Huawei’s Mate 9 is one of the best smartphones released in 2016. Even when we are anticipating some new hardware over the next few weeks and months that will likely make the Mate 9 look old, there’s no denying that it is still one of the best phones in the market at the moment.
I have already decried the lack of a more pixel-dense Quad HD panel on the device but since Huawei has since clarified that the standard Mate 9 was never meant to be VR-ready, I threw my virtual reality ambitions out of the window and decided to focus on other things. Having spent the last 3 months using the device as my main phone and drawing from my experience with other devices from the last few months, there are a few features I wish it had:
1. Persistent Notifications on the Lock Screen
EMUI 5.0 which is based on Android 7.0 Nougat is a step in the right direction. It is much cleaner and better looking than previous versions of Huawei’s Emotion UI. To be honest, we’ve seen worse from the Chinese company and the customized software on its latest and greatest smartphone is breathe of fresh air. But they missed one thing, one thing that is critical to Android: lock screen notifications!
Before the arrival of Android Jelly Bean, notifications were just limited to the notification shade on Android devices. Then things changed. Since then, having access to information right before you unlock your Android smartphone has been a feature we almost take for granted. Up until you buy a late 2016/early 2017 flagship device and it lacks this very important, and often overlooked, feature.
Sure, the Mate 9 does show notifications on the lock screen but it’s a one time thing! They are not persistent.
The moment you unlock the phone, regardless of whether you have actually taken a look at the notifications or not, they are automatically cleared from the lock screen and you won’t see them next time. This can be the difference between missing a calendar appointment after unlocking your device to send a WhatsApp message and getting back to work and being late when the person you had an appointment with calls trying to find out why you are late. Simply because the device couldn’t let the calendar alert stay until it was honourably dismissed.
2. No Black Bars on the Edge of the Display
Despite having pricier, better specced and more desirable elderly siblings like the Porsche Design Huawei Mate 9 and the Huawei Mate 9 Pro, the standard model, which is what I have had, is every bit a high-end device. Premium, if I may say so. The build quality, the near edge-to-edge display… Everything screams quality until you spot the annoying black borders around the edges of the screen. You really can’t miss them if your eyes are trained to spot even the most minute of details. Once you see those black borders you cannot unsee them and it hurts! I just wish they were not there. They make your Kshs 70,000 purchase look cheap!
3. Always-On Display
Look at the Galaxy S7 Edge in the photo below:
Doesn’t that Always-On display really look good? Why don’t we have it on Huawei’s top smartphone? Is that too much to ask for?
Even LG has the feature on its devices. Sure, I can as well just head over to the Play Store and get a third party fix but that won’t guarantee me the same level of battery life and consistency that a native solution would.
I just wish I could glance at my device when it is lying on a table next to me and be able to tell the time without having to head for either the power button on the side or the fingerprint sensor at the back. It’s the little things.
4. Water Resistance
I’m not one to go around washing my phone in the sink when it gets dirty like my colleague Kiruti does with his Xperias (there are also phones meant for just that these days) but water resistance is a nice feature to have.
The Mate 9 lacks any sort of removable cover and it’s not the lightest of devices so what would’ve hurt to just sacrifice a few more ounces and make it survive a periodical drop in the sink?
The Galaxy Note 7, the device that the Mate 9 has risen to the occasion and taken its place in the market, was the first Galaxy Note device from Samsung with an Ingress Protection rating. It wouldn’t hurt if Huawei extended the same to the Mate 9. You know, just in case Nairobi experiences rains anytime soon.
5. Non Proprietary Accelerated Charging Standard
Huawei’s Super Charging feature, debuting on the Mate 9, while not really the fastest that I have seen (OnePlus 3’s Dash Charge beats it hands down), is the fastest form of accelerated charging I’ve ever had on any device I own. It’s great. I never have to worry about the amount of juice left in my device. That’s because the device has really good battery life and because even if the battery dropped to 5% at any given time, I just need to plug in the device for at most half an hour and I am sorted for the rest of the day. It’s that efficient and reliable.
There’s a catch, though. The Super Charging only works when you use the accessories Huawei ships the device with in the box. You know, its own supplied wall adaptor and cable. Anything else and you move from Super Charging to either Fast Charging or simply Charging (read: very slow). We all know how irritating it is to wait for a 4,000mAh battery pack to fill up when no form of accelerated charging is involved. Yet this is likely to be your way of life in the event you part with the device’s boxed accessories.
Some of the features I wish the Mate 9 had like an Always-On display and persistent lock screen notifications are things that Huawei can actually do and make available through a software update. Here’s to hoping and wishing that happens.