price-wise up against the Apple and Samsung flagship phones – that’s well over $1,000. As it turns out, Huawei are smart – they’ve placed an RRP of $799 on the P9 which makes it in my view the best value flagship smartphone on the market today.
That’s easily $200 less than the big boys, and it means you save up front or you’ll be able to save by being on a lower monthly plan.
With that in mind this is a no-brainer for me – it’s a five star phone, and any Android user would love it, and any iPhone user looking to switch to Android would not be disappointed by the Huawei P9.
Pre-orders start June 28 available July 5.
What Huawei need now is to back the phone with solid marketing head to head with the big boys in the Aussie Market.