Huawei Officially Unveils the Mate 9 with Second Generation Leica Dual Camera

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The Huawei Mate 9 is finally here, just as big as the Mate 8 it is succeeding and with even better design and internal features both software and hardware-wise.

According to members of Huawei’s hardware engineering team I spoke to immediately after the launch this afternoon, the Mate series is where Huawei seeks to blend all the sleekness and beauty appeal of its flagship P series with the demands of the business environment  and a consumer who demands more.

It is exactly what I saw in the Huawei Mate 9.

Like previous members of the Mate series, most notably the Mate S and the Mate 8, the Mate 9 builds upon where the last high-end smartphone from the company left.

For instance, the dual-camera setup at the back which is achieved thanks to a partnership with German firm Leica, is still there but it is better than before. How better? We’ll find out pretty soon when I review the device and compare with what one would get with the amazing photos I was able to capture on the P9, a device that is now 7 months old.

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Before that happens, though, here are the specifics of the cameras on the Huawei Mate 9 as per the presentation made by Huawei:

  • There are still two cameras whereby one takes colour images while the other one takes black and white photos. The megapixel count on the back camera has been bumped up a bit. One of the two camera sensors (the RGB one that takes colour images) is still stuck with 12 megapixels. The monochrome sensor, however, moves up to the 20 megapixel point. Why? Apparently, according to Leica CEO Oliver Kaltner and members of his engineering team I spoke to immediately after the launch, the black and white dedicated sensor on the P9 was such a hit with customers that they decided to add the ability to capture more pixels as this directly leads to more details in images produced (up to 50% more according to the company) either when it acts alone or when it works in tandem with the colour sensor to produce a single photo (what Huawei calls Image Fusion Technology).
  • 4K video recording is finally possible on a Huawei smartphone.
  • 4-in-1 hybrid auto-focus (depth focus, contrast focus, laser focus and phase-detection focus).
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) for both photos and video.
  • Better low-light photography. According to Huawei CEO Richard Yu’s presentation, the Mate 9’s camera should be much better than the iPhone 7 when taking photos at night.

But the Mate 9 is not just about the camera as you would know. There are other features like the fast charging which Huawei calls SuperCharge and which it promises won’t end up in your device literally blowing up on your face as it apparently implements what it calls SuperFace protection. Another feature tied to the battery called SuperCool, ensures that the device’s internals don’t heat up when it is charging by keeping things cooler by 5 degrees Celsius when compared to the Galaxy S7 Edge from Samsung since the Mate supposedly emits 50% less heat than Samsung’s smartphone.

Inside the device is the new Kirin 960 which Huawei says is a performance champ, support for the Vulkan API introduced in Android Nougat by Google to complement the new faster graphics chip that accompanies the new processor (which means better graphics when doing things like playing games and all) as well as support for Daydream, Google’s mobile virtual reality platform. Out of the box, the Mate 9 is compatible with the Google Daydream View headset that Google unveiled recently.

There’s one more thing that users of popular messengers such as WhatsApp and WeChat will love about the Mate 9: it allows one to add two accounts on one device. This is not a first from an implementation point of view as it has been possible to do this by following rather long procedures that the normal user is likely to shy away from or entrusting a third party application to do the same. Having the feature built-in goes a long way and is a first from the big three smartphone brands. Huawei’s rival Xiaomi introduced the ability to do this with MIUI 8 back in August.

We’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the Huawei Mate in coming days.

Before that happens, though, here are the specifications of the new device:

Size and weight156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9 mm, 190g
Display5.9-inch full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS LCD
ProcessorOcta-core Kirin 960 backed by a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU
Memory4GB RAM; 64GB internal storage (expandable via microSD)
Camera12MP+20MP rear with f/2.2 aperture and dual-tone LED flash; 8MP front with f/1.9 aperture
Operating SystemAndroid 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.0
Battery4,000mAh
Network3G, 4G LTE
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
OtherNano dual-SIM (hybrid), fingerprint sensor (at the back)

The Mate 9 comes in Black, Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Ceramic White, Champagne Gold and Mocha Brown colours at a price of EUR 700 or nearly Kshs 80,000 before local taxes. While we don’t have a local availability date, yet, we could see the device hit the Kenyan market before the start of the festive season.

Accessories for the device announced at the launch include a customized smart cover that displays notifications on one-half and a magnetic car kit that makes it effortless to attach to a vehicle’s dashboard. Other accessories (Huawei calls them “User Friendly Companions) will likely follow it to the market in coming days.

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