Head to any Australian telco’s website and you’ll find brands like Huawei and Oppo alongside Samsung and Apple. Regardless of the brand, a lot of our modern smartphones come from China and after years of manufacturing phones for international companies, they got so good at it, Chinese brands started making their own.
The latest phone from Huawei is the Mate 9, a large phone that offers an 8-core processor, great dual-lens camera and they claim up to two-days battery life. After spending a couple of weeks with it, its time to see how the reality of living with the phone stacks up.
The 5.9″ display is only 1920 x 1080p, so don’t expect it to be the best display on the market for 2017, but it is gorgeous. The display is crisp, clear and provides brilliant quality. The choice is clearly derived from the outright focus on battery life. by not powering those extra pixels, you can look at that screen for more hours of the day. Making the display even more engaging is the almost bezeless edges, running almost the entire width of the body.
When I first unboxed the phone, I immediately thought accidental touches while holding the phone would be an issue. Turns out this isn’t an issue at all. To be honest I never had a problem with this, so Huawei must be implementing some palm-rejection-style technology.
The back of the device looks different to most phones as it features a dual camera. This is to create 20MP Monochrome or 12MP RGB photos with Leica F2.2 lenses.
In the camera software, you can turn on a depth of field effect, the result of which looks stunning, like you’re using a DSLR. As soon as you learn it works in video as well, you quickly think about never using your DSLR again. The moment I realised the photos I’d taken with this can have the focus point adjusted after the photo is taken, I was seriously impressed.
The only downside I’ve seen from the camera is its performance at night. While its possible to take decent photos, its easier than it should be to take a blurry mess.
What’s not immediately obvious about the Mate9’s camera is the way you access advanced functions. There’s 3 little dots at the bottom of the display, but it was only by accident I discovered you swipe in from the left or right to access camera modes and settings.
In terms of modes, they are extensive, Photo, Monocrome, Beauty, Video, HDR, Beauty video, Panorama, Night shot, Light painting, Time-lapse, Slow-mo, Watermark, Audio note, Document scan and the ability to download even more. Importantly these are built-in, making it ready to go the minute you power up the phone, rather than having to find dedicated apps.
Packed inside the phone is a powerful Kirin 960 octa-core processor along with 3GB RAM. This helps the Mate9 launch applications and games quickly, as well as speed through intensive tasks like re-compressing video.
This phone is fast, one of the fastest I’ve used and your waiting times will definitely be decreased if you’re upgrading from a 1-2 year old device.
The phone does suffer from the occasional application hang, which seems to occur at random, but Android users will be fairly familiar with this. A quick force close or reboot and things return to normal.
Despite the display not being 4K, this phone is incredibly capable of shooting in 4K at more importantly completing one clip and being ready to start the next straight away is a massive asset.
As you go about using your phone, the Mate 9 is paying attention. Using advanced machine learning, the phone anticipates what you’ll do next so that task is cued and executed faster than it only initiating after your request. Understanding your most frequently
The massive 4,000 mAh battery is required to power the big screen, but after a few days of use, its far too early to tell what an average day looks like. I have had instances where at midnight the phone still had 30% left, while another day, heavier on location services, the phone made it to 11:30PM before hitting 0%. Given my S7 battery can often struggle to make it to 8PM without a top off, this extra battery is a very welcome inclusion.
The Mate 9 also ticks the very important checkbox of fast charging, meaning you’ll score hours more use with just minutes on the charger. It doesn’t however feature wireless charging, something we hope arrives in future editions.
Android 7.0 Nougat ships on this phone which is a welcome addition. Despite being out for months, there’s still a tiny list of devices that support or can be upgraded to the latest Android OS.
One of the areas that Android 7 improved was the ability to reply to notifications from the item in the drawer. There is however additional items in Huawei’s notification drawer that are really useful. Of course you’ve got Wifi, Bluetooth, a torch and all the regulars, but its the ability to record a video of the screen that’s one of my favourite features on this phone.
I might use the screen recording to create a tutorial video, but others may just use it for recording something cool in a game to share with friends. Of course there’s other 3rd party tools in the Play Store, but having it built-in is just brilliantly convenient.
Another option in the notification tray is ‘Eye comfort’. This turns the screen a yellow, softer shade that really does reduce eye strain. This is much like the Night Light feature in Windows 10 that can be schedule to come on during certain hours of the day.
Price & Availability
The Huawei Mate 9 is available now on Telstra, Optus, Vodafone. The phone is also available to buy outright at JB-HiFi and Harvey Norman for $988/$989.00. For a phone of this quality, that’s fantastic value for money.
At the end of the day, you may never have considered Huawei before, but the Chinese manufacturer has made a brilliant series of choices to deliver a phone that will last the whole day. Achieving a modern, fast smartphone that actually makes it from 7am to midnight is something we’ve really only dreamed about. Thankfully Huawei isn’t fixated on absolutely thinness above all other features.
If you’re looking for a new phone, make sure the Mate 9 is on your short list, I’d definitely recommend it. The camera is great, the screen is great and their UI actually compliments Android rather than detracts from it.
The Mate 9 sets a new benchmark for 2017 phones, one the next iPhone and the Galaxy will have to beat.