Huawei

Huawei

Huawei CEO Richard Yu talks new partnerships, growth in interview at CES 2017

At CES 2017, our very own Darcy LaCouvee talks with Huawei CEO Richard Yu on growth, new and exciting partnerships, and the company’s secret recipe for success.

Huawei saw a strong end to 2016 and has an equally busy start to this year, and we’re only a few days into 2017. The company’s wonderful Huawei Mate 9 phablet is coming to the United States on January 6 as the first phone with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in. Plus, Huawei’s Honor sub-brand just launched the new budget-friendly Honor 6X, which is certainly a killer entry to the mid-range smartphone market.

Huawei has been on the radar for a number of years now, but 2016 finally saw the company pull away from the main pack of Android manufacturers to firmly secure its position as the third largest global smartphone vendor, and the company is gradually closing the gap on Apple and Samsung. During the interview, Yu revealed that 2016 smartphone shipments reached 139 million, up from 108 million the year before, and that the company saw a 32 percent increase in revenue and double digit growth.

In a year when the big two saw market shares fall, Huawei has been growing steadily to secure itself third position. Source: IDC

Last year’s success has not made Huawei complacent though. Yu expects a continued consolidation of the smartphone market in 2017 and believes that we may see a number of smaller players drop out of the market over the next twelve months. To ensure that Huawei’s growth figures remain in the black, the company is putting additional investment into building distribution channels and marketing. This coincides with a push into new markets, such as the launch of the Mate 9 in the US, and the plan appears to be to build on the company’s success in Europe and China over the past couple of years by reaching new consumers.

At a quick glance, Huawei’s recipe for success doesn’t seem drastically different from other manufacturers that are still fighting it out for smaller market shares. The company is producing high performance flagships and models with more competitive price points. However, Huawei has also come out with some key product differentiators by partnering with other hardware specialists. The company’s growing partnership with Leica has helped propel Huawei’s camera performance, and the Porsche Design Mate 9 collaboration has produced a stunning looking and feeling premium model that’s a true competitor to any other flagship on the market. Yu views these strategic partnerships as essential to building the best smartphones on the market.

“In this industry we need partnerships, we cannot do everything by ourselves … and we want the best partnerships to bring the best innovations together” – Huawei CEO, Richard Yu

We have also seen Huawei partner up with Amazon’s open virtual assistant API to deliver the world’s first Alexa AI powered smartphone, and Google Daydream support is keeping Huawei on the cutting edge of mobile virtual reality technology. That’s not all though, the company’s HiSilicon subsidiary produced the best mobile processor last year with the Kirin 960. This cheap also brought telephoto zoom, CDMA carrier support, and improved audio features to Huawei’s products before others even announced their next-generation hardware. Huawei has certainly been busy and it’s clear that this has paid off so far.

Virtual reality and AI support appear to be very important to Huawei’s strategy going forward, as Yu views these as the two next biggest developments for smartphones. As is 5G technology, and Huawei’s long history in the telecommunications market is ensuring that the company is right in the heart of developing the future 5G standard.

Looking back, 2016 saw a range of excellent handsets come out of Huawei, notable the Honor 5X, Honor 8, and the Mate 9. As we said in our open letter to manufacturers at the end of the year, more of the same in 2017 is certain to keep Huawei on our radar.

For a closer look at Huawei’s plans for the future, be sure to check out the full interview with Richard Yu attached below. You don’t want to miss it!

YOUTUBE VIDEO HERE

For more in-depth CES 2017 coverage, head here!

Huawei’s Mate 9 phablet coming to the US on January 6 (with Alexa on board)

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Huawei officially unveiled the Mate 9 back in November. The phablet, which is already available in quite a few European and Asian countries, is now coming to the US. The Chinese manufacturer has announced that the device will go on sale in the US tomorrow, January 6.

The Mate 9 will retail for $599.99 and will be available to purchase from Amazon, Newegg, Best Buy, and B&H Photo. There are two color options to choose from. You’ll be able to get your hands on either the Space Gray or Moonlight Silver version of the device.

Huawei has also announced that it’s partnering up with Amazon. The Mate 9 will support Amazon’s cloud-based voice service Alexa, which can set an alarm, open up apps, play music you want, and do a bunch of other things if you ask her nicely. According to the company’s press release, Huawei will bring the Alexa feature to the Mate 9 in early 2017 with a software update.

See also:

Best Huawei Mate 9 cases

3 weeks ago

The Mate 9 is a high-end device that has a 5.9-inch 1080p display and is powered by the Kirin 960 chipset. It features 4 GB of RAM, a Leica-branded dual camera setup — 12 and 20 MP — and an 8 MP selfie snapper. The device also comes with a fingerprint scanner, 64 GB of storage, a metal body, a 4,000 mAh battery, and runs Android 7.0 Nougat with Huawei’s EMUI 5.0 skin on top.

If you want to know more about the device, feel free to check out our review of the Huawei Mate 9.

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

What a year, huh?

2016 was certainly a year to remember in the smartphone world. Samsung had a major slip up with one of its flagships, Google started making its own phones (and said goodbye to the Nexus line), and we finally got to see something promising come from HTC. We also saw a few OEMs – LG and Lenovo/Moto – step out of their comfort zones and into the realm of modular designs.

In 2016, some companies struggled to find their footing, while others really came into their own. So what happens next?

Join us as we talk about what we want to see from each major smartphone manufacturer in the new year.

Don't miss:

2016 in review: 10 defining moments in the world of Android

5 days ago

Samsung

Try not to have any phones explode next year, okay?

Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Samsung has a lot of work to do in 2017.

The company started 2016 off with a bang, as it unveiled the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at MWC in Barcelona. While the S7 and S7 Edge were described as more of an evolution than a revolution, they did bring a number of big improvements over 2015’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

For starters, the S7 and S7 Edge featured a refined yet familiar design language that was first present on the S6 line. An all-glass chassis, complimented by an aluminum border really made these phones feel like they were worth the high asking price. This time around, though, the S7 line featured minimized camera humps, curved edges on the back, and came in two different sizes to suit more consumers’ needs. Oh, and they also featured microSD expansion and an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance – two features that were notably missing from the S6 line.

2016 was the year that Samsung really started listening to its customers

2016 was the year that Samsung really started listening to its customers. Because the S7 and S7 Edge succeeded in winning over so many fans, that made the launch of the Galaxy Note 7 even more exciting.

Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 7 in August 2016 amid much fanfare. Not only did the 5.7-inch phone bring top-of-the-line specs, an IP68 water resistance rating and expandable storage, it was basically a bigger, better version of the Galaxy S7 Edge. Like its smaller sibling, the Note 7 featured a curved display – complete with all of Samsung’s Edge software features – along with a curved back panel that made it really easy to hold. Plus, it had a few other tricks up its sleeve, like an iris scanner, a secure folder to hide sensitive content, and a user interface that wasn’t horrible to look at.

See also:

Galaxy Note 7 recall: what you need to know

October 11, 2016

The Note 7 unfortunately had an exploding problem, though, which led to the device getting recalled and permanently discontinued all over the world. The Note 7 will forever be known as Samsung’s exploding phone, and the company is going to spend the next year trying to win consumers’ trust back. That’s why Samsung’s main focus in 2017 needs to be quality control. They’ve already proven to us that they can make some really good phones – the S7, S7 Edge and pre-discontinued Note 7 were some of the best phones of 2016. Now the company needs to make sure that quality control issues never happen again.

In 2017, Samsung needs to make sure none of its phones, you know, explode

Samsung, put the brakes on new, wild innovations if you have to. Heck – just make another great phone that doesn’t injure people. I know a lot of Samsung fans probably wouldn’t have a problem if the Galaxy S8 really turned out to be a repackaged Note 7. That was a really good phone, and now a lot of people feel robbed.

Aside from the whole exploding phone thing, Samsung does still have some other things to work on. Most importantly: software.

I know, we say the same thing every year. My thoughts on the subject are a little different this time around, though. After spending a few months using Android 7.0 Nougat (beta) on the Galaxy S7 Edge, it’s clear that Samsung has worked hard to bring the best version of Nougat to its flagships as it can. While many of the company’s resources are tied up in the Note 7 ordeal, Samsung has done a great job at refining the latest version of Android and making it it’s own.

See also:

This is Nougat on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

November 28, 2016

With all that said, Samsung has never really been the fastest when it comes to rolling out software updates to its gigantic list of devices. Samsung has just said Android 7.1.1 will roll out to the S7 and S7 Edge in January, while the HTC 10, LG G5, Moto Z and a few others have gotten their updates.

I must say, though, Samsung is getting better. Even though we don’t have official Nougat builds yet, at least we have the community-driven beta program, which is much more than we can say about last year. Look at me, trying to find other things to gripe about. Samsung, just don’t have a repeat of 2016. All in all, you had a hard year… but if anyone can bounce back from a bad year, it’s probably you.

HTC

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

The HTC 10 really impressed, but there’s still more work to be done.

In the smartphone world, a few things really stood out in 2015: Samsung’s Galaxy S6 was beautiful and fast, LG’s G4 wasn’t far behind, and the HTC One M9 was bad. With its atrocious camera and wonky software features, it was clear that HTC didn’t really focus on innovating in 2015. From the One M9 to the too-iPhoney One A9, HTC clearly went through somewhat of an identity crisis in 2015.

That finally changed in 2016 with the HTC 10.

HTC introduced the 10 in April 2016, and overall, it was received quite well in the smartphone community. Not only is the HTC 10 still one of the most well-built phones on the market, the company managed to refine its trademark design without copying other manufacturers’ work or rehashing the same old design of its flagships of years past. It’s clearly an HTC phone through and through.

Also read:

HTC, it’s time for you to come up with a new design

2 weeks ago

HTC refined its software experience this year

One of the main focuses for HTC this year was in the software department, and it shows. Instead of cramming in a ton of useless features or putting a heavy, bloated skin atop the Android we all know and love, HTC managed to put its own spin on things while still staying lean. HTC’s Sense skin is still here, but it’s quicker and lighter than ever before. Perhaps that has a lot to do with the fact that HTC eliminated many of the duplicate apps this year, forgoing its own calculator, calendar and browser apps for Google’s.

Plus, due to the company’s light software interface, the HTC 10 was one of the first smartphones to receive its Android 7.0 Nougat update this year. Not that HTC has been particularly bad at issuing software updates in the past, but it’s always nice to see a company focus on bringing the latest and greatest to its users.

HTC also did something completely unprecedented with the 10: it made a good camera

HTC also did something completely unprecedented with the 10: it made a good camera. While it’s not quite Google Pixel or Galaxy S7 good, it’s still really good. Featuring a 1.55μm UltraPixel sensor with optical image stabilization, an f/1.8 aperture and laser-assisted autofocus, the 10’s camera offers fast and accurate autofocus in most lighting conditions as well as good exposure and noise reduction in low light. It’s miles above what the One M9’s camera offered, but honestly that wasn’t a high bar to clear. Also, for what it’s worth, DxOMark says the 10’s camera is among the best with a score of 88 points.

With all of that said, HTC isn’t in the clear yet.

We wanted a great phone from HTC, and we got one. But 2016 was the year of trying new things, and HTC might have missed out on that a bit. Samsung upheld the idea that edge displays are the future, so the S7 Edge and Note 7 both came with slightly curved displays. LG and Lenovo (or Moto) did something a little more daring this year, bringing modular designs to the masses. But what exactly is so unique about the HTC 10? Aside from its more advanced audio capabilities and sound profiles, what does it offer over the competition?

