Huawei P9 first impressions: Great phone, exceptional camera, let down by lousy software

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Chinese tech giant Huawei unveiled its latest smartphone, the Huawei P9, at an event in Bangkok last week, with the company announcing it is aiming for 15 percent of the Thailand smartphone market by 2017.

The P9 includes a 5.2 inch display, is powered by Huawei’s Octa-core Kirin 955 processor and there is also a unique dual lens camera created by Leica.

The version featured here has 3GB, 32GB of internal memory and is on sale now for 16,990 Baht. At the time of writing, Huawei also includes a 128GB MicroSD and case in the price.

We’ll do a more indepth review on the P9 in the coming weeks, but after spending a little over 48 hours with the device, I wanted to share with you some first impressions on the Huawei P9.

Overall, there is a lot to like about the P9 but there are also a number of things, mainly to do with software, that are likely to put some people off.

From the moment you take the phone out of the box, the P9 looks and feels every bit like a high end smartphone.

It’s all metal body weighs just 144g grams and is just 6.95mm thick and in terms of looks it does not look out of place alongside either the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge or iPhone 6s, despite in some cases being almost half the price.

The good

Huawei P9

There are two things that really stand out about the Huawei P9.

The first is its main feature and selling point – its dual camera.

Created in partnership with German camera manufacturer Leica, the 12MP dual shooter takes exceptional photographs and having used the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S, the P9 tops both of them by some distance.

If you take a lot of photos with your smartphone then the P9 is certainly worth considering and you will also enjoy the myriad of features that accompany the camera, that enable you to not only add effects but also refocus images after you have taken them.

The other great feature on the P9 is its lightning fast fingerprint scanner, which again is as good as you will find on any other smartphone.

Other positives notes are its overall design, the bright and vibrant screen which handles sunlight really well, inclusion of a USB-C port and Micro-SD card slot which enables you to expand the internal memory 256GB.

Battery performance has also been excellent getting almost two full days of power, despite heavy use.

The overall look and feel of the phone is also really good. The P9 sits very nicely in the hand, is lightweight and looks great.

 

The bad

Before and after. Huawei's Emotion UI on the left. With the P9 running Google Now Launcher on the right

Before and after. Huawei’s Emotion UI on the left. With the P9 running Google Now Launcher on the right – much more Android like.

Out of the box the Huawei P9 comes with Android Marshmallow, with Huawei’s Emotion UI 4.1 on top.

Considering the P9 runs Marshmallow, Huawei’s UI offers a very different and somewhat un-Android like experience, which some Android fans may have issues with.

The major thing of note is the lack of an app drawer, with the overall look and feel more reminiscent of iOS than Android.

Despite trying to get grips with the Emotion UI, it was just too much of a jump from stock Android and after spending the first 24 hours with device I installed the Google Now Launcher in order to give me a more Android like experience – which includes an app drawer.

With that being said, and although the Settings menu take a little getting used to, the Emotion UI also includes some very useful features that aren’t available on Android, such as motion gestures, a one handed mode, voice wake up and Huawei’s own ‘do not disturb mode’.

Its handy knuckle gesture lets you take a screenshot by knocking on the screen with your knuckle.

Huawei’s battery manager setting lets you have near total control over almost things related to the battery and lets you tweak different power plans and CPU usage in order to save battery life when you need it most.

It informs about which apps are most power hungry and you can create a whitelist that enables you to tell the P9 which apps should be left to run in the background.

You can also change the screen resolution from Full HD to 720P which Huawei says will save you power if you are running low on juice. And if your battery is at a critical level there is also a monochrome feature that included in the ultra power saving mode, which claims to add several more hours battery usage.

The bottom line

Huawei P9

The bottom of the Huawei P9 is where you will find the headphone jack and USB-C port

The Huawei P9 is excellently designed smartphone, with stylish looks that offers good performance and value. The Leica camera is unrivalled in terms of features and the quality of shots it is capable of.

However, all this good stuff is offset by Huawei’s Emotion UI, which for some may be a step too far.

For a more Android like experience you will need to download the Google Now Launcher.

Huawei P9  Specs

Huawei P9
Display 5.20 inch
Resolution 1080×1920 pixels
Processor 1.8GHz
RAM 3GB or 4GB
Storage 32GB or 64GB
Rear Camera 12 MP
Front Camera 8 MP
OS Android 6.0
Battery capacity 3000mAh

 

Jonathan Fairfield
Jonathan is our Google Nexus and Android enthusiast. He is also fanatical about football which makes it all the more strange that he should support Stockport County. In addition to writing about tech, Jonathan has a passion for fitness and nutrition and has previously written for one the UK’s leading watch and horology websites.
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