Everything You Need to Know About Huawei’s P9 and P9 Plus

Huawei is an up-and-coming smartphone brand that few Americans know much about, but the company’s latest flagship phone is a great reason to start paying attention. The Huawei P9 and P9 Plus, recently introduced in London, are a pair of all-metal phones, with a dual camera system “co-engineered” with Leica, Huawei’s own Kirin 955 octal-core processor, and Android 6.0. The P9 is equipped with a 5.2-inch 108op edge-to-edge display, while the P9 Plus has a 5.5-inch 1080p display.

If you want to take advantage of the best time of the year to buy a new Android phone, you may already be shopping for a brand-new smartphone and comparing the wide range of enticing options that have already been introduced this year. Huawei’s latest flagship throws yet another interesting contender into the mix, one that’s probably caught the attention of every Android fan who’s an avid mobile photographer. Curious? Here’s everything you need to know about Huawei’s P9 and P9 Plus.

The P9’s headlining feature: its dual cameras

The Huawei P9 feature that’s grabbed just about everyone’s attention is that pair of cameras. As Mark Walton reports for Ars Technica, above Huawei’s standard fingerprint sensor on the rear of the phone is a pair of 12MP Sony IMX286 sensors, which are paired with Leica Summarit lenses that were specifically designed for the smartphones with a maximum aperture of f/2.2 and 27mm-equivalent focal length. However, Engadget notes that the lenses are simply Leica-approved, not manufactured by Leica.

Huawei P9 camera interface designed by Leica

The camera UI designed by Leica for the Huawei P9 | Source: Huawei

The sensors work in concert, and one records in full RGB, while the other is monochrome. Both have the same 1.25µm pixels, but Huawei says that the monochrome sensor lets in 300% more light. That makes for better low-light photography, faster focus, superior contrast, a much wider color gamut, and all-around clearer images.

Walton notes that Huawei says that the P9’s twin camera gather 270% more light than the camera on the iPhone 6s, though it’s not clear how it arrived at that figure. The two sensors can operate in a wide-aperture mode that results in extra depth of field and yields images with what Huawei claims is “Leica-quality” bokeh (the blurring of the parts of the image that are out of focus). Like past phones with dual camera sensors — like the HTC One M8 — the P9 enables users to adjust the focal point in an image after they’ve taken the photo.

Leica designed a new camera UI that offers both simple and fully manual modes, and the camera system is equipped with a hybrid autofocus system that uses a laser for shots of objects that are within five or six feet, or dedicated sensors and contrast focusing for subjects that are father away. The camera UI enables you to adjust the ISO between 100 and 3,200, the shutter speed from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, and white balance from 2,800K to 7,000K. A dedicated monochrome mode relies on the dedicated sensor. “For the full Leica experience,” Walton adds, “Huawei’s even added the Leica shutter sound (yes, really).” The only drawbacks? The phones incorporate dual-LED flash, but aren’t equipped with optical image stabilization.

Home-grown chips and other specs

Huawei P9 and P9 Plus

Huawei’s new P9 and P9 Plus | Source: Huawei

The P9 is powered by Huawei’s own octacore Kirin 955 chip, which is manufactured on a 16nm process and runs at 2.5GHz. Maurizio Pesce reports for Wired that the P9 will be offered in six colors and two different configurations: 32GB of storage with 3GB of RAM, or 64GB of storage with 4GB of RAM. Both models have microSD card slots, which enable users to add up to 128GB of additional storage. The P9 Plus will be offered in the 64GB storage/ 4GB RAM configuration only.

The external design of the P9 and P9 Plus looks quite similar to last year’s P8. The P9 is still a unibody aluminum phone, though its edges are now curved and smooth. The body of the P9 is 6.95mm thick, just a little bit bigger than an iPhone 6 despite its larger 5.25-inch display, while the P9 Plus is still smaller than the iPhone 6s Plus.

Huawei says that the battery in the P9 will last for 12 hours of HD video playback or eight hours of 4G web browsing, while the P9 Plus has a larger 3400mAh battery that can last for “up to two days” of normal usage. Both models support fast charging via the latest USB Type-C connector, and Huawei claims to have dramatically improved signal strength by adding a triple-antenna system and quality of experience (QoE) ranking for Wi-Fi hotspots. Both phones support four 2G bands, nine 3G bands, and 18 4G bands, and Huawei has promised to disclose specifics on support bands soon.

Software: an unexpected drawback

Huawei's new P9 flagship phone

Huawei’s new P9 flagship phone | Source: Huawei

The P9 runs Android 6.0 out of the box. But one of the main drawbacks of the P9 and the P9 Plus is that they feature Huawei’s much-maligned Emotion UI, a heavy skin for Android that Walton writes “gives it a cartoonish, iPhone-like look that sits at odds with the otherwise classy hardware design.” After the success of the Nexus 6P, many were hoping that Huawei would opt for a less heavily-modified version of Android with its next flagship phone, or at least give users the option to install one at a later date. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the P9 or P9 Plus.

P9 or P9 Plus?

Shoppers who opt for the P9 Plus will get improved audio with separate woofer and tweeters on both sides of the phone, an IR transmitter to use the phone as an all-in-one remote, and a slightly-better 8MP autofocus selfie camera. The P9 Plus will also offer Press Touch, which is Huawei’s version of the Apple’s 3D Touch interface and was previously called Force Touch on last year’s Mate S smartphone. The feature will allow for different functions when users press harder on the screen.

The P9 is expected to start at roughly $680 for a model with 32GB of storage, or about $850 for the larger P9 Plus. Huawei hasn’t yet shared if or when the phones will be available to customers in the United States. Vlad Savov reports for The Verge that Huawei has refuses to either confirm or deny any launch plans for the U.S., but the company is already on record as having said that it plans to launch a flagship smartphone in the U.S. this year.

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