It doesn’t have that sense of risk taking that most other flagships today offer. It’s not modular, it doesn’t have a crazy dual camera or curved display; it’s just a smartphone. A really good smartphone at that. Now don’t get me wrong, I love most everything about this phone; its design, display, fantastic audio capabilities and software are really some of the best on the market. That’s why in 2017, HTC needs to step out of its comfort zone. Build us a VR-focused smartphone that enhances the HTC Vive somehow, or try your hand at at a modular phone this time around. Heck, if that HTC Ocean concept ever sees the light of day, I’m sure people will buy it.

See also:

HTC 10 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 / Edge vs LG G5

May 6, 2016

As was the case last year, HTC needs to start innovating. They built a great smartphone this year, but there are plenty of other great ones on the market for around the same price or a lot cheaper. If HTC gives people a good reason to buy their phones, things will start shaping up.

Google

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

You had one heck of a year – just make sure to focus on what the users want.

We left Google out of last year’s manufacturer’s letter for a reason, and that’s because the company never really made its own smartphones. While Google may have had its hand in the manufacturing process of its Nexus phones, they were still made by other manufacturers. Not only that, each Nexus device was notably missing any Google branding, and was instead branded by its manufacturer.

Since the beginning, Nexus devices were Google’s way of bringing a no-frills Android experience to developers and die hard fans of the OS, but that changed significantly in 2016. 2016 was the year the Pixel and Pixel XL arrived, and the year the Nexus line went away.

In 2016, Google created the Pixel and axed the Nexus line

So what are the differences between Nexus and Pixel? Well, as noted above, the Nexus line carried other manufacturer branding and was meant to bring a vanilla Android experience to developers and fans around the world. In contrast, the Pixel is still manufactured by another company (HTC, in this case), but you wouldn’t know it; the Pixel and Pixel XL are only branded with Google’s name, and apparently the company has a bigger say when it comes to the phone’s hardware.

See also:

The best Android phones of 2016, according to you

4 days ago

A lot has changed in the Google phone landscape, and that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL were two of the best Android phones released in 2016. They both offer great performance, amazing cameras, and, most notably, they both have the Google Assistant on board.

But if the Pixel and Pixel XL are so great, is there any room for Google to improve? Yes, certainly.

With the switch to Pixel, Google ditched some of the most important things that made the Nexus line, well, the Nexus line. While pricing with the Nexus line has never been super consistent, some of the most recent devices came to market with incredibly affordable price tags. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, for instance, were available at launch for only $499 and $379, respectively. That’s not a lot of money at all, especially considering the Galaxy S6 was still going for over $500 at that time, as were some of the other flagship phones in 2015.

With the switch to Pixel, Google ditched some of the most important things that made the Nexus line great

The Pixels weren’t meant to be affordable in any way, though, which is quite telling by their price tags at launch. The Pixel and Pixel XL came to market for $649 and $769, respectively, which is a stark contrast from the Nexus 6P and 5X’s price tags. All in all, the Pixels arguably offer much less compromise than the 6P and 5X ever did, which might help make the price bump make more sense. Still, that’s not great news for consumers’ wallets – spending upwards of $600 on a new phone isn’t something everyone wants to do.

There are a few other things worth pointing out that make the Pixels’ price points less than stellar. Many flagship smartphones released in 2016 came with impressive water resistant ratings, including the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Sony Xperia XZ, and even the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Still, despite the Pixel and Pixel XL’s premium price tags, they unfortunately don’t come with any notable ratings for dust or water resistance. Google was reportedly too tight on time to include proper water resistance ratings on the Pixels, but that doesn’t really soften the blow at all. The lack of an IP67 or 68 rating is one of the the only blemishes on the Pixels’ spec sheets.

The Pixels' designs aren't all that unique at all

The fact that the Pixels were rushed out of the door may also have something to do with their unassuming and somewhat generic design. For comparison, the Nexus line has always offered quirky, unique designs that aimed to stand out against the competition, but the Pixel and Pixel XL’s design isn’t all that unique at all. The front panels of the Pixels don’t stand out at all, while the bottom half of the back panel is probably the most generic part of the phones. It’s clear that Google tried to do something slightly original with the glass portion on the back, but that’s about the only thing that stands out.

In our full review, we told you that the build of the Pixel XL leaves a lot to be desired. Despite not being dropped once, there are still a few dents and a couple of scratches on the body. Google seems to have cut some corners in the design department.

I don’t want to harp on Google too much this year… the Pixel and Pixel XL are two of the greatest smartphones ever made. There are just a few things holding them back from being truly no-compromise smartphones. If Google can bring a proper water resistance rating, a more unique design and a slightly more affordable price tag to its 2017 flagships, Google will have a successful year.

Lenovo / Motorola

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

The Moto Z was a great start on modularity – now keep improving

I used to be a huge Motorola fan. Back in 2014, despite its horrible camera and less-than-perfect processor, I thought the 2nd Generation Moto X was by far one of the best Android phones on the market at the time. With its customizable design via Moto Maker, innovative Active Display feature and smooth, stock-like software, Motorola, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head with the 2014 Moto X. It was innovative, and it was what the people wanted. I consider this to be peak Motorola.

Then 2015 rolled around, and Motorola continued to offer high-end, customizable smartphones that wouldn’t break the bank. The Moto X Pure Edition was the priciest of Motorola’s 2015 lineup, while the 3rd-gen Moto G brought reliable performance and an impressive build without the high price tag. All in all, Motorola had a successful, iterative 2015.

Lenovo took the Moto brand in a new direction in 2016

Throughout the past three years or so, Motorola has been an industry leader in that it went against the norm, offering relatively affordable, customizable, unlocked handsets to consumers. Then in 2016, things started to change. The Motorola we once knew and loved took a different direction, thanks to its new owner, Lenovo.

In June 2016, Lenovo took the wraps off the new Moto Z and Moto Z Force. While Moto X devices of years past focused on hardware customization, the new Moto Z line brought users another way to customize their devices – through modular accessories called Moto Mods. Compatible with the entire Moto Z lineup, Moto Mods are swappable accessories that simply snap on the back of the Moto Z to bring extra functionality to the device.

See also:

Moto Z and Moto Z Force (DROID) review

July 21, 2016

Moto did really well in the hardware department this year. Both the Moto Z line and the Moto Mods themselves feel like premium, well-designed pieces of hardware. But there’s still work to be done, of course, and that has a lot to do with Moto Mod support.

As it stands now, there are a total of seven Moto Mods available for purchase: the JBL SoundBoost Speaker, Moto Insta-Share Projector, Hasselblad True Zoom Camera, Incipio OffGRID Power Pack, Incipio Vehicle Dock, mophie juice pack and Moto Style Shells. So here’s the big question – are Moto Mods useful enough to get consumers to buy a Moto Z? As we stated in our full Moto Mods review, yes and no. Most of the Moto Mods on the market have been well executed and truly bring extra functionality to the device. The problem is, most of them are quite expensive, meaning investing in a Moto Z and a Moto Mod or two can get quite costly.

Modular throwdown:

Motorola Moto Z Force vs LG G5 – Modular or Mods?

August 17, 2016

And although the current Moto Mods on the market are well done, they’re not necessarily needed to make the Moto Z line good. Plus, they’re not the most cost effective way of bringing wireless or Bluetooth solutions to your device. If you’re in need of a louder speaker, for instance, you can always invest in a Bluetooth speaker that costs less than the $79 asking price of the JBL SoundBoost Mod. Or if you’re in need of a better camera, there are plenty of great point-and-shoot cameras for less than the $300 asking price of the Hasselblad Camera Mod.

So what can Lenovo do to make sure Moto Mods catch on? In 2017, Lenovo needs to keep pushing the development of Moto Mods and bring more third-party companies into the mix. That’s already getting off to a good start, too – back in November, the company announced a new partnership with Indiegogo to help jumpstart the next wave of Moto Mods innovation. The Moto Mods Development Kit (MDK) has already been around for awhile, allowing developers to contribute to the ecosystem by creating their own Moto Mods to work with their products. With the Moto Mods Indiegogo campaign, though, developers will be provided with an easy way to raise money to help bring their Moto Mods to life. In addition, Lenovo Capital has set aside up to $1 million to help bring the best Moto Mods ideas to market.

Lenovo needs to keep pushing the development of Moto Mods in 2017

With the help of third-party developers, I think Moto Mods can really prove to be useful add-ons, not just overpriced accessories. But that’s going to require a lot of work on Lenovo’s part.

As a side note, Lenovo, please bring back Moto Maker support for your smartphones. While Moto Maker still exists as a simple color/storage amount selector, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we want the option to choose different colored back plates, front plates, accents and more.

Also read:

Exclusive: Moto X (2017) leaked renders and video

3 days ago

LG

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

Marketing, marketing, marketing!

Last year, LG was trying to compete directly with Samsung in more ways than one. Samsung had the Galaxy S6, LG had the G4. Samsung had the Galaxy Note 5, LG had the V10. While these competitors were going for a similar demographic, LG’s offerings were quite different from Samsung’s.

This is part of what made the year 2015 interesting in the Android world. Samsung has long been considered as the most popular Android OEM, but then LG swooped in and tried to take some of the company’s users away. That changed in 2016, with the introduction of the LG G5.

On paper, the G5 competes with all of the other major 2016 flagships. It has a 5.3-inch Quad HD display, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM and even an impressive 16 and 8MP rear-facing camera setup. The G5 also brought something entirely new to the table this year: a modular design. Yes, we’ve already talked about Lenovo’s take on modularity with the Moto Z line, but the G5 actually came out first.

We much prefer Moto's module implementation over LG's

The G5’s modular design is quite different from the Moto Z’s. Instead of simply placing a module on the back of the device, you need to detach and remove the G5’s bottom cap and replace it with something else. If this process sounds more cumbersome to you than the Moto Z’s method, you’d be right. Pulling the cap off the G5 isn’t the easiest thing to do… we much prefer Moto’s method of module integration.

LG only launched two modules (or Friends, as LG calls them) with the G5 at the start: LG CAM Plus, which provides a 1,200mAh boost in battery and better grip for taking photos, and the LG Hi-Fi+ with B&O Play, bringing a 32-bit DAC to the phone. These Friends are nice and all, but the G5 has been out of almost a year and we still have yet to see any more modules for the phone. It’s worth noting that the LG Hi-Fi+ never even made its way to the United States.

So if LG planned to go all-in on modules this year, why has modular development seemingly come to a halt?

That may have something to do with the company’s weird start to modular development. Back in April, LG opened up the G5’s modular design to third-party developers, allowing them to take advantage of software and hardware development kits to make third-party modules for the phone. The problem is, LG noted that each module needs to be co-developed by LG, which would likely slow down the development process drastically. Plus, LG notes that it wants to (understandably so) take a cut of the profits (since it’s co-developing the modules, after all), which might end up turning some devs away from the platform. Starting a modular ecosystem is hard, and it doesn’t seem like LG is taking the right steps to succeed.

Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about the LG V20. LG announced the V20 just over a month after Samsung launched the Note 7. Now, the Galaxy Note 7 went on sale August 19, still a few weeks before the V20 became official. You’d think LG would want to hit the ground running and get the V20 on store shelves as soon as possible, but that didn’t happen. The company didn’t bring its new flagship device to market until late October (nearly two months after its announcement), after the Note 7 was already recalled and around the time the Google Pixel went up for sale.

The V20 was sort of a missed opportunity for LG

This is why the V20 is potentially a missed opportunity for LG. If the company brought its new device to market just one month earlier, it could have scooped up more folks who jumped the Note 7 ship, and also beaten the Pixel to market. Now, I’m aware that LG can’t just launch a phone whenever it wants to; these things take time. But the phone’s biggest competitor was recalled – that just doesn’t happen. I guess what I’m trying to say is, hindsight is 20/20: LG dragged its feet a little bit and missed the perfect opportunity to sell more units.

