The current year didn’t have a lot of offline events, but there was something, in contrast to 2020. Undoubtedly, the largest event of the quarantine era, which I personally attended, was held on October 21 by Huawei. And this event was especially interesting because we got to see the first truly sanctioned smartphone, the Huawei nova 9. As well as the new Huawei Watch GT 3 watch and FreeBuds Lipstick wireless headphones. Allow me to share my impressions with you and tell you about all the new products.
Place and time
And I’ll start with the event itself, which felt usually large-scale, not characteristic of the current realities. The event took place in Vienna, during warm, almost summer weather, and attracted several thousand journalists and guests to the huge Messe Wien Hall.
In terms of scale, this whole event, of course, was inferior to the last presentation of Huawei in 2019 in Paris, when the flagship P30 Series smartphones were revealed. But that event was global, and now it was “only” European.
But surprisingly, this time it wasn’t the nova flagship line that got all the attention. Previously, it had never received such an honor. Nova smartphones were usually revealed in China, then after a while local launch events took place in each country. But not now. Now it’s suddenly a big thing. What is going on?
The state of things
To answer this question, it is worth looking into the state of the Huawei company. The sanctions have undoubtedly hit the brand very hard, we see that it has almost completely lost its position in the smartphone market. In addition, we have the pandemic, which gave rise to a shortage of many electronic components and a crisis in the production, not to mention the general global deterioration of the economic situation. Who can withstand such stress? Huawei! They did it! Where does the money come from? Infrastructure projects, 5G equipment, server solutions, reorientation to the PC and monitor market, an increase in the share of sales of wearable devices, laptops, personal audio, and network equipment. This huge Huawei ocean liner proved to be maneuverable enough to successfully sail in the turbulent waters of a crisis economy. Unbelievable but true. The company is fine. It can take a hit.
As confirmation – the growth figures shown at the presentation in the segments of wearable devices, the Internet of things and computers. And in bold italics, I will mark below the key points that I think out myself on behalf of Huawei, based on what I see behind the scenes and between the lines of official statements – this is my theory, which is supported by some facts, and I will also cite them from time to time.
But regarding growth, let’s refer to the official press release:
During the event, Derek Yu, President of Huawei Consumer BG in Central and Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Canada and Turkey, shared the company’s business news. Huawei’s strong performance in 2020 is predicted to be repeated this year. So, as of October, the company’s revenue is 42.95 billion euros. At the same time, the net profit margin reached 9.8%, and the proceeds from the sale of consumer goods reached 18.19 billion euros.
Huawei invests more than 10% of its sales revenue annually in research and development of new technologies. Over the past ten years, this amount has exceeded 96.5 billion euros. The continuous growth of the company ensures its strong position in the market. So, in August 2021, the company is ranked 44th in the Fortune 500 ranking, which is 5 points higher than its position in 2020.
And what about the consumer segment? Everything is great here! We keep on releasing innovative products! We remain a global brand with a global presence!
This is what the company announces to everyone by holding an event in the center of Europe. Is it true or not? I think that it is not completely sincere, but these corporate nuances are understandable only to experts. The layman sees a beautiful picture from a bright stage. After all, this is the main goal of Huawei now – to remain visible, to maintain brand awareness.
From the press release:
Huawei is also continuously developing its physical retail store network. For example, a new flagship store opened in Vienna on October 20, showcasing Huawei’s strongest features – design and state-of-the-art technology.
Continuous growth is critical to the company, says Derek Yu: “We are constantly striving to create the best possible innovative solutions. We open new stores, which is proof of our continued investment to meet customer expectations. At the end of 2020, Huawei’s retail network included 60,000 stores and demo zones around the world, with more than 5,000 Experience Store stores, where you can not only purchase products, but also get acquainted with them in detail. And we continue to grow.”
Sales? This is secondary. Doesn’t matter if there aren’t a lot. It’s easier for us. We will still not be able to produce enough devices at the moment to satisfy the increased demand. Therefore, it is not profitable for us to create high demand. We keep the prices relatively high so as not to lose our reputation. And no discounts! Only promotions with gifts like our own headphones in addition to a new smartphone. To stimulate the expansion of the ecosystem.
