Huawei unveils P9 and P9 Plus phones with Leica-engineered dual cameras

Huawei logoFollowing on the from the success of last year's P8—not to mention Mate S and Nexus 6P smartphones—Huawei has unveiled the P9 and P9 Plus, a pair of sharp all-metal smartphones. The P9 sports a relatively pocketable 5.2-inch 1080p edge-to-edge display, while the P9 Plus has a 5.5-inch 1080p display. Both smartphones have not one but two cameras co-engineered with iconic camera company Leica.

Above Huawei's now-standard fingerprint sensor on the rear of the phone is a pair of 12-megapixel Sony 12MP IMX286 sensors, which are mated to a pair of Leica Summarit H 1:2.2/27 lenses (f/2.2 aperture, 27mm focal length). One sensor records in full RGB, while the other is monochrome. While both sensors have the same 1.25µm pixels, Huawei says the monochrome sensor lets in 300 percent more light, making for far better low light photography, faster focus, and a much wider colour gamut. The company even claims the P9's twin cameras gather 270 percent more light than iPhone 6S—although it's not clear how it got to this figure.

Huawei unveils P9 and P9 Plus phones with Leica-engineered dual cameras

Like other phones that have been armed with dual camera sensors in the past—the HTC One M8 being a prime example—the P9 allows users to adjust the focal point after they've taken a photo. This dual-setup produces what Huawei claims is "Leica-quality" bokeh (the out-of-focus blurry bits). Helping things along is a new camera UI designed by Leica that has both simple and fully manual modes. There's also a hybrid autofocus system that uses a laser for short range shooting up to 1.2 metres, two sensors and a dedicated depth ISP for long range depth focusing focusing, and contrast focusing. For the full Leica experience, Huawei's even added the Leica shutter sound (yes, really).

On the outside there's not much to distinguish the P9 and P9 Plus from last year's P8. The P9 is still fundamentally a slab-like unibody aluminium phone, although the edges are now curved and sport what Huawei calls a "brushed hairline" and "sandblasted" finish. Translated from buzz speak, this seems to mean "very smooth." The body of the P9 is a mere 6.95mm thick, just barely bigger than an iPhone 6 despite the larger 5.25-inch display. The P9 Plus is a bit smaller than an iPhone 6S Plus. The P9 comes in six colours: Titanium Grey, Mystic Silver, Prestige Gold, Rose Gold, Haze Gold, and Ceramic White.

Hardware-wise, the P9 is powered by the company's own octa-core Kirin 955 SoC manufactured on a 16nm process and running at 2.5GHz. The phone offers 3GB of RAM and a surprisingly large 3000mAh battery. The battery, says Huawei, is good for 12 hours of HD video playback or eight hours of 4G Web browsing. The P9 Plus has a larger 3400mAh battery that lasts for "up to two days" of normal usage, and it comes with 4GB of RAM. There's "fast charging" support for both phones, too.

There's 32GB or 64GB storage, as well as a micro SD card slot, which hopefully plays nicely with Android 6.0 Marshmallow's ability to pool external and internal storage together for fuss-free expansion. Interestingly, Huawei claims to have dramatically improved signal strength by implementing a triple-antenna system as well as QoE (quality of experience) ranking for Wi-Fi hotspots, although the company has not revealed details of how the tech works.

Both phones support four 2G bands, nine 3G bands, and 18 4G bands. Huawei has promised to follow up with specifics on supported bands soon. Those that plump for the P9 Plus will also get improved audio thanks to separate woofer and tweeters on both sides of the phone, an IR transmitter to use it as an all-in-one remote, and a slightly better 8MP autofocus selfie camera. And following its debut in the Mate S, the P9 Plus also has Huawei's "press touch" system that allows for different functions in apps when users press harder on the screen.

Unfortunately, the P9 and P9 Plus feature Huawei's much maligned "Emotion UI," a heavy skin for Android that gives it a cartoonish, iPhone-like look that sits at odds with the otherwise classy hardware design. After the success of Nexus 6P, there was a hope that Huawei might opt for a less modified version of Android or at least give users the option to install one at a later date. Sadly, that's not the case.

Finally, Huawei unveiled a new version of its Talk Band, dubbed the Talk Band B3, which is said to support improved audio quality and longer battery life.

Unfortunately, Huawei hasn't provided a release date or price for either the P9 or P9 Plus. We'd expect both phones to be competitively priced; the P8 launched at about £350 last year. We'll update this post as soon as Huawei drops the info.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Huawei, smartphones

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