So, what can LG do in the new year to improve its smartphone business? Market their products.

In 2017, LG needs to promote its products more than it ever has

In 2017, LG needs to promote its products more than it ever has. If the company wants to continue with its modular ecosystem, then it needs to promote it like it’s a big deal. And if the modules are getting the axe this year, LG still needs to market whatever phone it launches early next year. The same goes for the next phone in the V series. If they want people to know that there are other big and powerful phones out there other than the Note 7, LG needs to put that in front of consumers faces. Tons of commercials, more web advertisements and billboards in big cities are a start. LG has a lot of money, and it needs to spend it in the right areas.

Sony

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

Overpriced smartphones won’t get you anywhere.

I’m going to reiterate a lot of what I said last year, mainly because Sony didn’t really change much at all in 2016.

You may recall that in 2015, the company released three flagship smartphones, the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium. All three devices offered up solid hardware and software experiences, as is the case with most other phones in the Xperia line. The Z5 Premium, though, had one standout feature that made it truly special: a 4K display. With an impressive pixel density of 806ppi, the Z5 Premium wasn’t just a beast on the spec sheet, it offered a little glimmer of hope that Sony would actually start innovating again.

You see, Sony is a company that’s taken the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” saying a little too far. Most of the smartphones it’s produced in the past five years have looked nearly identical, with only a few minor design changes differentiating each one. Then the Z5 Premium arrived, offering up something we’ve never seen on a smartphone before. Sure, the 4K display didn’t turn out to be incredibly useful (it didn’t show 4K content at all times, for instance), but it was something unique.

Then in 2016, the company ditched the 4K display idea and went back to its old ways.

Back in February at MWC, Sony axed its popular Z lineup to instead focus on the new X line of smartphones. Sony called the X line “an evolution of the Xperia brand”  that were meant to be smart connected devices “capable of changing the way you interact with the world.” Unfortunately that turned out to be marketing mumbo jumbo, as aside from the change in build materials, the new Xperia X, Xperia X Performance and Xperia XA were basically iterative upgrades over the company’s 2015 flagships.

That’s not to say these are bad smartphones, though. The Xperia X is the mid-range offering in the lineup, sporting a 5.0-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 650 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 23MP rear camera. The X Performance is the highest-end offering in the bunch, with its Snapdragon 820 processor, 2,700mAh battery and same 23MP rear camera sensor. And if you’re looking for a budget option, the Xperia XA offers a 5.0-inch 720p display, MediaTek MT6755 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 13MP camera.

Unfortunately Sony pulled a Sony and hiked all the prices up by a pretty big margin. The Xperia X Performance launched in the U.S. for a hefty $699, the Xperia X launched for $549, while the low-end XA launched for $279. Compared to some of the other similarly-spec’d devices on the market at the time, Sony’s smartphones were unfortunately one or two hundred or so dollars too expensive.

All of Sony's smartphones were WAY overpriced in 2016

Then partway through the year, Sony launched a phone that stood out. The new Xperia XA Ultra aimed to win over the selfie-obsessed, media-focused crowd. It sports a big 6.0-inch 1080p LCD display with minimal bezels on the right and left sides of the device. In fact, the XA Ultra barely has any bezels at all – its chassis is just a millimeter wider than the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P.

That’s great news! The XA Ultra seems to be the most innovative smartphone the new Xperia X line. And the $369 asking price is certainly not outrageous, especially considering that near bezel-less display.

Why does the Xperia XZ exist?

But then at IFA in September, Sony, for some reason, launched two more smartphones in the X line, further convoluting the company’s 2016 lineup. Oddly enough, the Xperia XZ features most of the same specs as the X Performance. It has a 5.2-inch Full HD display, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM and a slightly larger 2,800mAh battery. The biggest change with the XZ is its new design, which Sony says is a nod to the legacy of the Xperia line. With a new metallic finish and a “flattened cylinder” design, the Xperia XZ was arguably more attractive than other phones in the X line. But why does this phone exist? Why would Sony create a new phone with mostly the same internals as its other flagship smartphone, only with an upgraded design? The two phones cost similarly, and the U.S. version of the XZ doesn’t even come with a working fingerprint sensor.

See also:

How to activate the Xperia XZ & X Compact fingerprint scanners in the US

October 6, 2016

There’s also the Xperia X Compact, which launched alongside the XZ. Those familiar with Sony smartphones will know how popular the company’s Compact devices have been in the past. Sony has made a name for itself by shrinking down its flagship smartphones to a more manageable size (4.6 inches, in this case), without skimping on the specs. That’s mostly the case for 2016’s X Compact. It comes with a 720p display, a Snapdragon 650 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 23MP rear camera. When comparing the X Compact to other devices in the mid-range segment, the Compact can certainly hold its own. When bringing up the price point, though, that’s where things go downhill. At launch, the X Compact came to market for a ridiculous $499. In a world where the ZTE Axon 7 or OnePlus 3T are selling for less than $500 at launch, there’s no reason anyone should buy the X Compact for $500. Unless they really want a 4.6-inch phone.

Sony is so disconnected with the way smartphones are priced nowadays it's sort of ridiculous

So what does Sony need to do to get people to buy its smartphones again? For starters, it needs to start paying attention to how much smartphones are selling for these days. Sony is so disconnected with the way smartphones are priced nowadays it’s sort of ridiculous. If each one of the company’s smartphones were brought down by $200, they’d offer fierce competition in the Android space. The company’s crowded smartphone line doesn’t need to offer bleeding edge specs, but they also shouldn’t be priced as such.

And as is the case every year, Sony needs to start giving people reasons to buy its smartphones. Consumers aren’t going to buy Sony phones for the cameras alone, or just for the software experience. There needs to be at least one reason worth buying a Sony phone over, say, the Google Pixel, Galaxy S7 or HTC 10.

OnePlus

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

Don’t forget to be original, and don’t forget about software.

Throughout the first half of 2016, everyone was looking forward to what was coming next from OnePlus. The OnePlus 2 was aging quite a bit, and people were itching for a refresh. Not that the 2 was a bad smartphone, but it did omit a few key things that didn’t really make much sense. For starters, the phone didn’t come with NFC on board, because OnePlus One owners “never used NFC”. That means OnePlus 2 owners weren’t able to take advantage of mobile payments services like Android Pay. The 2 also didn’t have quick charging capabilities, which was becoming more and more popular in other smartphones at the time the device was on the market.

But that’s just the start of it all. Perhaps the biggest downside to owning a OnePlus 2 in 2016 was the fact that OnePlus forgot to update it. The OnePlus 2 didn’t receive Android 6.0 Marshmallow until June 2016, a full eight months after Google released it. That’s downright unacceptable, and OnePlus 2 owners were pretty mad that it took so long.

The OnePlus 2 didn't receive Marshmallow for a full 8 months

All eyes were on OnePlus in June. After releasing the Marshmallow update to the OnePlus 2, the company brought us an all-new handset that drew some attention away from 2015’s seemingly neglected flagship. The OnePlus 3 featured a new design, a bump up in specifications and a bunch of other improvements that made the OnePlus 3 a killer flagship.

On the spec sheet, the OnePlus 3 competed with the best of the best. It sports a Snapdragon 820 processor, plenty of on-board storage, a massive 6GB of RAM, USB Type-C complete with Dash Charge (OnePlus’ own version of quick charging), and a decent 3,000mAh battery. Even though the 5.5-inch display was only of the Full HD variety, it seems most OnePlus fans didn’t care. The 1080p display wasn’t the big news with the flagship, though, it was the design of the phone itself.

The OnePlus 3 is truly a killer flagship

The OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 were unique-looking smartphones. Sure, they were still just slabs with a giant display attached to the front. But compared to the other slabs on the market, these two devices were well thought out and attractive. But with the OnePlus 3, it seems as though OnePlus forgot to take the time to come up with a unique design. That’s not to say that the OnePlus 3 isn’t attractive… it has an all-metal chassis, it’s super comfortable in the hand, and it just feels like a well made device. But it also looks like a lot of the other Chinese smartphones out there. It doesn’t look all that original, which is a shame.

All in all, though, the OnePlus 3 has been very well received throughout its lifetime. That is, the 3’s lifetime was cut pretty short, as OnePlus threw a curveball in November and announced a new flagship that would take the 3’s place.

The OnePlus 3T shares just about everything in common with the OnePlus 3, save for the processor, front-facing camera and battery. This newer, shinier device sports a Snapdragon 821 chipset, as opposed to the 3’s Snapdragon 820. It also comes with a non-removable 3,400mAh battery, up from the OnePlus 3’s 3,000mAh unit. Last but not least, the front-facing camera has been upgraded to a 16MP Samsung 3P8SP sensor, up from the 3’s 8MP Sony IMX 179 sensor. Oh, and one more thing – instead of dropping the price of the OnePlus 3 and still offering it as a more budget-friendly option, OnePlus decided to axe the phone altogether. The company stopped making its June flagship in favor of the 3T, and also charged more at launch for the upgraded device. The 3T came to market for $439, while the 3 was available at launch for just $399.

Now, it’s difficult to harp on OnePlus for launching a newer, better smartphone late in the year. Everyone seems to be in love with the 3T. And thankfully for OnePlus, OnePlus 3 buyers don’t seem to be too burned by the company’s decisions.

OnePlus needs to not drop the ball on software in 2017

So that’s OnePlus in 2016. What do they need to work on in the new year? Honestly, OnePlus had a great year, and there aren’t too many things they need to work on. If anything though, the company needs to focus on bringing more timely software updates to its devices. They waited much too long to update the OnePlus 2 to Marshmallow, and that shouldn’t happen again. Thankfully it seems to be on the right track – a beta build of Android 7.0 Nougat is now available for the OnePlus 3 and 3T, and the company has just announced that stable builds of Nougat are starting to gradually roll out.

See also:

Android Nougat on the OnePlus 3 is impressive, even in beta

December 3, 2016

And one other thing… One of the main reasons why OnePlus became so popular in the beginning was because they promised to do things differently from the other manufacturers. That’s when we got the OnePlus One, 2 and OnePlus X – three solid performing, low-cost phones that sacrificed very little. But the OnePlus 3 and 3T just feel a little boring, and that’s not OnePlus’ style. In 2017, OnePlus needs to innovate a little more, and give users something a little different than they’re used to.

Huawei

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

If you keep making phones like the Honor 5X, Honor 8 and Mate 9, people will keep noticing you. 

Buying an Android phone on the cheap used to mean settling for something. Before the days of the Moto G, you couldn’t find a good Android phone for $200 or $300 without sacrificing build quality, specs or features. Now those days are thankfully behind us, and it’s easy to go out and spend a couple hundred dollars and not instantly regret your purchase.

Back at CES 2016, Huawei announced that the Honor 5X, a $200 Android phone with a solid build and great internals, would be making its way to the United States. Why was that such a big deal? For starters, it was the first Android phone Huawei started selling in the U.S. Also, $200 is a really good price for an all-metal phone with these specifications. While the 5X’s speaker and camera turned out to be no good, it still offered a great value to anyone looking for a cheap smartphone with too many compromises.

And you know what? That was really nice to see. The Honor 5X seemed to do pretty well here in the States, and luckily Huawei had more in store for us in 2016.

The Honor 5X offers a lot for very little money

Taking a break from the budget-friendly market, Huawei’s flagships for 2016 were unveiled in April. The Huawei P9 and P9 Plus both feature an all-metal construction, solid under-the-hood specs, and bared a slight resemblance to the company’s beloved 2015 posterchild, the Nexus 6P. Huawei also managed to co-develop the P9 and P9 Plus’ camera sensors with Leica, the popular German optics company, which certainly bought the company plenty of good press (and some bad). All in all, it seems as though the P9 line has done well.

