We talk to Huawei's Rhys Saunders about the Huawei P9's revolutionary new camera tech, and why this phone is a threat to the likes of Samsung and Apple.

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Huawei has recently pulled the covers off its latest flagship smartphone, and it’s a real beauty. But before we dig into the individual specs, let’s just admire this phone for a second. The latest in Huawei’s P-series is a jaw-dropping mixture of glass and aluminium, with beautiful rounded edges – diamond cut, don’t you know – and it’s clear from just a glance that Huawei has put a huge amount of effort into the design of the P9.

But what makes the P9 tick? And what beauty is there beneath that stunning chassis? Here’s Huawei’s Rhys Saunders to tell us…

“We’re not compromising on anything…”

“We’re focusing much more on the premium quality of the product,” he says of the P9’s design, “and making sure that it feels really nice in the hand. Design has been hugely important in the mobile phone industry for 10-15 years now,” he continues. “Our phone is a prized possession for most of us, something we carry around everywhere, so it needs to be aesthetically pleasing when we put it down on the coffee table, or have it in our hands.

“Working with Google gave us a lot more credibility…”

“The P9 is a testament to that – the materials we’ve used with the metal unibody and glass surfaces all come together to make something really beautiful. We’re not compromising on anything – we’re giving customers the best materials and the best components at a desirable price.”

Although a relative newcomer to the western smartphone market, Huawei has been causing a stir over the last few years with some seriously high quality handsets, none more so than last year’s Nexus 6P, which Google entrusted to the Chinese telecoms giant.

“Working with Google gave us a lot more credibility in the western market,” says Rhys. “People had more trust in us because we’d been chosen by Google to carry on the Nexus programme.

“Aside from that, there was also a confirmation that we really do make very good hardware,” he continues. “The Google UK and USA teams were really happy with the final result, and there are a number of reviews out there that reckon it was the best Nexus device ever.”

Huawei P9: “A camera phone, not just a phone with a camera.”

Chief among the Nexus 6P’s best assets was a superb camera, and Huawei has upped the bar for the P9, partnering with imaging experts Leica to deliver a camera experience that it claims will reinvent smartphone photography. The whole system has been co-engineered with Leica and it culminates with a dual-lens setup on the back. How does it work, exactly? Rhys explains:

“So, there are two 12-Megapixel cameras on the back of the P9,” he says. One has a colour sensor, and the other has a black and white sensor. Now, the latter will just give you a monochrome shot – a huge spectrum from black to white, whilst the former will give you colour, but doesn’t give you that gradient of shades and contrasts. The ultimate benefit of having the two lenses is that you’re capturing all the minute contrasts and gradients of the shot, but with vibrant colour, and it makes sure that you’re getting the best exposure and the best lighting regardless of whether you’re in bright sunlight or in dark, gloomy weather. The dual-lens is perfect at capturing the best conditions for your photo.

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“The work we’ve done with Leica hasn’t just been about the hardware,” Rhys explains, “but on the software and the algorithms as well. The hardware captures all that information, but it’s the software that has to intelligently combine those colours so you have the absolute best detail possible. So, if you’ve taken a family shot that you want to expand and put into a large photo frame for example, you can do that with the P9 because the image quality is so high.”

“The last thing we want to do is over-complicate things…”

Alongside the revolutionary new camera setup, the P9 is running Android Marshmallow 6.0. But like Samsung, HTC and other major Android smartphone manufacturers, Huawei has tweaked the mobile OS with its own enhanced interface, called ‘Emotion UI’.

“We believe there are certain elements that people get used to when it comes to Android, and we’ve certainly learned that tweaking too much of that can make things overly complicated,” says Rhys when we ask him about the balance between Emotion UI and default Android. “Emotion UI is designed to make things easier and more intuitive – the last thing we want to do is over-complicate things by changing the look and feel of all your common apps – but we think customers need more than just the basic overlay.”

In delivering a beautifully designed premium handset, with high quality camera tech and the latest version of Android, the P9 takes aim squarely at the Samsung Galaxy S7, Apple iPhone 6S and similar elite smartphones. So, what does Rhys think makes the P9 stand out from its rivals?

“The dual-lens camera clearly stands out as a huge unique point – I think people will see the P9 as a camera phone, not just a phone with a camera. But the display is equally as fantastic. It’s a 5.2-inch 1080p Full HD display, and it uses the same colour gamut as Hollywood movies, which means that it covers around 96% of the full colour spectrum.

“There’s also fingerprint ID on the back, similar to the Nexus device. As different services start to roll out where people are looking to use their phones as payment services – Android Pay being one of the key ones – biometric fingerprint functionality is going to become key. The P9 is already prepared for that.

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“I think the P9 will stand out as punching well above its weight in comparison with the competition,” Rhys continues. “If people look at the tech specs compared to the price, people will see how phenomenal the hardware is for that price.”

A little extra for Vodafone customers

When you pre-order the Huawei P9 from Vodafone, we’ll throw in the Huawei Watch Classic at no extra cost! The device is the perfect companion for the P9, helping you track your fitness, find your way around and keep on top of your texts and emails. “Smartwatches are a critical part of our portfolio,” says Rhys, “and to be honest, I think the uptake on smartwatches will continue to grow as people understand the true capabilities of these devices. We’re still in an early adoption stage, but I think smartwatches will enter the mass market in 12 to 18 months.”

And that’s not all. If you like a slightly bigger handset, Vodafone is the only place you can pick up the Huawei P9 Plus – a slightly larger version of the P9, with a few extra touches.

“So, the P9 Plus has a larger battery, 64GB of built-in memory, a 5.5-inch display and it also features ‘Press Touch’, which works similarly to Apple’s 3D Touch, giving you contextual options depending how hard you tap the screen, which is very neat. Aside from that, it’s the same great phone.”

Get yours Huawei P9 now! Head over to the Vodafone shop to pre-order yours now, ahead of the 6th May release date!