The next addition to Huawei’s Mate family is here: the Chinese company announced the Mate 9 smartphone today. Huawei’s message with this handset is lifetime efficiency. The company updated the 9’s internals and made improvements to its Emotion UI that should, hopefully, make the handset smarter and more resilient as it ages. No doubt Huawei is hoping to build upon the over 100 million smartphones it sold by the beginning of October this year with the new Mate 9. We know the Mate 9 will come to the US as well as other countries that Huawei typically serves, although we don’t know exactly when yet.
The Mate 9 doesn’t look unique from the outside, but there are small differences that set it apart from the Mate 8 and some of Huawei’s other handsets. Its all-metal unibody is a design we’re used to seeing in flagship smartphones, and its 5.9-inch FHD display is bold, bright, and sharp. The slim sides of the handset only have the power button and volume rocker. On the lower edge is a USB Type-C port for charging, and on the top edge is a headphone jack.
The back of the handset is slightly curved, which makes it more comfortable to hold than geometric smartphones. The Mate 9 may appear to be just another rectangle, but it doesn’t look or feel as blocky as devices like Huawei’s P9 or Honor 8. The fingerprint sensor and the Leica-developed camera are on the top half of the back of the handset. This is the second-generation of Huawei’s camera collaboration with Leica, which features a combo of 12MP RGB and 20MP monochrome sensors, while the front-facing camera is an 8MP shooter.
The camera software is mostly the same as that of the P9, but the camera does have slight improvements, including face-detecting focus, voice-activated image capturing (you can say “Cheese” to take a selfie), and 4K video support.
As we noted in previous Huawei device reviews, the company’s Emotion UI hasn’t been our favorite. While the Mate 9 runs Android N, you won’t escape Emotion completely. The company emphasized its UI this time around and claims the system is more efficient and smart now. At a glance, Emotion has the same aesthetic, but Huawei claims it will learn your habits over time so it can open your most frequently-used apps more quickly.
Huawei also developed a machine learning algorithm that maximizes CPU, memory, and storage efficiency, which should make the device less susceptible to sluggishness caused by age. GPU acceleration is provided by Vulkan, which should help graphics-heavy apps and games perform better, and the system will automatically allocate more storage and RAM to labor-intensive apps.
Once we spend time with the Mate 9, we’ll be able to see these features in action better. However, where all of these features will come into play the most is in battery life. Like the Mate 8, the Mate 9 has a 4000 mAh battery, and Huawei claims the smartphone will last two days before it needs to be charged. Also, the company’s “super charge” battery feature should let you get 58 percent battery from zero when you plug the handset in for just 30 minutes.
Otherwise, the Mate 9 is more on-par with Huawei’s P9 handset and an upgrade from the Mate 8. Inside is a Kirin 960 octa-core processor, Mali-G71 MP8 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The 9’s microSD card slot allows you up to 256GB of storage. Pricing and availability have not been released yet, but we do know the Mate 9 will come to the US. Many of Huawei’s past handsets never made it to the United States, so this will be a welcomed change.