This company was all over the place in 2016. Following the launch of the P9 lineup, the company unveiled the Honor 8 – its newest entry to the budget-friendly flagship segment. With its gorgeous design, great camera and excellent software performance, the Honor 8 enters the market as a direct competitor to the OnePlus 3T and ZTE Axon 7. Sub-$500 flagship smartphones started becoming a thing in 2015, but they got really good in 2016.

In 2016, we also got two new smartphones added to the Mate lineup, the Huawei Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9. These two phones really do have some of the best specs and build quality on the market right now, and Huawei thought it’d be a good idea to price them as such. The Mate 9, which is expected to launch for the US market at CES 2017, is expected to cost around $700, while the Porsche Design Mate 9 currently goes for €1,395, or roughly $1,450. That’s a lot of moolah for a smartphone.

So that was Huawei in 2016. The company launched a smartphone in just about every category this year, and that’s exactly what they should be doing. But there’s one more area the company needs to add just a bit more focus on if it plans on making it big in the States – software.

If you’ve ever read one of our Huawei or Honor reviews, you’re probably aware that the first ‘negative’ we point is in regards to the software. Huawei and Honor phones run the company’s EMUI software overlay, which traditionally has been a bit polarizing to folks in the United States. Mainly its lack of an app drawer, and its iOS-like interface have been seen as major sore points, but also its abundance of unnecessary extras and features that arguably aren’t all that useful.

Huawei's EMUI software might turn some U.S. users away

The good news is that Huawei is aware that its software doesn’t appeal to the western markets the same way it does in the east.

With Huawei’s EMUI 5 the company has finally brought a bit of material design inspired touches to the mix, ditching its odd time-line based layout for both its dialer and notification tray, defaulting to something that’s a bit more akin to what you’d find in a stock Android device. Sure, it’s still not exactly stock, but it finally feels more like Android than iOS. The same goes for icons, which now are more stock-like, and even the multi-tasking (recent apps) menu now takes on a card setup that should be much more familiar to Android users than what was offered in past EMUI iterations. Huawei even gave users the option of an app drawer, though its not turned on by default and requires going through the settings to find it and turn it on.

Overall, the tail end of 2016 saw a positive push in the right direction in terms of software, but the company’s work isn’t done. Some of the things we’d like to see this year is a refined setup process that gives you the option to choose whether you want the app drawer or the iOS-like layout when turning on your phone for the first time. We’d also like to see Huawei continue to work on improving some of its extras, and axing special features that either don’t work well (such as their odd knuckle-based motion features) or are just too gimmicky.

See also:

What’s new in EMUI 5?

November 4, 2016

In many ways, Huawei’s EMUI is in a transitional phase that’s not unlike what we saw with Touchwiz not too long ago, when Samsung started to ax unnecessary bloat in favor of a smoother, easier to use experience. If Huawei and Honor can continue pushing its software forward, while also being mindful of pricing trends, 2017 could be a big year for the company.


So what were your thoughts on 2016? Is there anything you’d like to see from these manufacturers in 2017? Be sure to let us know your opinions in the comment section below!

Huawei expands its Nougat beta program to the Nova

Imagine a flashy press conference full of die-hard technology journalists. Now imagine an interminably long presentation that literally involved a full half hour of a pretty girl on stage explaining how to take the perfect selfie. To a room full of tech journalists.

That was my first introduction to the Huawei Nova, which at the time didn’t seem anything too special. A nice looking phone lacking any real substance. But since then I’ve come to know the Nova as a decent mid-ranger with fairly solid battery life, an experience unfortunately let down by its ugly and dated EMUI software layer.

See also:

You can make yourself look better with the new Microsoft Selfie app for Android

November 6, 2016

So it comes as a nice surprise to know that the Huawei Nova has just started receiving updates to Android 7.0 through Huawei’s Nougat beta program. Unfortunately the rollout is currently only available in China, so I can’t yet tell you if the Nova will inherit the excellent Nougat skin on the newer Mate 9. But for a device as obsessed with looks as the Nova, it was definitely in need of a software makeover.

Other Huawei devices on the same beta track include the Huawei P9 Plus and G9 Plus. Owners of the Huawei P9 and Mate 8 have already received their final Android Nougat update (at least in China). The firmware is version B321 and is currently available to select Nova units enrolled in the beta program.

How important are selfies to you? Do you like the old EMUI or the new one found on the Mate 9?

Up next: Learn how to master your camera’s manual mode

Huawei shipped more than 10 million P9/P9 Plus smartphones globally

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Huawei has hit a new milestone. In a press release, the company announced that it shipped more than 10 million P9 and P9 Plus smartphones globally, which is a first for Huawei’s flagship series.

The devices have proven to be quite popular among consumer and have also won a few award including “European Consumer Smartphone 2016-17” from EISA and “Best Personal Computing Device” at CES Asia. Announced back in April, their biggest selling point just might be the Leica-branded dual-camera setup, although the devices do have more to offer.

See also:

Huawei Mate 9 & Porsche Design Mate 9 review

1 week ago

Huawei announced that it shipped 33.59 million smartphones in Q3, which represents a 23 percent increase when compared with the same period last year. Its mid-range and high-end devices accounted for around 44% of the shipments.

According to the press release, the company’s market share is now above 15 percent in 30 countries and above 20 percent in 20 countries. More importantly, Huawei states that it has made “substantial breakthroughs” in key European markets including the UK, France, and Germany.

Huawei really is becoming more and more popular, especially in Western markets. It knows how to make great devices, which are normally a bit more affordable when compared to other big brands like Samsung and HTC.

What do you think about Huawei and their devices? Share your thoughts with us down below.

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

What a year it’s been in the world of technology! 2016 has been filled with not so much revolutionary Android devices but evolutionary ones. Samsung refined the new design language it introduced last year, LG gambled with modularity (and failed), Lenovo made a strong comeback, and Google finally joined in on the hardware fun. But overall, 2016 was defined by faster processors, virtual reality, fingerprint security, better cameras, and larger batteries. Now that the year is coming to an end, what can we expect from 2017? Read on to find out what next year’s flagship devices might look like!

Bezels, move aside

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

Design-wise, it’s expected that major manufacturers will find ways to truly minimize bezels. From a practical point of view, slimmer bezels mean getting a bigger screen without sacrificing portability. Plus, it just looks sexier. I mean, why else do you think tens of thousands of Xiaomi Mi Mix units – which boasts an insane screen-to-body ratio – sold out within seconds?

However, the real question is “How will these companies achieve a near bezel-less design?” Of course, one way is taking an approach similar to that of Xiaomi: a regular flat screen that makes up most of the device’s front side with clever tricks for concealing cameras and speakers.

The other way is to curve the screen, which is likely to become even more commonplace in 2017. The Galaxy S7 edge, for instance, gives an impression of being bezel-less on the sides due to the dual-curved display, a trick we’ve already seen other OEMs emulate. Either way, we will see bigger screens in smartphones next year, but not necessarily bigger phones.

See also:

Galaxy S8 tipped to be bezel-less like the Xiaomi Mi Mix

2 weeks ago

The dragon will continue to soar

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

Snapdragon 835. That’s a name that you’ll hear a lot more often next year. Unveiled very recently in partnership with Samsung, Qualcomm’s latest mobile chipset will be the main source of power in most of next year’s flagships. Its 10nm design means not only will your phone be more powerful but also more efficient in terms of how it handles various tasks.

Samsung is rumored to be testing its own 10nm chipset, the Exynos 8895, which could appear in some Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8 devices depending on the region. But for the most part, just like this year, Qualcomm’s processor will be the go-to chipset next year. At any rate, given the fact that Snapdragon 835 is built on Samsung’s technology, there may not be a strong financial incentive for the South Korean company to eschew Qualcomm’s offering in favor of its own.

Starting with the OnePlus 3, 6 GB of RAM became the norm in the Android world. Although Samsung and LG did not follow the trend this year with the Note 7 and the V20, these two big dogs are likely to join in with companies like ASUS, ZTE, Vivo, and Xiaomi in 2017. My guess is that you will probably see the phrase “Snapdragon 835 coupled with 6 GB of RAM” quite frequently next year. But hey, I’m not complaining!

My guess is that you will probably see the phrase “Snapdragon 835 coupled with 6GB of RAM” quite frequently next year.

Fingers or eyes?

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

Ah, the question that will become even more pertinent next year. Samsung gave us a sneak peek at the technology with the Galaxy Note 7 this year, but alas, even before people could evaluate its merit, that device was gone. I’m talking about iris recognition, of course. Fingerprint scanning was made mainstream first by Apple, and for the past two years or so, it has become a must in Android devices. That will continue, and fingerprint scanners will be found not only in flagship devices but also lower-end ones as well.

However, companies are likely to distinguish their high-end flagships from others by incorporating an iris scanner. In theory, iris-scanning is more secure than scanning your fingerprint. It would be extremely surprising to see that feature missing from the upcoming Galaxy S8, and LG is reportedly considering incorporating the technology into its flagships next year as well. In terms of under-glass fingerprint scanning, it is possible that the S8 might use the sensor, but since it’s an optical fingerprint sensor, I’m not sure how secure it’ll be.

With more biometrics comes mobile payments. Samsung is said to be pre-installing Samsung Pay on almost all of its devices next year (not to mention Bixby Pay), and LG is apparently preparing to launch its own mobile payment platform. Chinese OEMs are also slowly looking into this too, as seen with Huawei Pay and Mi Pay.

Double the lens, double the fun

The return of dual lens cameras. I feel quite bad for HTC: the HTC One M8 was really the first Android smartphone to try to take advantage of a dual lens setup, but with poor execution and timing, it was a catastrophe. The trend came back this year with LG’s G5. While the G5 failed in its modular design, the camera was quite impressive. LG used the setup for wide-angle shots, and it signaled – this time with more success – a new era for Android smartphone cameras.

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

Huawei and Xiaomi followed suit. Huawei, in particular, put two 12-megapixel sensors with one exclusively capturing monochrome details. Instead of focusing on wide-angle shots like LG, Huawei’s approach was primarily for better color reproduction and sharper images.

As you can see, not every dual-camera smartphone works the same way or for the same purpose, but whatever the end goal may be, 2017 will see a significant increase in Android phones with this kind of setup. I suspect that companies will follow in the footsteps of Apple and Huawei and offer software-based shallow depth-of-field effects, but this bokeh effect aside, dual-lenses offer significant advantages over a conventional single lens setup. Two lenses with different focal lengths are also great.

I suspect that companies will follow the footsteps of Apple and try to offer software-based shallow depth-of-field effects, but this bokeh effect aside, dual-lenses offer significant advantages over a conventional single lens setup.

Virtual reality might become our reality

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

Google has the Daydream View. Samsung has the Gear VR and has confirmed that the company is working on a second-generation model. Virtual reality is going to become even more prevalent in 2017. Game developers see its potential, especially now with the PlayStation VR, and there are proven educational benefits as well. There are already interactive textbooks as well as medical apps that take advantage of VR.

This brings me to screen resolutions. Currently, most VR-supported phones have 2K displays. For better or worse, the resolution is likely to remain at 2K for the most part. Rumors indicate that one of the Galaxy S8 variants will sport a 4K display, but mainstream flagships will probably stick to Quad HD due to battery and thermal issues. Unless it’s for VR, having a 4K resolution inside a 5-something-inch display just doesn’t really make sense.

My personal hope is that companies will ship their flagships with 4K screens but simply set the default resolution to 2K.

However, my personal hope is that companies will ship their flagships with 4K screens but simply set the default resolution to 2K or even 1080p (kind of similar to what Samsung did with its Nougat program). Who knows, it’s a possibility!

USB-C to rule them all (even the 3.5mm headphone jack)

What will 2017 flagship smartphones look like?

