It has been a while since we have had a flagship phone whose camera has overshadowed all its other specs in the build up to its release. The Huawei P9 is therefore a bit of different kettle of fish from its competition that has tended to bet heavily on the now almost universal Display/Processor/RM combination. Yes, its hardware is very good indeed and worthy of being considered flagship class a 5.2-inch full HD display, an octa core HiSilocon Kirin 955 chip, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage (expandable to 256 GB) and the usual stack of connectivity options (4G, NFC, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, albeit minus Infra Red), with Android Marshmallow running on top of the whole lot.
But most of the talk – nay, make that ALL the talk about the P9 has revolved around the cameras at its rear - the famous dual lens camera made in collaboration with the iconic camera company Leica. The cameras have attracted their share of admiration (for the results they churn out) and controversy (over an image shot by a DSLR being placed on a social network, hinting that it had been snapped by the P9), and well, we will be looking at them in the coming days as we work up to a detailed review of the device, but as of now we can say that it is that they give the device a very distinct look. Each is a 12.0-megapixel shooter, one being an RGB (red, blue, green) and one a monochrome one – Huawei claims that the two will shoot images that will blend the best of both lenses to (dramatic pause) “reinvent smartphone photography.” Yes, we know we have heard that line before but never allied with the name of the Leica. There are going to be great expectations from these cameras, make no mistake about it, but that is another story.
In a purely visual sense too, they give the P9 a very distinct look. We had signed off 2015 by predicting that 2016 might see the return of the compact phone and the P9 follows in the footsteps of “relatively smaller” phones like the Mi 5, the S7, the iPhone SE and the Sony Xperia X, packing in a 5.2-inch display into a frame that is 145 mm long, 70.9 mm wide and a mere 6.95 mm thin, which puts it very close to the Mi 5, which measured an impressive 144.6 x 69.2 x 7.3 mm, but also had a slightly smaller display at 5.15 mm. But whereas the Mi 5 had gone for a glass front and back, the P9 seems to combine the design aesthetic of two of Huawei’s acclaimed devices, the Honor 6 Plus (which also had a dual lens camera set up) and the Nexus 6P.
The front is relatively plain, with the 5.2-inch 2.5 D display holding centre stage and no buttons at all, touch or otherwise below it - we have seen no official confirmation of the existence of Gorilla Glass protection on its front, although some of our colleagues have said that it comes with it. Still, suffice to say, the front seems sturdy enough and our unit at least has picked up no scratches or stains. The Huawei name is right below the display, while above it sits the earpiece, an 8.0-megapixel front camera and a sensor.
The back and the rest of the device are metal, which contributes to its weight of 144 grammes, which makes it lighter than the 152 gramme Galaxy S7 (which had a slightly smaller display) but heavier than the 129 gramme Mi 5 - its 3000 mAh battery is as big as the S7 and Mi 5. The sides are marked by chamfers which give the phone a premium look, with the volume rocker and power/display button being on the right, the SIM card/expansion card tray on the left, and the 3.5 mm audio jack, USB type-C port and speakers all being on the base, leaving the top rather uncluttered. The influence of the Nexus 6P in design terms can be seen on the all metal back which has a non-glossy finish, with the dual lens camera, dual LED and laser focus module on a clearly marked panel right at the top, although it does not jut out. Below it is a square shaped fingerprint scanner and right at at the base is the radio band. We got the Mystic Silver model and it fit our hands and pockets very well indeed. Yes, the chamfers at the sides make the phone a little slippery, and we expected a dedicated camera button on it after all the talk of the camera on it, but this is a good-looking phone, make no mistake about it.
All in all, the Huawei P9 will stand out in a crowd thanks to its compact form factor and rather appropriately that muchtalkedabout dual lens camera set up in a separate panel on the back. We do not know its price yet (speculation pegs it at either Rs 34,999 or Rs 39,999 at the time of writing - take your pick), but we definitely can say that it has a premium look and feel about it and is definitely the best-looking phone we have seen from the house of Huawei (the Nexus 6P was way too large for us).
The P9 is compact, light and looks different. We cannot say that about too many phones these days.
Is it worth purchasing? A lot is going to depend on its performance in general (Huawei’s EMUI overlay over Android has been tweaked for more photographic filters and effects, we hear) and well - you guessed it - that dual lens camera in particular. Stay tuned to find out more about both in the coming days.
As of now, we will restrict ourselves to remarking that this snapper is a looker as well.