Huawei P9 review

Dual cameras worthy of a double take

Huawei P9

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The Huawei P9 is one of the best phones the Chinese company has ever made. It does feel like everything is coming together in terms of Huawei products.

The hardware employed here is fantastic and there are a few really key selling points that stand out as highlights of the Huawei P9.

But there are also a few drawbacks that do make me think twice before recommending this phone to some people.

What we like

The Huawei P9 has an impressive spec set up. The processor and RAM combination is rivaling the big guns of Samsung and Apple now and means you can do any task you'd ever want to on a smartphone without any problems.

With a solid amount of storage as standard and all the spec you'd hope for you won't be disappointed by what the Huawei P9 can do on a daily basis.

I particularly enjoy the display on the Huawei P9. This is the kind of screen that proves it's not always worth manufacturers wasting time plugging in extras pixels.

It isn't as clear as the Nexus 6P display, but this is the perfect size for those who like smaller phones and Full HD is suitable for most things. It only really becomes an issue when you're looking to do VR tasks, as stick this in a Google Cardboard and the res is suddenly a little too low.

Huawei P0

The camera on the Huawei P9 is also another highlight of the phone. The partnership with Leica has improved the technology for Huawei and even though the pro features are largely useless for most smartphone users, the auto mode more than makes up for it.

The two camera idea isn't as exciting as some may have expected at first and big name flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 have it beat, but you'd be hard pressed to find another phone with a camera this good for less money.

What we dislike

The Emotion UI 4.1 is still a big problem for me when using Huawei phones. As soon as I booted up the Huawei P9 I was a little disappointed by the look of the screen.

The interface just looks a little bit childish and has too much going on for my tastes.

There are a few useful extra features that if you fully embrace the look will prove their worth, but in general I don't enjoy the interface.

Especially after coming from the Huawei made Nexus 6P, which is beautiful hardware paired with the good Google stock Marshmallow experience.

The battery life on the Huawei P9 isn't up to scratch either. It's not the worst I've ever experienced but it also didn't impress me and I'm always upset for my phone to die off before the end of a day. Plus the lack of wireless and fast charging features is disappointing as well.

Final verdict

The Huawei P9 is one of the best looking and performing phones the company has ever produced. There's a lot to love here in terms of the design, the spec and how everything comes together to work.

Paired with a strong camera that works perfectly on auto-mode and a fingerprint scanner that boots up the phone in a matter of milliseconds, it's hard not to recommend the Huawei P9.

But on the other hand, it's also hard to recommend when the software is still such an issue. I do feel if Huawei offered this with a cut-down or even stock version of Android I'd love it even more than I do now.

With battery life that doesn't stun anybody, the Huawei P9 is a good, solid phone but it's just not hit the right level of greatness yet.

If you're looking for a smaller Android phone experience that needs high-end spec without a high-end price tag or a cumbersome design, try the Huawei P9.

First reviewed: April 2016


Don't feel like the Huawei P9 is the phone for you? Here are a few alternative handsets that I think you may want to look at.

Huawei P10

The P10 is the newer version of Huawei's flagship phone, but it's a limited upgrade and if you can get a good deal on the Huawei P9 you may be worth saving your money.

The design of the P10 is nicer, plus there are a few upgrades to the camera sensor and the internals, but all-in-all it's a limited upgrade.

We'd recommend reading the full review of the Huawei P10 before you go and spend the extra money on this phone, especially if you liked the look of the P9 throughout our review.

Huawei P9 Plus

Want to keep it in the Huawei family? The P9 Plus may be the phone you're looking for. We scored it four out of five citing a great battery life, stunning photography and a powerful CPU at the main highlights.

There's a slightly larger screen on the P9 Plus with a 5.5-inch AMOLED option, but it's still Full HD meaning the pixel density drops down to 401ppi.

It's not running Android 7 software yet though so if you're looking for a phone with the latest features you may not want to go for the P9 Plus.

Huawei P9 Lite

Find the Huawei P9 price a little bit hard to swallow? If you like most of what Huawei is doing with this phone, you should check out the P9 Lite. It comes with a slightly lower spec, but a significantly cut price.

It features an attractive design, decent power under the hood and still harnesses a large, bright and clear screen, like the P9.

There are still issues with the Huawei P9 Lite, but it adds up to be a good phone and the price is down to around $200/£200/AU$300.

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Throughout the launch of the Huawei P9, the company continued to highlight how the phone fared against the iPhone 6S. It's certainly a key competitor if you're considering a Huawei P9.

You should know an iPhone 6S is going to cost you quite a bit more than the Huawei. But if money isn't an object it may be worth handling both phones to see which you prefer. The iPhone 6S is the same size as the Huawei P9 but only features a 4.7-inch display, so you lose some screen real estate.

But iOS software is certainly better looking and more intuitive than the Huawei's Emotion 4.1 UI. It all comes down to the price and whether you prefer iOS or Huawei's very specific version of Android.

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

Another phone that Huawei highlighted as a main member of the competition, the Galaxy S7, is a gorgeous piece of kit. The design has been refined for the latest version and if you're after a truly unique looking phone there's always the Galaxy S7 Edge.

The camera on the Galaxy S7 is nothing short of incredible and makes for some of the best smartphone photography we have ever been able to take.

It's also worth noting we gave the Galaxy S7 a five-star review and named it our second best phone in the world, with the Galaxy S7 Edge taking the top spot. That's hard to beat, so if you have a bit more money to spend maybe it's worth looking at Samsung's alternative.

James Peckham

James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.