Huawei wasted its chance to make 2016’s best phone

Opinion: It needed to be cheaper

Huawei just released the wrong phone.

It all started so well. I was at the launch of the Mate 9, and things were going great. Huawei CEO Richard Yu zoomed on stage in a Porsche 911 to announce a new partnership between the car brand and the growing phone company, with Porsche COO Jan Becker joining him to talk up the exciting Mate 9 Porsche Design.

There was a genuine, palpable sense of excitement building. I even found myself getting caught in the hype - the Porsche Design device is the Mate 9 with 6GB of RAM and a beautiful curved QHD screen, and it looks great. 

I started to believe this will be the device that changes everything for Huawei, the phone to put it on the map as a go-to brand in the west.

Huawei Mate 9

Then there was an audible gasp in the audience when €1,395 (around £1,200, $1,500, AU$2,000) appeared above Yu’s head - the insane price of this upgraded phone. 

Even a crowd who had previously clapped at most of the show were stunned and there was the slight boo within the crowd. Yu looked uncomfortable and moved on to the next announcement. 

Everyone was genuinely surprised by the price. Porsche products are premium and people want to spend more money on them, but this is more a Huawei phone than it is a Porsche product. 

Huawei has made an impact in the phone market over the last few years by offering high-end specs at a lower price than most of its competition. 

The Mate 8, especially, was a far cheaper option compared to most phablets on the market. The Mate 8 cost £429 (about $611, AU$876) but now the Mate 9 is €699 (around £620, $775, AU$1,000). That’s a significant price hike and not all that much has improved either. 

There’s a better processor, a Leica branded dual-lens camera and a new fast-charging battery this year, but there’s nothing game-changing to persuade you buying a Mate 9 is a significant upgrade over last year. The truth is, I don’t see any reason to buy a Huawei Mate 9. 

Samsung has had a rough ride in 2016, but for less money than a Huawei Mate 9 you’d be able to pick up the Galaxy S7 Edge, which is the best phone money can buy right now.

If Huawei had unleashed the Mate 9 Porsche Design as its flagship device, it would have sent shockwaves through the industry, another piece of proof this is a brand that means business.

But instead it’s launched an underwhelming phone and offered an upgrade that only car fans will be excited enough by, thanks to the Porsche logo on the back, to spend that amount of money.

Huawei has made one of the best phones of the year - but it’s charging way too much for it to ever be considered as a genuine smartphone choice for most. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James is Phones, Wearables and Tablets writer for TechRadar and covers all the big announcements from the best manufacturers making gadgets for your palms, wrists and face. Based in London, James is often testing out the latest and greatest phones, smartwatches, VR headsets and - when he can be motivated to go outside - fitness bands. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest from the mobile world.