This is the picture of the current situation. Keep all these points in mind when I talk about the nova 9. Now for Huawei, the smartphone business is not about income at all (and even less about profit), it’s about expenses (or rather, about their maximum optimization).
You don’t have to buy a Huawei smartphone. And if you do buy it, it is expensive. But let’s not count on sales too much. Better to let our smartphones become an expensive curiosity.
Of course, I’m exaggerating, but I hope you catch the general idea.
The Huawei nova 9 is almost a P50 Pro
Let’s start with design. Remember the leaked renders of the P50 line? So, it’s the same here. Only it’s the nova 9. On the back of the sparkling body there is a recognizable block of cameras, conventionally combining two circles, located vertically one below the other. At the top is the main camera. In the lower one there are three more modules of which only a ultrawide lens is useful, and a macro and a depth sensor not so much.
First time trying out the Huawei nova 9
For those who are fond of technical details, here’s the press release:
The main camera system consists of a 50-megapixel Ultra Vision camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a macro camera and a depth-of-field camera. It also includes a large 1/1.56-inch sensor and a RYYB CFA with higher light sensitivity, absorbing 40% more light than a standard RGGB sensor.
Huawei talked about cameras at the presentation for a long time and in detail. According to Huawei, they shoot great in all situations. Both photo and video. There are many user modes here, the camera shoots video simultaneously on several modules, makes spectacular picture-in-picture videos, there is a 4K shooting mode and even electronic AI stabilization is present, both for the main and for the front-facing module. Everything to make an Instagram up-and-comer happy.
The Huawei nova 9 smartphone is equipped with a 32MP selfie camera. Like the rear camera, it supports 4K shooting and AI Image Stabilization (AIS) video stabilization technology.
Instead of a thousand words, I took some pictures with my smartphone during night and day, so you can appreciate the quality of photos and videos with your own eyes. We will not go too deep into the topic of cameras now, that we will leave for a detailed review of the nova 9. Personally, I think that the camera is pretty good, especially in low light, but it does not yet reach the flagship level. Perhaps these are the features of the unfinished software and the fresh EMUI 12 and, as is often the case with Huawei, the camera will be perfected over time and the quality of the shooting will be improved.
The body of the smartphone is made of plastic. The back plate has a matte rough texture that DOES NOT COLLECT ANY PRINTS AT ALL and shimmers in different colors.
Officially the color is “star-blue”, but in reality it is … a metallic silver pale purple with a yellow-green tint? But, in any case, the smartphone looks pretty cool. There will also be a black version of the nova 9 available.
In front, everything is fine too. You get a full-screen display with slightly rounded edges. In the upper part there is an embedded camera. The bezels around the screen are not record thin (when compared directly with the P40 Pro), but they are symmetrical, and the smartphone looks decent, almost like a flagship.
There’s also support for the DCI-P3 color rendition standard. Not absolutely top-end in feel, but pretty close. The Huawei nova 9 is equipped with a 6.57-inch curved OLED display with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The display reproduces up to 1.07 billion colors and supports a response rate of 300 Hz.
The UI is smooth, the viewing angles are excellent, the maximum brightness level is impressive. In real use, the screen shows itself from the best side, although in very bright lighting it looks a little pale (apparently, the system for changing the contrast is triggered to improve readability), but the text is perfectly legible.
As for the hardware, we have a decent 8/128 GB combo and not a single mention of the processor model during the presentation. Of course, everyone already knows that this is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 4G. Not a flagship solution, but quite productive, albeit without support for 5G networks. Huawei says the smartphone uses AI to prioritize and optimize device performance, promising a good level of performance in any task.
From the press release:
The powerful processor is complemented by a new cooling system that combines VC Liquid Cooling and graphene for fast and efficient heat dissipation. Thanks to this, the device can operate at full capacity without overheating, even during prolonged gaming and streaming video. The Huawei nova 9 also supports the new Touch Turbo technology, which takes mobile games to the next level with more accurate and faster controls.