Lenovo and Apple have already said goodbye to the 3.5mm headphone jack, and unfortunately, more companies might follow suit in 2017. The new trend is the versatile USB-C port – so versatile that it could even replace your headphone jack.

The new trend is the versatile USB-C port – so versatile that it could even replace your headphone jack.

The latest rumor indicates that Samsung might be ditching the traditional 3.5mm jack with the Galaxy S8 as well. Although we will have to wait and see, as companies try to fit more in – more battery power, more screen, more sensors – without sacrificing the device’s slim profile, the 3.5mm headphone jack may prove itself to be an obstacle, an obstacle that eventually could be axed by manufacturers.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

2017 is certainly going to be an exciting year: we will see more futuristic-looking phones with crazy screen-to-body ratios. Phones will be faster than ever and may finally replace our DSLRs (even for nighttime shots). We could even see the debut of the world’s first foldable device. Now, if there is one thing that must accompany all this, it’s timely software updates. Android flagships’ major features will be more impressive than ever, but with lagging software updates from OEMs, these features may not shine as brightly as they could.

Now, if there is one thing that must accompany all this, it’s timely software updates.

What do you think will be the main trend in smartphones next year? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Huawei Mate 9 review

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Editor’s note: Full review video to follow soon. In the meantime, our initial hands on video can be found above. 

The spectacular failure of the Galaxy Note 7 earlier this year has presented an opportunity for companies to create the best big-screen Android alternative and Samsung’s misfortune could play right into the hands of Chinese OEM Huawei.16

Huawei’s Mate range dates back nearly as long as Samsung’s Note series and by offering metal unibody designs, large displays and fantastic battery life, the range has grown in popularity. The Mate 9 continues this trend with better internals, a large display and an upgraded version of the P9’s LEICA dual camera setup but, crucially, it also brings a major revamp to Huawei’s EMUI interface in the form of EMUI 5.

Buy now on Amazon

Alongside the regular Mate 9, Huawei also announced the first device in its partnership with Porsche Design – aptly named the Porsche Design Mate 9 – which brings the same internals coupled with a curved QHD display, 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The Porsche Design Mate 9 is limited edition and with a price tag of €1399, it’s definitely not for everyone.

Is the Mate 9, in either form, the perfect smartphone for those wanting a big-screen Android experience? Let’s find out in this, our Huawei Mate 9 review.

About this review: We’ve been using the Huawei Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9 for around five weeks now as our main phone. Until early December, both handsets were running pre-release firmware and while some of our impressions were based on the non-final software, we’ve retested both phones on their latest software for this review.

All reviews published prior to November 30th 2016 were based on the non-final software and we’ve noticed several ‘issues’ in this build have been fixed in the latest software. Throughout this review, we’ll be referencing these improvements and tweaks as a reference point against issues raised in other reviews.

Huawei Mate 9: Design

Huawei Mate 9 review

The design of the Mate 9 isn’t really surprising as it’s largely unchanged from last year, although Huawei has made it a little more compact and ergonomically friendly. Alongside this, Huawei has also added a curved unibody finished with soft-feeling aluminium and the result is a smartphone that doesn’t feel as large as you’d expect.

Considering there’s a 5.9-inch display, you could be forgiven for thinking the Mate 9 is a big phone and while the display is certainly large, narrow vertical bezels and a slim profile mean it handles a lot better than other large devices. Compared to the Google Nexus 6P or the iPhone 7 Plus, the Mate 9 is infinitely easier to handle and use, despite the larger display.

To the right of the Mate 9 you’ve got the power and volume keys while on the left is the dual-SIM tray. On the bottom is a USB-C port and one of the dual speakers, while the headphone jack and infrared port can be found up top. Huawei has also added brushed patterns and a slight chamfer to the edges which adds grip, improves the handling and makes the Mate 9 more ergonomically friendly.

Huawei Mate 9 review

On the back, you’ve got a dual-camera arrangement in a vertical layout, rather than the horizontal layout found in the Huawei P9. Beneath this is Huawei’s typical fingerprint sensor which, in typical fashion, remains one of the fastest on the market. Rather interestingly – considering Huawei’s habit of mentioning the iPhone camera bump during its press conferences – the camera is on a slightly raised hump, although this does sit flush when you use the case supplied in the box.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Although the Mate 9 is a good looking smartphone, the Porsche Design Mate 9 is Huawei’s real design champion and whether it’s a sign of things to come – or a game of imitation – it’s definitely a looker. Almost all the design elements have been changed; rather than a regular display, you’ve got a dual-curved screen like the one found on the Galaxy S7 Edge.

The design changes don’t just stop there; the screen is smaller than the Mate 9 (more on that later), the fingerprint sensor is moved to the front beneath the display and flanked by back and recent keys and the back is covered in a pitch-black anodized metal that looks striking and shimmers in the light.

Huawei Mate 9 review

The curved display itself is surprising as it’s incredibly subtle and more an element of design rather than a feature in itself. The different finish on the rear also means the Porsche Design Mate 9 attracts more fingerprints but is easier to hold and provides a hard edge to grab a hold of, and more grip than the regular Mate 9.

Rather than a revolutionary design, the Mate 9 is another step in the evolution of Huawei’s design strategy. Huawei is demonstrating that big doesn’t always have to feel big, and that they can pull off a large display that’s still friendly to your hand. Personally, while the Porsche Design Mate 9 is definitely a looker, I prefer the feel of the regular Mate 9 in the hand.

Huawei is demonstrating that big doesn't always have to feel big, and that they can pull off a large display that's still friendly to your hand.

Huawei Mate 9: Display

Huawei Mate 9 review

The Huawei Mate 9 sports a 5.9-inch 2.5D Full HD IPS display with a density of ~373ppi, while the Porsche Design brings Quad HD resolution in a smaller 5.5-inch AMOLED display with ~534ppi density.

You could be forgiven for judging the regular Mate 9 purely on the Full HD resolution but to do so would take away from the fact the display is fantastic. Like previous Huawei devices, there’s a super high contrast ratio (1600:1+) which offers an immersive experience and helps to shield the fact it’s not an AMOLED display.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Running both devices through our testing reveals both have a cool display out of the box – with the Porsche Design more accurate than the regular Mate 9 – although this can be easily changed in the settings menu. Like most flagships, both devices also come with a blue-light filter, which is branded as “Eye Comfort” mode and works just as you’d expect by changing the display tone to a much warmer color. Digging further and the Porsche Design Mate 9 has a max brightness of 383 nits, while the Mate 9 tops out at over 600 nits.

The Porsche Design Mate 9 aside, Huawei has always stuck to its guns when it came to adopting higher resolutions and the Mate 9 screen goes to show that you don’t always need more than Full HD. Yes, it would have been nice to have better than Full HD resolution on the regular Mate 9 but this display is fantastic regardless.

Huawei Mate 9: Performance

Huawei Mate 9 review

As you might expect, the Mate 9 is packed with the latest internals from Huawei in the form of the Kirin 960 chipset, which is made up of ARM’s latest Cortex-A73 chipset (versus the A72 used in the Mate 8 and Huawei P9). The Kirin 960 comes equipped with four Cortex-A73 ‘performance’ cores clocked at 2.4GHz, paired with four Cortex-A53 lower power cores clocked at 1.8GHz. The Mate 9 is also the first handset to run the new 8-core Mali-G71 MP8 GPU, which is expected to power the Galaxy S8 and other flagship devices next year.

The regular Mate 9 comes equipped with 4GB of RAM and either 64GB of storage, while Porsche Design Mate 9 owners will get 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. If you do opt for the regular Mate 9, you do get expandable storage, while the Porsche Design Mate 9 is limited to 256GB of storage.

Huawei Mate 9 review

The combination of the latest processing package, ample amounts of RAM and lightning fast UFS 2.1 storage means both versions of the Mate 9 fly through everything you throw at it. On the regular Mate 9, there’s between 2.4GB and 2.6GB of RAM free with no apps running and even with 20 apps running (including a couple of games), we’re yet to hit below 1.5GB of RAM free. Based on the RAM utilization, the Mate 9 is the closest we’ve seen a smartphone come to PC-levels of optimization and resource usage.

The Mate 9 is the closest we’ve seen a smartphone come to PC-levels of optimization and resource usage.

A large part of this is down to Huawei’s new machine learning algorithm, which learns your habits and prioritises your favourite apps to ensures there’s always the right resources available when you need them. Huawei goes a step further to say that their machine learning algorithm means your phone is fast out of the box and remains fast, even after months of usage. Of course, we can’t confirm this but so far, the results are certainly promising.

Huawei Mate 9 review

How do both versions of the Mate 9 stack up to the competition and how much better is the Kirin 960 than the Kirin 950? In AnTuTu, the regular Mate 9 scores 127507 while the Porsche Design Mate 9 scores 111354. In comparison, last year’s Mate 8 scores 51432, the Exynos-8890 powered Galaxy S7 Edge scores 127507 and the Snapdragon 821-powered Pixel XL scores 136883.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Moving on to GeekBench 4 and the results are quite similar; the regular Mate 9 scores 1910 in the single-core test and 5311 in the multi-core test while the Porsche Design Mate 9 scores 1936 and 5921 respectively. By way of comparison, the Mate 8 scores 1070 and 1787, the Galaxy S7 Edge scores 1578 and 3858, and the Pixel XL scores 1575 and 4090. Interestingly in the multi-core test, the regular Mate 9 is the first Android smartphone we’ve tested that’s on par with the iPhone 7 Plus (5395) while the Porsche Design Mate 9 leads the field comfortably.

Huawei Mate 9 review

The last of our regular benchmark tests is 3DMark, where we put the new GPU to the test and the regular Mate 9 scored 2203 on the Slingshot test, while the Porsche Design Mate 9 scores 1600. By way of comparison, the Mate 8 scores just 351, the Galaxy S7 Edge scores 2178 and the Pixel XL scores 2476.

Huawei Mate 9 review

To test the GPU further, we also ran another graphics-based benchmark (which we’ll be doing more of in 2017) in the form of GFX Bench. In the T-Rex HD on-screen test, the regular Mate 9 achieved 58 frames per second (fps), while in the Manhattan on-screen test, it scored 28fps. Meanwhile, in the same tests, there was quite a drop in the Porsche Design Mate 9 results at 41fps and 20fps, which is not overly surprising given the higher resolution and extra pixels the GPU has to power. By way of comparison, the Mate 8 scores just 39fps and 17fps, the Galaxy S7 Edge scores 50fps and 14fps and the Pixel XL scores 55fps and 30fps.

Overall, the benchmark results show how much the Kirin 960 has improved over previous versions, especially in the graphics department, where the Mali GPU has almost completely closed the gap to the Adreno GPU used in Snapdragon chipsets. On paper, the Kirin 960 may not be perceived as one of the best chipsets, but the experience on the Mate 9 is almost as smooth as the Pixel XL.

Huawei Mate 9: Hardware

Huawei Mate 9 review

Like most flagship handsets, the Mate 9 comes equipped with the latest internals, including an array of sensor, a fingerprint sensor, and connectivity options. Huawei also demonstrates its network infrastructure prowess through the addition of smart WiFi features, excellent antennae and full control over dual SIM functionality.

Beneath the camera on the rear, the regular Mate 9 has a lightning fast fingerprint sensor, in the same vein of those we’ve come to expect from Huawei. It takes around half a dozen taps to register your fingerprint and once enrolled, you can wake and unlock your phone in under a second. The fingerprint sensor also comes with gesture support, allowing you to tap once to go back a step, press and hold to return to the home screen and swipe down to access your notifications and shortcuts.

