I have been using the Huawei Y9 2019 as my main phone for almost two weeks now. Preliminarily, the device pretty much seems to match the pre-release hype you may already be familiar with. At least, that’s the conclusion I came up with after having interacted with the device earlier on (before its official unveiling locally).
After having used it for the last few days, several features of the device, in the sea of the many features available to users for the Kshs 25,000 they have to part with to land this beauty, have really stood out for me.
1. That camera
There are cameras on sub-Kshs 30,000 smartphones and then there’s the camera on the Huawei Y9 2019.
The Y9’s camera system, which comprises four lenses in a dual arrangement – two on the front and two on the back – delivers very well. In fact, the cameras alone are the best feature of the Huawei Y9 2019.
At least that has been my conclusion. I am yet to do much with the camera in the dark, low-light photos and all, you know, but the few snaps I have taken during the course of my travels across the country over the last 10 or so days are good. So good. See for yourself:
[Note: the images are compressed]
I’ll probably be sharing a bunch of these on Instagram in coming days. The key word here is probably.
The portrait mode, a key feature of both the front-facing and the back cameras, thanks to the Y9 2019’s machine-assisted photo post-production, delivers, for the most part.
The AI mode, which can be toggled on and off on the viewfinder comes in handy in providing just the right amount of focus, contrast and sharpness to subjects based on its analysis. It will, for instance, detect trees and other plants and give them the correct shade of green, detect an overcast shot and add just the right shade of grey on the dark nimbus clouds one is staring at. Or, notice the blue Mombasa skies and make sure their shade of blue equally matches that of the entire city’s white and blue theme.
Most important for me is the fact that I just need to take the Y9 out of my pocket, point and shoot and will be, for the most part, guaranteed an Instagram-worthy snap, even though I don’t do much of the sharing there, anyway.
2. Long battery life
Let’s get this one out of the way. The Huawei Y9 2019 is an endurance champ.
The software optimizations made, since it runs on Huawei’s own take on Android, EMUI, are on point as far as power management is concerned.
The display, for instance, can be set (and it is set so by default) to scale down the resolution if need be thus saving the user the much-needed juice.
Power-hungry apps are stopped in their tracks even though, as I found out, the system seems intelligent enough to not kill on-demand apps and services as has been the case before. Neither my Deezer nor Spotify listening sessions were interrupted. Since I hardly ever keep local music files on my devices these days, I will have to find out what the behaviour is like on VLC and Poweramp, the two other media apps that I am likely to turn to when cruising outside my video-on-demand and music streaming bubble at full speed.
The key takeaway here is that whatever your use-case scenarios, you are assured of leaving the house with a fully-charged device and coming back in the evening having had no use for the charger that you remembered to carry with you. Not even tethering to my other phone and computer for over 6 hours while listening to music via my Bluetooth earphones was enough to kill the Y9. This brings fond memories of my previous favourite Huawei battery powerhouse, the Mate 9.
3. Almost all-screen display
There’s no escaping the notch, it appears, and the Huawei Y9 2019 happens to be the first smartphone that I have written feature pieces about here at Android Kenya that packs that damned cutout at the top. My personal opinion on the subject is pretty much public so there’s no need rehashing it.
What I like, though, is that just like on its premium devices, those who don’t like the notch like yours truly have a choice: it can be hidden through the software even though one will still have to deal with the small matter of the switched wireless radio (cellular and Wi-Fi) icons. For the longest time, maybe as long as I have been using smartphones, these icons have always been on the left of the notification bar on Android. Now, they’re on the right. I hadn’t noticed that until someone pointed that out to me on Twitter and now I can never unsee it.
The beauty of having all the choices that Huawei gives users in the settings is that you can easily shrink everything on the display and almost achieve that “all-screen” display that the notch sets out to. In my case, this was simple. Hide the notch to create what appears to be somewhat a top part of the phone that is more or less equal to that of the chin. Then go a step further and use a single button (like in Android Pie) that hides from view when it’s not in use for my navigation. The end result? Having almost the entire display to myself. It’s glorious.
4. Fast face unlock
Sure, there’s a fingerprint sensor on the back of the Huawei Y9 2019 and, as a biometric unlock feature, it’s recommended over face unlock but guess what? I prefer the face unlock on the Y9. It’s fast and effortless. You just need to set it up and bam! You’re good to go. It works anywhere, all the time. At least that’s been my experience. It’s not failed in the dark, yet.
5. Top-notch performance
Pardon the pun but that’s pretty much it. The Kirin 710, which is what powers the Huawei Y9 2019, is no slouch. I’ve not had instances where I think I’ve asked the Y9 for more than it’s supposed to handle but it’s not disappointed in anything. Everything is fast and you don’t even realize it until you take a moment to think through what’s going on. Lag, stutter? What are those?
Lots of storage
There’s 64GB onboard storage on the Huawei Y9 2019. Technically, the storage would need to be at least double that for my use of the word “lots” to make sense in a world where 1TB phones are a reality*, never mind that they cost more than 5 times the asking price of the Y9. To put this in its proper context, out of the 64GB (including the 7.5GB taken up by the firmware), I still have a whopping 40 gigs of storage lying unused. I’ve not even had any use of the microSD card slot, yet.
Multi-use fingerprint scanner
While I find the fingerprint sensor being secondary to the very fast and accurate face unlock, which, surprisingly, is still a rare thing to say in 2018, here’s where I have come to properly acknowledge the fingerprint sensor on the Huawei Y9: the other use cases besides just device and app unlocking.
You can touch and hold the fingerprint sensor to pick a call or stop the alarm or, when you have the camera app open, to take photos or videos from the viewfinder screen. How I use it most of the time, however, is for something simple thanks to a habit I have picked from my usage of other Huawei devices: to browse through the gorgeous images the device captures in the gallery and to show the notification dropdown. For the latter use, I have to learn, double tapping the scanner clears any new notifications. How cool is that?
Those cool things you get to do when you’ve gone all out to have a full-screen experience? Well, they are possible because of gestures. Or how else would you be able to go back, view recent apps and fire up the Google Assistant and all when you only have one software button?