My relationship with Honor 9i was somewhat of like and dislike – and then completely liking it ever since. With last year’s Honor 8 and Honor 8 pro receiving wide critical praise for the design and stunning camera, this year it was quite clear that Honor definitely had something special up their sleeves, and they certainly didn’t disappoint us. T he phone priced at Rs 17,999 will go on sale from 14 October, exclusively on Flipkart and here is what we think about the Honor 9i.
For Huawei, Honor 9i is another first, it’s their first smartphone ever with four cameras, and most importantly the first smartphone in the world with a full view display and four cameras.
According to Huawei’s India development head Allen Wang , Huawei did put intensive market research for this phone, as smartphones have become the most important personal tools for us. As a result, the phone is perfectly crafted for its targeted audience, the digitally native millennials, and it is a perfect match, so Huawei claims. More importantly, this is a device which allows Honor to compete in a device segment that is flooded with 6-inch screens and this becomes one of the first phones by the brand in the screen size.
Aptly, it feels like the proverbial “Millennial Falcon”.
The biggest surprise for me when I saw Honor 9i first was the build and design. Back then, with the price yet to be revealed, I thought this was a great design for a phone priced at Rs. 25, 000. The phone has a unibody aluminum design that reminds of the Honor 8 Pro. Honor 9i felt really good in the hand and easy to use, especially with it’s 7.5 mm thinner, the 2.5 D glass display, and weighing in 164 grams, it becomes one of the lightest phones with such a huge screen.
Initially, the unit we received felt laggy and I was quick to dismiss the camera features too gimmicky, relegating this phone to my backpack pocket as I returned to my iPhone 7 to get life my life moving. However, a day and full reset later, the places have switched as I started to reach for Honor 9i for everything from checking the web, to typing long notes in Evernote.
The major reason for this new found affinity towards this phone is its 5.9-inch bezel-less full HD display that has an 18:9 aspect ratio offering an immersive experience. The Full HD+ (2160×1080 pixels) resolution is ideal for the many day-to-day tasks, from reading on the web to checking social media, as the 18:9 aspect ratio shows more content in a vertically. Even for videos this is vastly more immersive, and frankly there are only a handful of phones in the market that offer this kind of an experience.
The phone runs Android 7.0 based EMUI 5.1 powered by Huawei Kirin 659 octa-core SoC and 4GB RAM, making the experience as smooth as possible. And 3340 mAh battery gets you easily through a day, with some juice left before shut eye. That’s what matters at the end of the day? Right?
Coming to the cameras, unlike the dual camera systems Honor implemented before in which one camera was used for monochrome data while the other is used for RGB pixels, in Honor 9i Huawei decided to go for a regular camera to take the photo and the second one to capture the depth, an approach that’s more common.
In daylight, the rear 16-megapixel lens coupled with a 2-megapixel depth sensor takes really good photos. The bokeh effect works like a charm, providing stunning photos in well-lit shots. The camera app also comes with a wide variety of features such as a pro mode, a wide aperture mode, and a portrait mode.
On the front, there is 13-megapixel and a 2-megapixel lens, and a smart flash what my photographer friend termed as a diffused flash, for selfies. Importantly, you can take selfies with portrait mode, thanks to the extra depth-sensing camera.
Now, the image quality here is quite impressive. The bokeh mode works well and even generally, the images come out nicely in daylight. At time the quality suffers, but that’s a given the phone’s pricing. Still, one can easily say it is one of the best camera phones in the market for less than Rs 20,000.
Call and network quality of the phone was quite par for the course, which is always nice to know and it works with all 4G and VoLTE networks in the country.
When it comes to video recording, I will say this Honor 9i isn’t the best. The videos were very shaky and unstabilized. Another issue with the camera is that the images felt a little bit too saturated and over processed for my taste Taking pictures in low light, especially with front facing camera was quite challenging. Additionally, some of the phone’s camera features require an extra few seconds of processing before the final image is shown.
Honor 9i full view display struggled in bright sunlight. Brightness levels of the display weren’t high enough for a pleasurable viewing experience. The phone comes with a micro-USB port as opposed to a USB-type C, but it is common in this price point. On the build side, the rear camera protrusion is quite significant, but since it is centrally placed, the phone doesn’t wobble on a flat surface.
Finally, I have some doubts about the durability of the front glass as in very few days use the front-facing camera got a noticeable scratch. Honor hasn’t mentioned which type of glass it has used and their silence in this matter adds more to my suspicion.
One final bit that is a matter of concern is that this phone may not get the latest Android Oreo update anytime soon. Honor is notorious for being lackadaisical with updates and considering this isn’t a flagship phone one should hedge bets on this getting one soon. The big disadvantage of this is that users will not get regular security patches and will not benefit from the user interface and battery life gains Google has made on Oreo.
Should you buy it?
The phone is designed with millennials in mind. A big display, great cameras on front and back, and a gorgeous design, especially on the gold unit we have. However, in this price segment, the competition is high.Xiaomi Mi A1 is a strong competitor running fluid stock Android with a brilliant design and great cameras .
But, if your priority is content consumption then Honor 9i with its full view display offers you a great experience. For the millennial generation who lives in the vertically scrolling app and feeds, Honor has created an almost perfect companion at a perfect price.
For folks who want a simple user experience then perhaps the Mi A1 will make more sense, but folks who want cutting edge features at a diet, then indeed, the Honor 9i is their “Millennial Falcon”.