Huawei Mate 9 review

On the Porsche Design Mate 9, the fingerprint sensor is moved to the front of the device with the rear sensor replaced by a Porsche Design logo. The fingerprint sensor works almost as well as on the regular Mate 9, although there does seem to be a slightly longer delay in reading your fingerprint when the display is turned off. This sensor also supports gestures, albeit they are different to the regular Mate 9 and if you opt to switch off the capacitive navigation keys, you’ll use swipe-based gestures on the sensor to navigate between screens.

The Mate 9 comes with a dual stereo speaker setup with a single speaker found on the bottom and a secondary speaker built into the earpiece above the display. The speakers are fantastic and louder than you’ll ever need them to be, but when set to above 60%, there is a noticeable tininess to the audio. However, you probably won’t need to set it to higher than this as it’s plenty loud without distortion for general usage.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Unlike many smartphones, the Mate 9 keeps the regular 3.5mm headphone jack, which can be found up top. The design might be questionable – I personally prefer a bottom mounted headphone jack – but the wired audio output isn’t, with the Mate 9 able to drive ample amounts of power to a variety of headphones. It’s not quite on par with audio-centric smartphones such as the LG V20 and ZTE Axon 7 but it comes very close and offers one of the best audio experiences on a flagship smartphone.

Like most flagships, the Mate 9 offers a plethora of connectivity options that include NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and an infrared port. It’s especially great to see that Huawei kept the infrared port, which can be used to control your home appliances and entertainment. The dual SIM card slot allows you to use either two SIMs or a SIM card and microSD card (on the regular Mate 9 that is) and call quality is fantastic, especially as when you put the phone to your ear during a call, the Mate 9 eliminates ambient noise. This, coupled with the speaker in the earpiece, results in excellent call quality.

Huawei Mate 9: Battery Life

Huawei Mate 9 review

One of the principle cornerstones of Huawei’s smartphone philosophy is battery life and in particular, a desire to prioritize battery life over features (such as higher resolution displays).

The Mate 9 is no different and its 4,000mAh battery is one of the largest found on an Android flagship smartphone. Coupled with a Full HD display, you get excellent battery life as you might expect from such a large battery. By way of comparison however, the Porsche Design Mate 9 has a higher resolution (yet smaller) display and the same 4,000mAh battery capacity and there is a noticeable drop in battery life.

How does the battery stack up to the competition? Using our custom battery tester app, we’re able to say that the battery life on both devices is firmly up there with the best smartphones on the market.

Huawei Mate 9 review

The first of our tests focuses on gaming and each smartphone is charged to 100 percent, the display brightness is set to 200 nits and all sync is turned off (with Wi-Fi remaining on). During this test, the Mate 9 lasted 5 hours and 12 minutes, while Porsche Design lasted 4 hours and 34 minutes. By way of comparison, the Mate 8 lasts 4 hours and 48 minutes and the Pixel XL lasts 4 hours and 43 minutes. Our testing has revealed that no Android smartphone comes close to the iPhone 7 Plus, which lasts for 12 hours and 37 minutes when gaming.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Moving onto the next criteria and we use the same 1080p HD video file, charge phones to full and loop the video until the battery drains completely. In this test, the Mate 9 lasts for 14 hours and 12 minutes, while the Porsche Design lasts for 10 hours and 36 minutes. By way of comparison, the Mate 8 lasts for 10 hours and 34 minutes and the Pixel XL lasts for just over 7 hours.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Our last battery test focuses on wifi browsing and our apps loads the same six webpages in a continuous loop until the battery drains completely. In this test, the Huawei Mate 9 lasts for 14 hours and 4 minutes, while the Porsche Design lasts for 11 hours and 28 minutes. By way of comparison, the Mate 8 lasts for 11 hours and 57 minutes and the Pixel XL for 10 hours and 38 minutes.

Huawei has often claimed that it resisted the market transition to Quad HD displays because of the effect on battery life and as our testing has revealed, the QHD display on the Porsche Design Mate 9 has an impact on the battery life, when compared to the FHD display on the regular Mate 9. With that being said however, both smartphones offer exceptional battery life and even with heavy usage, neither device fails to last for more than a day. On several occasions, the 4000mAh unit has been enough to see us through the entirety of the second day, and sometimes, even half of the third.

With the Mate 9 Huawei proves that flagships can have lasting battery lives.

Throughout six weeks of testing, we’ve experienced screen on time ranging from 5 to 8 hours, whereas the Porsche Design Mate 9 achieves between 4 and 7 hours. For the most part, six hours of screen on time is regularly achievable for heavy users. Whether you’re a heavy, medium or light user, the Mate 9 will power you for days on end. Battery life is a problem that plagues all smartphone users and both variants of the Huawei Mate 9 are excellent solutions to this long-running concern with modern technology. Battery technology hasn’t progressed as fast as other areas of smartphone tech, but with the Mate 9 Huawei proves that flagships can have lasting battery lives.

For the times when the battery is running low, the Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9 are the first handsets to come equipped with Huawei SuperCharge, a proprietary fast charging solution that’s designed to rival Qualcomm’s QuickCharge and other OEM solutions. Charging the 4,000 mAh battery inside the Mate 9 is incredibly fast using the bundled SuperCharge charger (either the wall or the car charger), with the battery taking around 90 minutes to charge from full. How does this compare to the competition though?

Huawei Mate 9 review

Huawei claims its new 4.5V/5A charging technology is also designed to be cooler than rival fast charging solutions, and in a direct dig at Samsung, says a processor inside the charger communicates with your phone, continuously monitors the temperature of your Mate 9 and will slow charging down if it notices the handset is overheating. Below 50 percent, it charges rapidly and once it gets to 75%, the charging process slows a little. On the lock screen, the Mate 9 shows whether you’re charging at standard, “fast” or “super” speeds and while it’s not slated to work with rival fast charging solutions, the Mate 9 does charge quicker than normal when plugged into a QuickCharge 3.0 charger.

Huawei Mate 9: Camera

Huawei Mate 9 review

Huawei’s partnership with Leica continues with the Mate 9 sporting a new and improved second generation dual camera setup. Much like the one in the Huawei P9, the camera is centred around a Leica-branded dual camera, with a 12MP RGB sensor supplemented by a 20MP monochrome sensor. Both sensors are behind lenses with f/2.2 aperture and the RGB sensor also sports Optical Image Stabilisation for additional stability in photos and videos.

Like the P9, the RGB sensor captures the colors in a scene while the monochrome sensor enhances the detail and this means the Mate 9 is capable of capturing images with a very impressive bokeh effect. In the right conditions, you’re able to take images that top the same effect found in the iPhone 7 Plus and the photo sphere feature found on the Pixel XL.

Huawei Mate 9 review

Overall, image quality from the Mate 9’s dual camera array has been impressive. In daylight, you get images that are crisp, full of detail with colors that are more realistic (and less saturated) than those captured by the Galaxy S7 Edge or Pixel XL.

Huawei’s camera app means Pro mode is just a tap away and offers settings to adjust the exposure, ISO and focal point to take stunning photos. In the default mode, the Mate 9 seems to struggle with picking the right focal point (images are often under or over exposed) but manually selecting the right focal point or tweaking the scene in Pro mode allows you to take fantastic photos.

One of the biggest improvements in the final software build is the low light performance of the camera, with the Mate 9 now capable of taking low light pictures that are on par with the Galaxy S7 Edge. However, while low light shots are vastly improved, the Mate 9 does struggle with slight movement in low-light, with OIS proving less effective than in other flagship devices.

The Huawei camera app is rather straight forward to use, with options for flash, wide aperture and filters found in the viewfinder. A swipe to the right brings up the settings menu, while camera modes such as monochrome (black and white), Beauty, slow-mo, panorama, light painting and HDR can be found by swiping to the right.

HDR mode in particular is interesting as there’s no way to enable it by default or have it automatically turn on so you’ll need to remember to activate it by swiping left. The Mate 9 does activate HDR automatically in certain conditions, but hiding it in the modes menu means it’s less user-friendly than on other smartphones. HDR does a decent job of boosting colors, reducing blowouts and brightening shadows, but the effect is less pronounced than on other smartphones and the difference is minimal enough that you won’t activate HDR as much as you might with another Android device.

Moving to video and the Mate 9 is capable of shooting 4k video at 30 frames per second and like in photos, video quality is decent in daylight, but becomes a little grainy in low light. The Mate 9 is one of the first phones to shoot 4k using the new h.265 codec, but given it’s so new, very few apps (including YouTube) know what to do with it. Although there’s ample storage on the Mate 9, Huawei’s compression algorithm means 4k video file sizes are up to 50% lower than on other devices. The Mate 9 also supports shooting in 1080p at 60 frames per second (where you get software-based stabilisation) and 720p video at 120 frames per second for slow-motion footage.

The front camera on the Mate 9 is an 8MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture lens, capable of shooting Full HD video at 30 frames per second. For the most part, selfies come out rich and full of colors in good lighting and in low light, the camera does a good job at boosting the ISO and letting more light into the camera.

Huawei Mate 9 & Porsche Design Mate 9 camera samples

However, a very irritating part of taking low light selfies is the amount of time it takes the camera to actually take a photo. When the flash is set to auto (there’s no way to keep it on by default) and there’s not enough light, the screen lights up for two to three seconds before the camera fires. Unfortunately, most selfie takers won’t hold a pose for that long (especially as the screen can be quite blinding at full brightness), and especially not when taking a group selfie, resulting in selfies that have motion blur. This does seem to be a software-based issue so hopefully this will be resolved in the next update.

The Mate 9 takes gorgeous photos that you’ll be proud to share

Overall, the camera on the Mate 9 certainly doesn’t disappoint and it seems to be on par with other Android flagships. In particular, the improvement in the camera performance from pre-release to final software was drastic enough for us to change our thoughts on the camera; initially, there were several issues, especially in low light, but these are no longer a concern with the final update. It’s not perfect – no phone is after all – but the Mate 9 takes gorgeous photos that you’ll be proud to share.

Huawei Mate 9: Software

Huawei Mate 9 review

Look at past Huawei phones and there’s a single trend that has defined the company’s smartphone efforts to now: hardware is always great but poor software. Like most Chinese OEMs, Huawei used to develop its global software in China, without taking into consideration how different the Chinese market is from, well, everywhere else.

Earlier this year, we heard that Huawei was working on a revamped version of its EMUI interface, that would look to address a lot of the issues raised in previous reviews. In the Mate 9 we have just that, with EMUI 5 bringing the latest Android 7.0 Nougat OS as well as several fixes to issues that have plagued Huawei smartphones for generations.

With that out of the way, what’s new with EMUI 5? There’s a lot of changes, starting with the new Azure color scheme that’s present throughout the UI. It brings with it a complete visual overhaul, with the odd color scheme of old replaced by white backgrounds, faint grey accents and blue highlights and tones. The changes don’t end there as Huawei’s own stock apps adopt more of Google’s Material Design guidelines and the icons no longer look like out-of-place and inspired by iOS.

The biggest new feature of all? An app drawer. It sounds so simple, but finally EMUI brings the option for an app drawer in the settings. It’s not enabled by default – and when it is activated, there seems to be a one second lag before the home screen shows when you return from an app – but the app drawer brings the familiar Android interface, and vastly improves the overall user experience.

The result is a familiar software experience chiseled and refined into something closer to the bone of Android.

Android 7.0 Nougat also brings some improvements and tweaks that lend to the overall experience and it’s refreshing to see that Huawei has resisted previous habits of overhauling everything. Instead, EMUI 5 brings tweaks to the stock Android experience with Huawei showing flair and tweaks in selected locations rather than throughout the OS. The result is a familiar software experience chiseled and refined into something closer to the bone of Android.

