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This is my favorite Android smartphone right now… and it’s not the Pixel!

by Todd Haselton | February 1, 2017February 1, 2017 8:30 am PST

Over the past month, I’ve been using a smartphone that has, quite frankly, surprised me in a lot of ways. I had been using the Google Pixel XL as my daily driver until CES 2017 in January¬†when I attended a press conference where review units were seeded out for a new device that is making its debut in the US.

Yep, I’m talking about the Huawei Mate 9, and I’ve been head-over-heels for it over the past few weeks.

We actually reviewed the international Huawei Mate 9 back in November, but it was an international smartphone and I typically spend most of my time with devices built and sold in the US. It largely skirted under my radar, until CES 2017.

That’s when Huawei announced that the Mate 9 was launching in the US and would soon get Amazon Alexa. In anticipation of that software update — it hasn’t launched yet — I started giving the Huawei Mate 9 a fair shake. It hasn’t left my pocket since, though I’ve been tempted by the Google Pixel XL from time-to-time.

Huawei’s EMUI isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure, but I’ve covered it up with the Google Launcher, providing a more familiar near-naked Android experience. I love the huge display, and the 1080p resolution hasn’t really turned me off except for the sad realization that it won’t ever work with Google Daydream VR.

The speakers are nice and loud, making it the perfect phone for me when I want to play tunes on my desk, or use the stereo speakers for watching a YouTube video in bed. I like that the screen is even bigger than the Google Pixel XL, making this a perfect replacement for the Galaxy Note 7, a fantastic if doomed smartphone.

The camera on the Huawei Mate 9 can be hit or miss. It’s capable of taking excellent shots, no doubt, but it’s not nearly as good as the experience I’ve had on the Pixel XL. Sure, it has great manual controls and Huawei worked with Leica to tweak the camera as much as possible, but it’s not as great when you’re just firing from the hip and trying to take a quick, but clear picture.

Unmatched battery life

Another reason I’m in love with the Mate 9 is the battery life is unmatched. I’m regularly finishing the day with around 70 percent charge, frequently only hitting the charger every other night. The phone is exceptional at alerting me of apps that are sucking up too much juice, allowing me to close them before they drain my battery too much. It seems to work perfectly.

Huawei seems to have covered all of its bases. Great battery life, a solid camera, a beautiful metal industrial design, expandable storage, exceptional performance, stereo speakers. I kind of wish it added water-resistance just to be safe, and I certainly wish it had a Quad HD display so I could use Google Daydream VR, but perhaps that’s why the special edition Porsche version of the Mate 9 exists.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Huawei Mate 9 yet, do yourself a favor and try to get your hands on one. I wouldn’t say I’d buy one straight out – I recommend most folks wait to see what LG has in the G6 next month and Samsung has with the Galaxy S8. After those debut, if you’re still looking for an unlocked phone, be sure you check out the Huawei Mate 9. I’ll be back with more feedback after Alexa hits sometime in the coming months, so that’ll serve as a reminder.

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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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