If you took a gander at the Honor 9 and mistook Huawei's latest phone for a Samsung Galaxy S7, it'd be hard to blame you.
But the Honor 9 has a feature that even this year's Galaxy phone doesn't match, which we hope to see in action once the latest Honor phone reaches the U.S.
That would be the dual rear cameras on the back of the Honor 9, a feature which Samsung has yet to master but which is back on another Huawei device. The Honor 8 introduced a dual rear-camera last year, and the even cheaper Honor 6X has added it, too.
In the case of the Honor 9, the phone's main camera uses a 12-megapixel sensor while the secondary camera sports a 20-MP monochrome sensor. When used in tandem, they give you the ability to change the depth of field of a shot, so you can blur the background while shooting at portrait or focus to infinity when capturing a landscape, just like you would on a big mirrorless or DSLR. The secondary cam can even be used all by itself, for capturing super detailed black-and-white photos.
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Inside, the Honor 9's specs look a bit different, too. Instead of the traditional chip from Qualcomm found on many smartphones, the Honor 9 sports an octa-core Kirin 960 chip Huawei developed in house, along with 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage and microSD card expandability. These are essentially the same specs as the Huawei Mate 9, so we're expecting some pretty serious performance.
As for the Honor 9's display, you're getting a 5.15-inch full HD screen with rounded glass that bends around the phone's edges. However, since it's an LCD panel instead of an AMOLED screen, the Honor 9's display is not quite as colorful as the screen on Galaxy S7, let alone the Galaxy S8.
Inside, the Honor 9 runs EMUI 5.1, which is based on Android Nougat, so you'll enjoy Google Assistant and multiwindow mode in addition to traditional Honor features like the knuckle-based gesture recognition. However, Google is getting closer to releasing Android O, and it's not clear if the Honor 9 will feature that OS once the phone hits the U.S. (For what it's worth, the Honor 8 shipped with Android Marshmallow last year, but was updated to Nougat in early 2017.)
I got a chance to briefly check out the Honor 9, and I like this new phone retains all the things we liked about the Honor 8 — sharp dual cams, solid performance, top-notch build quality and a bright screen. And then it added a little extra pizzazz, thanks to a sleeker and more refined design that sparkles in what has become the Honor line's signature sapphire blue. (The phone will be available in silver and black as well.)
But the most encouraging thing about the Honor 9 is its 3,200 mAh battery, which tops the 3,000 mAh power pack in the Honor 8 and seeks to shore up the one major complaint we had about last year's phone: mediocre battery life.
There's just one big thing missing before we can make a meaningful judgment about the Honor 9: its price. If it retails at $400 or under like the Honor 8 did, there's a lot to like, especially as companies like OnePlus push the price of its "midrange" handsets closer and closer to flagship territory.
Unfortunately, even though the Honor 9 is already on sale in Asia, it seems we won't have official U.S. pricing until later in the year. In short, the Honor 9 seems like a great phone with a sparkling (although not entirely original) design. Stay tuned for a full review.
Photo Credits: Sam Rutherford/Tom's Guide