Huawei has finally launched its P-series smartphone in India – the Huawei P9 – which will compete with the high end flagships from LG, HTC, Samsung, Apple and more. The Huawei P9’s piece de resistance is its dual camera setup on the rear side, for which it has partnered with camera and lens maker Leica. The Huawei P9 is priced at Rs 39,999 and is clearly the most expensive Huawei phone (if you excuse the Nexus 6P that is) on the market considering that the Honor series caters to the more mainstream and budget oriented buyers.
Post the launch we got to spend some time with the device and here are our first impressions.
Build and Design
The Huawei P9 looks quite stunning at first glance. The all-metal body, the dual cameras flush with the rear side and chamfered edges give it an elegant look. Thanks to its 5.2 inch display, one-handed use is not much of an issue. The phone measures just 6.95mm thick and weighs a mere 144 grams. The finish on the metal ensures that the grip isn’t too slippery.
The right side makes place for the volume rocker button and a textured power/standby button, whereas the left side gets the hybrid dual SIM card slot. There are no physical buttons on the front and the side bezels are extremely slim.
On the rear side the dual-camera setup occupies the top portion and just below it you have the rounded square shaped fingerprint scanner.
The fingerprint scanner is ergonomically placed at the spot where your index finger would normally rest while holding a smartphone.
The bottom edge has the 3.5mm audio jack, a USB type C port and the speaker grille. The top edge is clean.
We have been seeing a lot of flagship smartphones with 5.5-inch display sizes and above. The Huawei P9 sticks to a more conservative 5.2-inch Full HD configuration. The P9 employs an IPS NEO LCD panel which offers great viewing angles and things do appear sharp. The black levels look quite good for smartphone display with an IPS panel. The display can get a bit reflective though. We still need to use the device outdoors to get an idea of the sunlight legibility of the display.
Chipset, RAM, Storage
Over the years we have been seeing Huawei using its own home made chipset for its flagship phones, whereas the budget devices from the Honor lineup get Qualcomm/MediaTek chipsets. The Huawei P9 continues that tradition and houses a HiSilicon Kirin 955 chipset which has an octa-core processor featuring a quad-core Cortex A72 processor clocked at 2.5GHz and a quad-core Cortex A53 processor clocked at 1.8GHz. On the graphics side, you get a Mali T880 GPU.
Globally there are two storage and RAM variants with the Huawei P9 – a 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM variant and a 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM variant. But the one launched for the Indian market has the 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM variant. Out of the 32GB, around 25GB is user available space. You also get the option to add in a microSD card of up to 128GB capacity in case you want to expand the storage.
OS and Software
Android 6.0 Marshmallow has become pretty much a standard on most flagship devices. The Huawei P9 also comes with Marshmallow but along with its custom Emotion UI 4.1 skin atop it. Just like most Chinese handset makers, the Huawei Emotion UI skin also eschews the app drawer and you only get multiple home screens.
While the user interface isn’t much different from the one we have seen on Honor devices, we noticed a bit too much of bloatware out of the box. Apart from the system apps all other unwanted apps can be uninstalled. Among the system apps we noticed apps such as HiCare (for customer care), Health (fitness tracker), Themes and more.
This is the USP of the Huawei P9. Now the presence of dual cameras on the rear side of a smartphone isn’t something new. The first time we had seen this implementation was in the QiKU Q Terra. Huawei P9 also uses two 12MP camera sensors on the rear side, of which one sensor only captures the RGB colour data whereas the other sensor only captures the monochromatic data including edge sharpness and depth. Working together these two sensors deliver images that take care of both aspects.
The cameras support phase detect AF (PDAF), have an f/2.2 maximum aperture, and come with a dual tone flash. The pixel size on the sensors is 1.25 micron. Due to the dual sensors, optical image stabilisation (OIS) is missing on the P9. There is an 8MP front-facing camera which has an f/2.4 aperture.
The camera interface is also been improved in the P9. The Pro mode for instance lets you select ISO, shutter speed, exposure, auto focus and White Balance. Swiping to the left brings up general settings where you can select resolution, film mode, object tracking and so on. The video camera is capable of shooting Full HD at 60fps. Swiping to the right brings up different modes such as monochrome, HDR, Beauty video, panorama and more. There is lots to explore in the camera department which can only be done with some thorough testing.
Coming to the Leica branding that will see many enthusiasts flocking to check out the smartphone. Huawei made it clear that it has been deeply involved in the development of the device. This would include “technological collaboration between Huawei and Leica around many aspects of the camera, including optical design, imaging quality, image data processing, optimization, and the mechanical construction of the camera module to the graphic user interface.” So yes, Leica was involved in the process but the extent of its involvement is unclear.
Battery and Connectivity
The Huawei P9 comes with a 3000 mAh non-removable Li-ion battery. The Kirin 955 chipset supports quick charging and Huawei claims that you can get 1.15 days of heavy use on a single charge. We will of course have to see that for ourselves.
In terms of connectivity you get a single nano SIM card slot. You also get Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, NFC, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS and so on. The Huawei P9 does not support FM radio though.
After officially entering the Indian market with its budget offerings in the form of the Honor series of smartphones, Huawei has finally launched its premium handset series with the Huawei P9. Priced at Rs 39,999, the P9 will compete in the high end segment with the likes of established players such as Samsung, LG, Apple, Sony, HTC among others. Unlike the other players, Huawei P9’s launch price seems quite competitive considering most of the other brands mentioned above have their flagship phones priced much higher.
Huawei has an elegant looking smartphone and is offering a Leica-branded dual camera setup along with Leica film modes. It also houses Huawei’s flagship Kirin 955 chipset with enough horsepower for a high end device. There will be nitpicking in terms of choices such as sticking to a Full HD panel, lack of OIS, bloatware and so on. But will the good aspects of the phone make these flaws irrelevant? We can only tell after thoroughly reviewing the Huawei P9. Do check back for a full review of the P9.