Swiping down from the top brings a new, darker notification shade that displays more icons than before and can be heavily customised. In the settings menu, there’s an option to toggle between individual notification icons in the top bar or the total number of unread notifications. For the data-driven type of user, there’s also the option to display the current network speed – surprisingly useful at diagnosing when you have connectivity issues – as well as the carrier name, which is useful to distinguish between carriers when you’re using two SIM cards.

Moving further around EMUI 5 and one thing is clear; this is a rapid interface, with bloatware – on the global version at least – kept to a minimum. The few preloaded apps can generally be uninstalled, save for a few that Huawei uses to provide core EMUI f5 features. The launcher is fast, full of features and heavily customisable and aside from the aforementioned slight stutter when you have the app drawer enabled, there is no noticeable lag. Although the launcher’s color scheme is pleasant and usable, if it’s not for you, there are plenty of themes available in Huawei’s theme store, although these won’t change the look and feel of Huawei’s own default apps.

During a briefing on EMUI 5 in China, Huawei revealed that EMUI 5 had been redesigned to ensure most tasks were only a couple of taps away. The exact figures they quote are being able to reach 50% of features within two taps and over 92% within three taps and nowhere is this more noticeable than in the settings menu. In previous generations, you’d find options nested inside options inside further options and so on, but with EMUI 5, the Settings menu is more user friendly and easier to navigate.

Take the battery menu for example; in EMUI 4.1, the battery menu could be found nested three levels deep but in EMUI 5, it’s a top-level menu. Dig into this menu and you’ll find the usual plethora of options including an ultra-power saving mode (which reduces your usage to a couple of apps only), regular power saving and the ability to reduce the screen resolution to eek out the last hours of your battery.

Battery management has also been revamped in EMUI 5, with a large improvement in the way the interface handles power-intensive apps. Previously, Huawei phones would prompt you with constant notifications about resource-heavy apps, and these are a lot less persistent in EMUI 5. Huawei’s new machine learning algorithm can be seen at work here as apps that you use frequently – in my case, this include Slack and FIFA Mobile – will appear in these prompts but won’t be killed off by default. EMUI now also gives you the option to blacklist rogue apps that might be the cause of battery drain and have them automatically killed when you turn off your display.

EMUI 5 also adds the ability to use multiple accounts with single-account applications like WhatsApp and Facebook, using the Twin App feature. How does EMUI does this? Essentially, the Mate 9 runs two instances of the app at the same time. If you have two SIM cards and have been frustrated as you couldn’t run Whatsapp with both numbers on the same phone, then the Twin App feature is the perfect solution.

What about the Porsche Design Mate 9? Does the curved display have any software benefits? In a word: no. The software experience is almost identical, save for some ugly Porsche Design themes, tweaks to UI tuning to take advantage of the high res display and a dark mode to save on battery life. The biggest difference is in day-to-day usage, where the on-screen keys from the regular Mate 9 are replaced by back and recent apps keys flanking the home button; these keys aren’t labelled so you can swap them around and work just like you’d expect. Although it is possible to disable the keys and navigate by swiping the home key, it doesn’t really work as well as you’d hope, and we wish using on-screen keys like the regular Mate 9 was an option.

EMUI 5 is smooth, feature-rich and easily Huawei's best software to-date

Overall, EMUI 5 feels more polished than previous generations and with a lot of features built-in like Samsung’s TouchWiz, it may yet serve as the next best alternative to the Galaxy Note 7. From EMUI 4 to EMUI 5, Huawei shows just how much can be achieved by listening to customer feedback. The result are clear to see: EMUI 5 is smooth, feature-rich and easily Huawei’s best software to-date.

Huawei Mate 9: Gallery

Huawei Mate 9: Specifications

SizeHeight: 156.9mm; Width: 78.9mm; Depth: 7.9mm
WeightAbout 190g
ColorsSpace Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Ceramic White
Display5.9” FHD display
2.5D glass
1080p (1920 x 1080), 373ppi
16.7M colors, Color saturation (NTSC) 96%
High contrast 1500:1 (Typical)
CPUHUAWEI Kirin 960; Octa-core (4 x 2.4 GHz A73 + 4 x 1.8 GHz A53) + i6 co-processor
GPUMali-G71 MP8
Operating SystemAndroid™ 7.0 (Nougat)
Emotion UIEMUI 5.0
Memory64GB ROM
4GB RAM
microSD card slot, support up to 256GB (uses SIM 2 slot)
Dual SIMDual SIM
NFCNFC-supported
ConnectivityWi-Fi 2.4G/5G, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with Wi-Fi Direct support
BT4.2, support BLE
USB Type C (High Speed USB)
CameraFront: 8MP AF, F1.9
Main: Dual, 20MP Monochrome + 12MP RGB, F2.2
OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
4K video
Battery4000 mAh (Typical Value)

Huawei Mate 9: Price & Final Thoughts

Huawei Mate 9 review

The Mate 9 isn’t a revolutionary upgrade over its predecessor, nor is it going to be for everyone, but it does excel in the key areas that Huawei intended it to: battery, performance and camera. 2016 is arguably the year where Huawei broke through, first with the P9 and now with the Mate 9. With all things considered, the Mate 9 is probably the best big-screen Android smartphone you can buy right now.

The very-public demise of the Galaxy Note 7, coupled with the current trend for smartphone displays to measure 5.5-inches or less, means the Mate 9 is one of just a handful of big Android devices currently available. The LG V20 is another of these but there doesn’t seem to be an LG V20 launch planned for Europe, meaning the Mate 9 is the only big-screen flagship currently available for this market.

What will the Mate 9 cost? At the launch in Munich, Huawei confirmed the Mate 9 would cost €699 when it launches in Europe this month. Pricing for the US is yet to be confirmed but given the EU pricing, it’s likely to cost around $700 when it launches at CES in January. For those in the US that really want it right now though, you can find it online for around $750. This pricing puts the Mate 9 firmly in the flagship Android smartphone category, and while it’s not perfect, it can definitely hold its own against other devices.

Huawei Mate 9 review

What about the Porsche Design Mate 9? Well, if the glorious QHD display, subtle curves and stylish design have piqued your interest, it will set you back €1,395. Yep, the Porsche Design Mate 9 costs over a thousand Euros, which makes it a luxury smartphone, that isn’t designed for the mass market.

If you’re after a smartphone that offers exceptional battery life, an intriguing dual camera and incredible performance, the Mate 9 delivers in spades

Should you buy either of them? If you’re after a smartphone that offers exceptional battery life, an intriguing dual camera and incredible performance, the Mate 9 delivers in spades. If money is no object and you want a smartphone that is unattainable to most customers, the Porsche Design Mate 9 is certainly worth considering.

Buy now on Amazon

The Honor Magic is official and it looks stunning

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Huawei has been releasing teasers for its upcoming “concept” phone, the Honor Magic, for a little while now, but today, the teasing is over. The new phone is now official and it does indeed have a number of interesting features that make it stand out from the crowd.

See also:

1.5 million Honor 8 handsets sold in just two months

September 12, 2016

First the bad news: this phone is only slated to be sold in Huawei’s home country of China. It will be available from several retailers, including Vmall.com, JD, Tmall and Suning, starting today. Pricing is also unknown as of this writing, but we will update this post when we learn more. It’s possible that Honor will bring the Magic to other markets, but there was no official statement on the matter.

Honor Magic specifications and software

 Honor Magic
Display5.09-inch AMOLED display
2560 x 1440 resolution
577ppi
Processor2.3GHz octa-core Huawei Kirin 950
RAM4GB
Storage64GB
CamerasRear: 12MP dual lens sensor with an f/2.2 aperture
Front: 8MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture
Battery2,900mAh
Non-removable
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
MicroUSB (USB 2.0)
GPS/AGPS/Glonass/BeiDou Navigation Satellite System
SensorsHall effect sensor
Fingerprint sensor
Proximity sensor
Ambient light sensor
Compass
Accelerometer
Phone status indicator
Gyroscope
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
Honor Magic Live
ColorsGolden Black, Porcelain White
Dimensions and weight146.1 x 69.9 x 7.8mm
145g

At first glance, many of the specs here are pretty standard fare, with the Honor Magic sharing the same Kirin 950 as found in the Honor 8. However, things really get interesting when you look at some of the unique extras onboard.

Honor Magic standout features

With the core specs out of the way, we can get to the good stuff. The Honor Magic is supposed to have several interesting additions, many of which are supposed to showcase AI driven features. One of these standout features is the WiseScreen sensor, which combines a sensor in its frame and an infrared sensor in the front-facing camera. What exactly does this do? When the owner of the Honor Magic picks up the phone, the frame sensor and the camera are supposed to recognize the owner’s hand and eyes, which then turns on the screen. When the phone is put down by the owner, or put away in a pocket, the screen is supposed to turn off in one second.

Another new feature is called FaceCode Intelligent Recognition. Any message notifications on the phone will only reveal themselves for pre-registered faces. That means you shouldn’t have to worry about anyone picking up the phone and seeing messages that they are not suppose to see.

AI-driven features will be offered as part of the phone, via Honor Magic Live. The company released some examples of how this AI technology will work with the phone:

  • Imagine when you are chatting about movies with your friends on Wechat, Honor Magic will then be able to recommend the latest blockbusters for you.
  • Imagine when you are on the road, Honor Magic automatically recognizes that you are driving and will prompt a reminder for you to switch the device to driving mode.
  • DeepThink – Press and hold the home button and Honor Magic will offer multi-facet information based on the current webpage you visit.
  • Once you use Honor Magic to order a cab, the driver’s license plate information will be shown on the display under locked screen mode.
  • Once you arrive at the theatre, Honor Magic will automatically display the ticket booking number.
  • When you approach the parcel collection counter, Honor Magic will automatically display the tracking number.

The Honor Magic is also supposed to activate certain features as needed. For example, when you enter a dark room at night, the phone’s auto lock screen will launch the flashlight feature to brighten things up. Finally, the phone is supposed to have what’s being called a My Pocket feature, which will allow owners to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to activate the save and share button. This will allow them to access articles, videos and music and share them with others.

The Honor Magic is official and it looks stunning

Honor Magic design

While the phone’s special AI features and sensors are obviously the showcase features here, it’s also worth talking about the phone’s design. For starters, the Honor Magic has a 5.06-inch 2K AMOLED screen with a curved design. The double 3D glass covers are supposed to reflect bright, shining lights. The phone’s home button has been designed to also replace the standard “back” and “overview” smartphone buttons. Users will be able to touch, double tap or swipe on the same home key for all those functions. This is supposed to make the phone’s overall screen bigger than normal. The home button also has a fingerprint sensor.

The phone’s battery is supposed to be made of a “special graphite molecular structure”. Combined with a new charging circuit design, the Honor Magic is only supposed to take 10 minutes to get up to 40 percent of its battery charge, and 20 minutes to charge up to 70 percent of its battery charge. Finally, the phone has a 12MP dual lens rear camera.  One of its lenses is supposed to take black and white image while the other lens takes color photos. This is supposed to offer more detail and more colorful photos compared to the normal smartphone camera set up.

Wrap up

Huawei clearly wants the Honor brand to be a leader in offering innovative smartphone design and features. On paper, the Honor Magic seems to fulfill that goal, but it’s too bad that it will only be available in China. We look forward to seeing some or all of these features making their way to more widely available phones from the company in the future.

What is your opinion on the Honor Magic? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Best smartwatches (December 2016)

Smartwatches are still a very new thing to a lot of people, and for good reason. You don’t absolutely need one to get through the day, and some of the best smartwatches are much too expensive for many folks out there. With that said, they are good for a lot of things. They can provide you with an easy way to get information, allow you to dismiss or reply to new messages without having to pull out your phone, and much more.

