Huawei made its biggest play in the premium smartphone space yet with two new devices, the P9 and the P9 Plus; we went hands-on with the latter.
The Huawei P9 Plus is the larger of the two phones and boasts a few subtle hardware differences over its sibling, the standard P9. As its name suggests, it’s bigger, boasting an attractive 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED panel. As with the Premium version of last year’s Huawei Mate S, the P9 Plus is also one of only a handful of handsets packing a pressure sensitive display. The company says that at launch 18 of the company’s own applications will support Press Touch, but the technology’s success hinges more on whether Huawei can convince third-party developers to weave the feature into their own apps, just as Apple has managed to achieve with 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
The screen is set within a metal frame with some of the thinnest bezels we’ve ever seen, at just 1.7mm on either side – it makes for an almost frameless appearance, ideal for enjoying media and helping give the phone a footprint notably smaller than Apple iPhone 6S Plus, which also features a 5.5-inch display. Depending on the colour option (there are four to choose from) you might also be treated to a brushed hairline finish on the metal bodywork. The brush marks are so fine that the body of the phone feels like smooth plastic and it reflects light nicely, even if the feel in under finger isn’t quite as nice.
It’s also one of the thinnest phones we’ve used, at a sliver under 7mm thick, with no camera bump to speak of – meaning no wobble when you place it down on a table. Huawei’s finally brought USB Type-C to its own handsets (until now the Nexus 6P was the only Huawei-made device with the connection) giving you the convenience of a reversible connector and fast-charging support for the 3400mAh battery, which the company claims will last up to two days of regular use per charge.
The big hook with both the P9 and P9 Plus are their distinctive camera arrangements. Not unlike HTC’s One M8, the P9 Plus uses a dual camera design that captures shots at up to 12-megapixels and relies on a number of different technologies to achieve attractive depth effects within photos. One camera captures colour information whilst a second monochrome sensor behind the other lens is intended to add greater detail and clarity to shots.
The camera arrangement also packs a laser autofocus array for nearby objects, uses the dual cameras to judge depth at a distance and relies on a dedicated image signal processor, which Huawei claims is 200 per cent more efficient than relying on hardware alone. Whilst we haven’t yet been able to test the P9 Plus’s camera, this technology will let you add dramatic bokeh or background blur to shots as well as offer the ability to refocus shots after capture.
If it’s specs you’re after, the P9 Plus serves as the beefier option to the slightly more conservative P9. Both phones leverage the same Kirin 955 octa-core processor, but the P9 Plus packs 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage by default. The hybrid SIM tray that we see in a lot of Huawei’s phones also accommodates two SIM cards or a SIM card and a microSD card (officially cited as ‘up to 128GB’ but at launch Huawei said it can actually support larger card capacities if desired).
Unlike previous iterations of Huawei’s two-device launch strategy, the Chinese smartphone maker confirmed that both handsets would be coming to the UK, just one month apart.
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