Huawei P9: You gonna Leica this

The Huawei P9's distinctive camera
The Huawei P9's distinctive camera

In April 2015, Huawei brought smartphone enthusiasts, technology bloggers, social managers, journalists and photographers to Old Billingsgate in central London, United Kingdom for the global launch of their Huawei P8 smartphone. The then less known technology company termed their new device a “revolutionary smartphone" - some Batswana actually thought ‘P8’ was the price, eight pula.

The device was positioned to compete with the then industry leaders – Samsung and Apple – devices. 

The phone turned out to be Huawei’s first real bite of the smartphone market share. BBC reported their 39% sales jump in the first half of 2015. “Huawei said it shipped 48.2 million devices globally in the half of 2015, giving them 87% surge in handset sales revenues,” BBC reported in July 2015.  This year in January the Chinese tech giant announced that it has shipped over 10 million units of their P-series handsets, adding that their flagship P8 has reached more than 16 million people globally.

And then everyone started listening and even learnt how to pronounce ‘Huawei’ like the Chinese in Shenzhen.

Huawei P9 was unveiled in April this year as the new flagship predecessor to their best performing P8. Huawei has last week announced that the P9 has already recorded “unprecedented global sales” saying that their global shipments of the P9 have exceeded 4.5 million devices as of July.


So what is the fuss about P9?

From the box, there is Huawei P9 handset, a Quick Start guide, warranty card, USB Type-C cable, fast charger and headphones.  The phone is extremely thin and light with a premium appearance in its design. The smooth round edges of its sandblasted aluminum metal finish has a refreshing feel to the hands.

It has been three weeks using the phone and I am enjoying the experience. For social media managers, a smartphone is an essential tool.  It is what a car is to the driver or what a cooker is to the cook.  So when we are given a new phone our work tests it to its maximum.         A first impression is that the Huawei P9 feels like a camera attached to a phone. They say it is “the ultimate camera-phone”.  It boasts of a dual-camera on the back of the device co-engineered with the iconic Leica.  Leica, who placed their ‘Leica Summarit’ badge on the back of the device, is a renowned German optics enterprise and manufacturer of cameras. Leica has for years been the brand for street photographers – like the way GoPro is to adventure photographers.  The Huawei P9 back camera comes with dual 12MP sensors and F2.2 lenses  – those are really cool numbers if you do not know anything about photography, but they are not necessarily the best in the industry.  At the front of the phone there is an 8MP F2.2 camera for those selfies and video chats.  The P9 camera is by far the best in the Android category. The camera shoots like old beginner’s DSLR cameras and could be a perfect tool for social media managers that need fast processed good images on the go.  It has really good exposure and an awesome highlight dynamic range (HDR).  It also shows less noise at higher ISOs and it has RAW feature that allows image quality to be improved in post image processing. Another improvement feature in the P9 is the battery. Huawei has enhanced the battery life to allow heavy users to get by without always having to connect the charger. The phone has inbuilt battery manager that could kill some power draining apps and optimise those that are needed.  I have noticed, however, that the phone drains more power if the 4G Network is enabled.

Huawei P9 does not easily heat up and freeze like some of its peers in the industry and I believe it would withstand the Kgalagadi heat. The phone packs in a 3GB of RAM and an eight-core processor and one can play games, shoot long videos without burning their hands.

P9 also comes with a USB Type-C cable and fast-charger.  The cable is not as common as the USB Micro-B, which could be of little inconvenience if you forget to pack the charger.  The back fingerprint sensor is extremely fast and accurate that really makes me enjoy using the phone.  The sensor also functions as a programmable button that can be used to display and dismiss notifications with a swipe.  It could also be used as a camera shutter button for the convenience of shooting those selfies. The sweetest thing about the phone has to be the price. The P9 has a competitive retail price of P8,000 while the P9plus is around P10,000. This is much lower than their fiercest rivals Apple iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S series.

The downside of the P9 is that it is not waterproof – I really need a waterproof phone for my next Cross Okavango Delta Expedition because that is where my P8 ended up. Overall I am really impressed with the camera performance and feel Huawei and Leica raised the bar in smartphone camera technology that other users would have to beat.

 Huawei P9 Specifications:

5.2-inch 1080p IPS screen

HiSilicon Kirin 955 chipset

3GB RAM/32GB storage or 4GB RAM/64GB storage

microSD slot

3,000mAh battery

Fingerprint reader

Camera Specifications:

Dual Sony IMX 286 12MP sensors with 1.25µm pixel size

27mm equivalent focal length

F2.2 aperture, Laser-assisted AF, DNG Raw capture

Manual control, 1080p Full-HD video

720p, 120fps slow-motion video

8MP front camera with F2.4 aperture

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