Now, we’ve already rounded up some of the best Android Wear watches and fitness trackers you can buy, but what about the other wearables that are worth considering? With so many smartwatches on the market, we understand choosing the right one can be a bit daunting. We’re here to help!

Here are the best smartwatches you can buy right now.

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch.
Update, December 2016: This month we removed the Samsung Gear S2 to make room for the Gear S3.

Samsung Gear S3

Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch from 2015 was a very impressive offering, and now the company is back with yet another pair of Tizen-powered smartwatches, the Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier! Featuring the same great rotating bezel, an all-new design and many more enhancements, these new wearables are definitely a step in the right direction.

Whether you’re looking for a more classy or sporty look, the Gear S3 line probably has something for you. The Classic model is geared towards folks who want to wear their watch to work or out on the town. It should be noted that the Classic version does not come with LTE connectivity, though, so you’ll need to be paired with a smartphone if you want to receive notifications on your wrist. If you’re looking for something a bit more rugged that features LTE connectivity, the Frontier version is the watch for you. Both models also come with an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, as well as big 380mAh batteries and 1.3-inch Super AMOLED displays.

Specs

Samsung Gear S3 Classic

  • 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display with 360 x 360 resolution, 278ppi
  • 1.0GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos 7270
  • 768MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 380mAh battery
  • Tizen
  • 49 x 46 x 12.9mm, 59g
  • IP68 dust and water resistance rating

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier (LTE)

  • 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display with 360 x 360 resolution, 278ppi
  • 1.0GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos 7270
  • 768MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 380mAh battery
  • Tizen
  • 49 x 46 x 12.9mm, 63g
  • IP68 dust and water resistance rating

Read more


Pebble Time

As of right now, the smartwatch landscape is packed with devices that feature touchscreen displays, 1-day battery life and over-$200 price tags. The Pebble Time might not have the best screen or the most powerful processor, but it’s the overall experience that made us choose this device as our top pick.

For starters, it has a color e-paper display that’s easy to read in all lighting conditions. And because the e-paper display is so great with battery life, the Pebble Time can easily last more than 5 days on a single charge. You just won’t get that with other Android Wear or Apple watches. Plus, Pebble’s new Timeline interface is quirky, intuitive and quite useful when you’re trying to plan your day. It’s compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones, too, so you don’t need to pass this one up if you don’t have the right phone.

It’s also worth noting that the Pebble Time largely undercuts the competition in the pricing department. You can purchase the Pebble Time in a variety of different color options for under $100. For those looking for something a little more classy, the Pebble Time Steel is also available on Amazon for around $120.

Specs

  • 1.25-inch LCD display with 144 x 168 resolution, 177ppi
  • ARM Cortex-M4 processor
  • 256KB of RAM
  • 16MB of on-board storage
  • 150mAh battery
  • PebbleOS
  • 40.5 x 37.5 x 9.5mm, 42.5g
  • 30m water resistance, ISO22810 rating

Read more

Buy the Pebble Time from Amazon
Buy the Pebble Time Steel from Amazon

Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Generation)

The original Moto 360 was one of the best Android Wear watches around for quite some time, and now its successor is also at the top of the list.

The Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen.) has a bigger battery than its predecessor, a Snapdragon 400 processor and comes in two different sizes to fit more users’ wrists. You’ll even be able to customize it with Moto Maker. Overall, the biggest advantages the new Moto 360 brings to the table are the refreshed processing package, a customizable design and the addition of lugs that will make it much easier to swap out watch bands.

We should also note that if you’re more of a fitness-oriented person, the Moto 360 Sport is also a great option. It’s cheaper than the standard Moto 360, and comes with a large array of fitness tracking features.

Specs

42mm variant:

  • 1.37-inch IPS LCD display with 360 x 325 resolution, 233ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 300mAh battery
  • Android Wear
  • 42.0 x 42.0 x 11.4mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance rating

46mm variant:

  • 1.56-inch IPS LCD display with 360 x 330 resolution, 263ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 400mAh battery
  • 46.0 x 46.0 x 11.4mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance rating

Read more

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Motorola

Huawei Watch

The Huawei Watch was first unveiled towards the beginning of 2015 at MWC, though it didn’t actually make its way to retail until the tail-end of the summer. Offering a design that is much more “watch-like” then many of its competitors, the Huawei Watch is certainly one of the more attractive Android Wear watches on the market and benefits from easily replaceable watch straps and a long-lasting battery.

For those that aren’t a fan of the flat-tire look we’ve seen with Motorola’s circular watches, you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the case here. As for the rest of the specs? Everything is pretty standard fare, as most of the newer Android Wear watches feature roughly the same internals. That said, the AMOLED display on the Huawei Watch is one of the best displays available in the Android Wear market right now.

As far as pricing is concerned, starting at $350, the Huawei Watch isn’t at the very top of the pricing totem, but it is certainly not the lowest priced either.

Specs

  • 1.4-inch AMOLED display with 400 x 400 resolution, 286ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 300mAh battery
  • Android Wear
  • 42.0 x 42.0 x 11.3mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance rating

Read more

Buy now from Amazon

Apple Watch Series 2

Best smartwatches (December 2016)

I know, I know. This is an Apple product. And we only like Android products here, right?

Wrong-o.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is a really nice smartwatch that does exactly what it should. It’ll give you quick access to notifications, allow you to pay with your wrist, give you turn-by-turn directions, and it’s a decent fitness tracker. And in terms of design, it doesn’t feel like Apple cut too many corners with the overall look and feel of the device. Even the Sport model (the cheapest one of the bunch) feels like a well-built piece of hardware.

There are a few downsides to the Watch, though. Battery life isn’t stellar, and oftentimes the interface can get really confusing. It’s a solid second attempt at a smartwatch, sure, but Apple still has a lot of work to do.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is on the pricier side of the smartwatch landscape at around $369, but you might be lucky enough to find a refurbished model for less than that on Amazon or eBay.

Specs

42mm variant (aluminum):

  • 1.5-inch OLED Retina display with 390 x 312 resolution, 390ppi
  • Apple S2 processor
  • watchOS
  • 42.5 x 36.4 x 11.4mm, 34.2g (case only)
  • 50m water resistance, ISO22810 rating

38mm variant (aluminum):

  • 1.3-inch OLED Retina display with 340 x 272 resolution, 340ppi
  • Apple S2 processor
  • watchOS
  • 38.6 x 33.3 x 11.4mm, 28.2g (case only)
  • 50m water resistance, ISO22810 rating

Read more

Buy now from Apple

So there you have it, our list of the best smartwatches on the market! Do you have any suggestions for us? What do you think is the best smartwatch out there? Be sure to sound off in the comments!

Next:

Best fitness trackers

21 hours ago

Best Android Wear watches (December 2016)

Android Wear has evolved a lot since it was first announced back in 2014. In the early days, there were only a few options, mainly from Motorola and LG. These days, many handset makers have thrown their weight into Android Wear, and even traditional watchmakers have begun to embrace the Google-powered smartwatch platform.

With the number of watches available increasing dramatically, it’s hard to keep track of which watches stand out as the best. For one thing, most of the watches are all quite similar in software and hardware, leaving design preferences as the biggest factor. In order to help you make the most informed decision on which watch is right for you, we’ve rounded up what we feel to be the best Android Wear smartwatches you can buy right now.

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch.
Update, December 2016: This month we removed the ASUS ZenWatch 2, TAG Heuer Connected and LG Watch Urbane to make room for the ZenWatch 3 and Polar M600.

Best overall

Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Generation)

The original Moto 360 was one of the best Android Wear watches around for quite some time, and now its successor is also at the top of the list.

The Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen.) has a bigger battery than its predecessor, a Snapdragon 400 processor and comes in two different sizes to fit more users’ wrists. You’ll even be able to customize it with Moto Maker. Overall, the biggest advantages the new Moto 360 brings to the table are the refreshed processing package, a customizable design and the addition of lugs that will make it much easier to swap out watch bands.

Specs

42mm variant:

  • 1.37-inch IPS LCD display with 360 x 325 resolution, 233ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 300mAh battery
  • 42.0 x 42.0 x 11.4mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

46mm variant:

  • 1.56-inch IPS LCD display with 360 x 330 resolution, 263ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 400mAh battery
  • 46.0 x 46.0 x 11.4mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

Read more

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Motorola

Runner up

Huawei Watch

The Huawei Watch was first unveiled towards the beginning of 2015 at MWC, though it didn’t actually make its way to retail until the tail-end of the summer. Offering a design that is much more “watch-like” then many of its competitors, the Huawei Watch is certainly one of the more attractive Android Wear watches on the market and benefits from easily replaceable watch straps and a long-lasting battery.

For those that aren’t a fan of the flat-tire look we’ve seen with Motorola’s circular watches, you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the case here. As for the rest of the specs? Everything is pretty standard fare, as most of the newer Android Wear watches feature roughly the same internals. That said, the AMOLED display on the Huawei Watch is one of the best displays available in the Android Wear market right now.

Specs

  • 1.4-inch AMOLED display with 400 x 400 resolution, 286ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 300mAh battery
  • 42.0 x 42.0 x 11.3mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

Read more

Buy now from Amazon

Honorable mention

ASUS ZenWatch 3

ASUS’ new ZenWatch 3 is one of the most beautifully designed Android Wear devices on the market.

It really is difficult not to fall in love with its great design, sharp display, excellent performance and solid hardware. It does feature proprietary lugs, though, which means you’ll have to buy replacement straps through ASUS if you’d like to change up the look of the device.

All in all, this may be the most well-rounded watch we’ve ever reviewed. If you’d like to pick one up for yourself, it’s available now for just $229.

Specs

  • 1.39-inch AMOLED display with 400 x 400 resolution, 287ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 341mAh battery
  • 45 x 45 x 9.95 – 10.75mm
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

Read more

Buy now from Best Buy

Best for fitness

Polar M600

Polar’s new M600 sport watch is by far the best Android Wear-powered fitness tracker on the market.

With a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, optical heart rate monitor and 4GB of on-board storage, the M600 is quite the feature-packed device. It also comes with support for Polar’s wonderful Flow app, allowing you to track just about any activity you can think of – rowing, skiing, hiking and much more. You’ll also be able to squeeze about two days of battery life out of this thing, which is impressive for an Android Wear watch.

It’s very pricey, though, starting at $329. You can certainly find Android Wear devices for less than that, but the M600 provides much more than other devices. If you’re in the market for a smartwatch/fitness tracker hybrid and don’t mind spending upwards of $300, look no further.

Specs

  • 1.3-inch TFT display with 240 x 240 resolution, 260ppi
  • 1.2GHz dual-core MediaTek MT2601 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 500mAh battery
  • 45 x 36 x 13mm, 63g
  • IPX8 water resistance

Read more

Buy now from Amazon

Runner up

Moto 360 Sport

If you’re a fan of the second-generation Moto 360 but need something a bit more rugged, you should check out the Moto 360 Sport. It has basically the same internal specifications, plus GPS tracking capabilities. The battery on this device does suffer a bit with the GPS turned on, but that can easily be forgiven when taking into account the watch’s other great features. It has a killer AnyLight Hybrid display that makes it super easy to see outdoors, as well as an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.

All in all, this is the go-to Android Wear option if you need something to track your exercises. As of right now it only supports run tracking, but Motorola says more exercises will be added to the watch in the future. The Moto 360 Sport starts at $199.99 from Motorola’s website, but you can usually find it much cheaper on Amazon.

Specs

  • 1.37-inch AnyLight Hybrid Display with 360 x 325 resolution, 263ppi
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • 300mAh battery
  • 45 x 45 x 11.5mm, 54g
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

Read more

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Motorola

There you have it, our list of the best Android Wear devices on the market. Did we miss something? Be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below!

Next:

The best smartwatches

November 10, 2016