When a certain major phone maker’s plus-sized phones started going boom, it was Huawei who benefited. Their Mate series grabbed a lot of people who wanted large phones. With a stunning 5.9″ display, this is at the limit of most people’s pockets.
The Mate 9 has been out since November 2016, and I’ve been trying to get a review unit since then. Some might argue that this is a waste of time -won’t a new one be out soon? For one thing, that’s only true if you have to have bleeding edge. The Mate 9 is still pretty dang close to that, and thanks to a price drop to $479 for the silver and $493 for the gray, it’s worth checking out for that alone.
The Mate 9 body feels familiar to anyone who’s used a Huawei phone (or an iPhone, as they borrow a lot of design language). There are stereo sound and simple controls. Despite the huge screen (and very small bezel), it feels light and pocketable. The rear fingerprint sensor is responsive, as one expects on a flagship phone. The dual Leica cameras on the back are excellent, better than the ones on the 8X.
I still don’t like custom Android skins, but at least Huawei’s on Android N is a lot less heavy than the one they had on Android M. There are little tricks and quirks that you’ll learn as you use the phone – I still don’t know them all. The Mate 9 ships with Alexa pre-installed as “Huawei Alexa,” but it is not as effortless to use as Google Now, and it isn’t always listening.
Can we talk about this screen a second? It’s stunning. I watched the entire season third season of Voltron on it and didn’t feel like I was “missing out” on a larger screen. For media consumption, it’s really hard to beat. Some may complain that it’s a 1080 screen instead of 4K, but if you think you can tell a difference at that size, then you have much better eyes than I do. For media consumption, you’re not going to find a better name brand phone with this screen at this price point.
And nice as the screen is, the battery is the real star. I used to Mate 9 for about a week, and during that time I kept being amazed at how slowly the battery was draining down. You can get a full day’s normal use out and have leftover, even with GPS on.
With the new school year starting soon, I have to say that I can absolutely endorse the Mate 9 as a premium phone to give your student.
Note: With the Mate 9 on its way back to Huawei after two weeks, my pockets feel lighter but emptier.