Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 review

We have seen quite a number of budget smartphones from Huawei over the last half year or so. The Huawei Y9 2019, launched last October, opened the floodgates for the Y5 Lite 2018, Y3 2018 and Y7 Prime 2019 that followed it.

Each one of those 4 devices is important because of what it brings to the table.

The Huawei Y9 2019 at Kshs 24,000 or below, remains unbeatable and it is one device I am always recommending because of the impressive mix of software-based features and hardware capabilities that would normally cost more.

The Huawei Y3 2018 and the Y5 Lite 2018 cover the entry-level gates properly by offering an affordable experience with software tuned to match the low-end hardware (Android Go).

Finally, the Huawei Y7 Prime 2019, launched just over a month ago, bridges the gap between the entry-level Y-series devices like the Y3 and Y5 and those that at the other end of the series like Y9.

As such, it is interesting to evaluate where in this chain Huawei’s latest Y-series member, the Y6 Prime 2019, falls and whether it delivers.

At its Kshs 13,500 price tag, the Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 allows the Chinese device maker to comfortably take on devices from market rivals like compatriots Infinix, Tecno and Xiaomi and others like Samsung and HMD Global (Nokia).

Does it deliver?

That is the question I asked myself as I unboxed a review unit from the company not long ago.

Straight out of the box, the Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 shows its guts. It’s just as beautiful as its siblings in the Y series that we have seen introduced in the market over the last few months. Heck, this time round Huawei even went a step further and introduced a faux leather design on the back of the Amber Brown model complete with fake stitches reminiscent of the days when Samsung did the same on its Galaxy Grand and Note devices.

I got the Sapphire Blue colour model and while it doesn’t offer the comforting touch of its brown counterpart, much to my relief, it isn’t a fingerprint magnet, either. If anything, it adds a sticky feeling that provides some much-needed grip now that the Y6 does not arrive with a case inside the box as has been the case (see what I did there?) with some of its siblings. Worse, though, is that that back does pick up scratches easily.

A 6-inch display is supposed to be this huge thing that even necessitates a device maker to make some adjustments in the software to accommodate a one-handed feature, right? That is not the case on the Y6 Prime 2019. It feels so small and manageable. It is very easy to handle.

One hand is enough for just about anything. Even though when used that way, my fingers couldn’t reach the top of the screen to access the notification shade, that wasn’t a problem as that, and other functions, can be done using the always-on fingerprint sensor on the back of the device which is easily reachable.

It (the fingerprint scanner) properly complements the face unlock feature on the Y6 Prime 2019. Face unlock is fast and seamless and, surprisingly, works without needing one to press the power button to wake the display. Like the fingerprint sensor, things stay “always-on”. Once the device is lifted from a rest position, the front-facing camera, which is used to scan the face, springs into action already and gets the job done. This is not so unique as it is not only prevalent on premium devices, it is also there on the Tecno Spark 3 Pro. But, it is a nice touch.

The display and its “dew drop” notch (which can always be hidden using software “tricks”) is impressive and a delight to use. It pops under the colourfulness of EMUI 9.0.1, the customized software running on top of Android 9, Pie, on the Huawei Y6.

Talking about customizations and EMUI, Huawei bundles quite a number of features in the Y6’s software, most of which we have been accustomed to as they are standard across Huawei devices, cheap or dear. There is Phone Clone, for instance, to make it easy for new Y6 users to transfer data from their old smartphone. There is also the Part Mode that lets a number of Y6 (or other compatible Huawei devices) users sync music playback across their devices through a local network.

While those can be useful, Huawei also goes ahead and throws in a bunch of apps that may not be everyone’s cup of team. Like the Booking.com app that is always preloaded on Huawei devices.

Since the Y6 runs on Android Pie, it is interesting to note that it allows users to experience what they may be locked out from on other devices, if our experience with Nokia smartphones at this price or below is anything to go by: Digital Wellbeing. It is a feature introduced last year with Android 9 that lets users know if they are spending more time on certain apps and recommending the correct fixes. The feature is suppressed on most budget devices running Pie. Not on Huawei’s though as the company’s own take at this “wellbeing” business, Digital Balance, works and works very well.

Crowning the long list of things Huawei has done right on this device is the battery. I managed to go for a whole day on a single charge on a road trip to the heartland of upper Eastern Kenya while interchanging between 2G, 3G and 4G networks the whole time.

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Unfortunately, the boatload of features seems to take a heavy toll on the device which appears to struggle to stay on top of things. Open an app, abandon it and open another. Come back to the previous one after a while… You will find that you’ll have lost any progress since the app got crippled as soon as you exited. This impacts the multi-tasking capabilities of the device.

The real culprit here could be the memory since the chipset in use, the Helio A22 from MediaTek has quite the positive reputation out there (and I can see that on the Tecno Spark 3 Pro). You can never go wrong with more RAM but the Y6 doesn’t have a lot of that, just enough to get by which is probably okay at its price, I guess?

The cameras, too, are a hit and miss. They struggle often and, thanks to the overall degraded performance, the shutter speed is slower so you better take your time when taking that shot and hope and pray that your subject doesn’t move.

However, in the abundance of light, it can spring up quite some nice surprises. Like this one which Google Photos really loved:

Note: the photo has been compressed. You can, however, view it here in all its full resolution glory.

The good

  • Good design
  • Good display even though outdoor use isn’t its strongest suit
  • Face unlock
  • Good battery life
  • Good-sounding speaker

The bad

  • Performance is wanting – the device has issues keeping apps in memory and that is not a good thing
  • So-so camera

The lowdown

The Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 is a good beginner’s device. While there is the Huawei Y5 Lite 2018 to take care of that at an even lower price, the Y6 offers the best gateway to Huawei’s ecosystem. It doesn’t hold back much in terms of the features it avails and its hardware tries as much to match the same standards.

What you get on this device and the pricing, match and that should be good news for everyone in the market for a sub-Kshs 15,000 as the Y6 is yet another option that they can evaluate on its merit and make a decision.

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Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com