Given the crowd of Chinese products permeating the market, standing out can be a tricky thing. They are getting better and better, but surely there’s nothing artificial intelligence can’t do. Backed by top-notch software, a promising battery life and kick-ass camera system to boot, Huawei has finally come of age and you might as well consider the Mate 9 as your next smartphone to use. I’ve always been an Apple user, but for one day, I decided to see what all the fuss is about. Here’s what I thought of the Mate 9.

It’s Saturday, 8am, and the phone wakes me up with the ring of an old alarm clock. I used to laugh at the idea of a “phablet”, but here I am with a phone of 5.9 inches. It is big, but as with most things, it isn’t that bad once you get used to it. Form is as important as function, and the Mate 9 is proof that even Huawei is capable of good design. With an all-metal body, its brushed aluminium back and good weight (I hate feather-light phones), it gives it a premium feel. The fingerprint sensor on its back offers quick and easy access, and its large screen appeals to those who want a large canvas for videos, games and word documents. This is great. I like to browse through Facebook and Instagram until I’m wide awake, and sometimes I like to while time away in the restroom. Score.

Saturdays are slow days for me. I wake up, go down to the cafe and like every Singaporean I know, watch retarded cat videos on my phone. I admit I’m an addict, and an impatient one at that. So far, the Mate 9 is impressive. The speakers are fantastic, but what stands out most is its octa-core Kirin 960 processor. With this, Huawei is able to offer extra bonus features, such as its Machine Learning Algorithm. It grants a smoother, more responsive system by optimising performance according to your habits and behaviour. This is a huge step up from the Mate 8 and P9, in terms of power and efficiency.

Huawei also promises a brighter, refreshed UI. Together with the Android 7.0 Nougat, the new EMUI 5.0 is the biggest overhaul to the brand’s UI in years. Most of the preloaded apps have been redesigned and the important stuff like the calendar and messaging app finally look like they belong to a proper, modern Android ecosystem. And apart from an optional app drawer, there is also a similar swipe-down shortcut that gets you to the content that you need.    

By mid-afternoon, after doing absolutely nothing but vegging out with my new digital friend, the battery is at least half full. I’m guessing it should be able to make it to the end of the day with enough juice to spare, and I’m right. It does. How many smartphones these days last an entire day? That said, if you are having an extra long day and in need of some power-saving, you can always flick on the ultra power-saving mode. It limits you to a few functions, you know, the important stuff like Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram, to name a few. Otherwise, the regular power-saving mode works just as well. It limits the resolution, but you probably won’t notice it so much.

It is all thanks to a generous 4,000mAh battery, which promises 20 hours of continuous video playback. While I can’t spend all day long watching videos on YouTube, I’m thinking it could happen. And in an event I need it recharged in a jiffy, Huawei’s SuperCharge technology helps power it up to 90 per cent in just an hour. It’s super safe too. A five-gate protection system that monitors real-time temperature, voltage and current, prevents any explosion from happening (no matter what, Huawei takes good care of its customers. With its HiCare Prestige plan, you can enjoy a two-year warranty, door-to-door delivery for repairs as well as a free screen replacement within the first year).  

I like that I won’t have to worry about exploding phones, but what I like best about the Huawei Mate 9 is its camera. Continuing its partnership with Leica (which first appeared on the P9), it is based on a dual-lens system and the best phone camera I have had. The photographs are generally rich and very finely detailed. Plus, with the wide aperture mode, you could easily achieve a pleasant depth-of-field effect (even on video), the kind of effect you get with a DSLR. This works especially well on people and food, and you can decide how much blur you want before and after you take the shot. The cool thing is you can even change its focus while you edit. Unfortunately, the wide aperture mode doesn’t extend to the front camera, but then again, I’m not one to take selfies anyway.

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