Let’s move on to the battery. At first glance, it is relatively modest, with a capacity of only 4300 mAh. But the manufacturer claims that thanks to the innovative energy saving system, the smartphone shows excellent results. We are yet to verify this. We will tell you in the main review. Most importantly, fast charging from empty battery to 100% takes 38 minutes! The Huawei SuperCharge 66 W unit is included.
Now to the main point. Price, which is 499 euros. Frankly, it’s a lot. And given the fact that the nova 9 runs EMUI 12 without Google services out of the box, we should admit that despite all its attractiveness, good hardware and functionality within the HMS platform and the Huawei device ecosystem, this smartphone, unfortunately, is destined to be mostly ignored.
Although, remember what I said above. This is a showcase device, not created to be a bestseller. The os the best Huawei smartphone that exists, whether you like it or not. But if you are ready to experiment, it’s fine. I myself enjoy using the P40 Pro. Do you want to know how? I have an article for you.
Moreover, having used the nova 9 a little, I can say that it’s a treat to use. It’s slim, lightweight, powerful and beautiful. In addition, the EMUI 12 UI has been significantly redesigned and looks very modern. Yes, it’s still not Harmony OS, but Android. But the UI has already been adjusted to the appearance of the new operating system, which we saw, for example, in the MatePad 11. By the way, here is a link to its review.
In general, the smartphone uses a number of interesting solutions that are not yet available even in the flagship P40 Pro. In theory, they are all very interesting if someone suddenly decides to create an ecosystem of Huawei devices around them. These points require additional study.
With the Huawei nova 9, using multiple devices at the same time is as easy as using one, thanks to Device+. Device+ in Control Panel allows users to easily manage and customize the interaction of multiple devices such as FreeBuds, MatePad and MateBook. Users can tap on the Huawei MatePad icon to activate smartphone-to-tablet multi-screen interaction, Huawei MateBook for smartphone-to-PC multi-screen interaction, or Huawei FreeBuds to switch to Huawei headphones.
Thanks to the distributed file system, the Huawei nova 9 can function as a wireless external storage device for a PC. This means you can access the files you need more easily than ever. For example, when users write emails on a PC, they can add files from their smartphone. Also, while viewing images from the Internet on a PC, users can save them to a smartphone.
Sounds tempting. I will definitely try to test all the declared functions within the Huawei ecosystem, but a little later.
Huawei Watch GT 3
Probably the most boring product at this presentation, for me personally. Although, the watch itself is gorgeous, of course. It’s what you’d expect. I did not see any significant changes here, because it is difficult to tell without using the watch yourself.
The first look at the Huawei Watch GT 3
Here are some excerpts from the press release:
The Huawei Watch GT 3 is available in two sizes – 46mm and 42mm. The appearance of both versions is reminiscent of a classic, elegant watch. The smartwatch is ultralight: 42.6g (46mm) and 35g (42mm). The 42mm Watch GT 3 is thinner, making it an ideal choice for those who value weightlessness.
The front of the Huawei Watch GT 3 is made of stainless steel, so it is lightweight and durable, as well as heat and frost resistant. The back of the device is made of polymer composite material.
The watch face of the Huawei Watch GT 3 has been updated in both resolution and screen size. Compared to the previous generation model with a 1.3-inch display, the Huawei Watch GT 3 has a larger screen area in both versions (46 mm and 42 mm). Ultra clear clear 3D glass provides better visualization. All important information is visible as soon as you bring your wrist to your eyes.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 is the first GT series smartwatch to feature a crown and tactile feedback. This provides a new interactive user experience when navigating menus to change settings and the like.
In terms of battery life, the manufacturer promises that the 46-mm version will work without recharging for 14 days, and the 42-mm will work for 7 days when used in normal mode. I hope we will soon receive the watch for review and test it thoroughly.
The price is 349 euros for the 46 mm version and 329 euros for the 42 mm version.
Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick
The idea is simple to the point of genius, but no one has done this before. Huawei just took the excellent FreeBuds 4 earbuds, dyed them red and placed them in the original charging case in the form of a tube of lipstick. The weird new product costs 249 euros.
First look at the Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick
Since we have already tried these TWS earbuds (the FreeBuds 4, of course) there’s nothing else to add. But pretty soon we’ll review FreeBuds Lipstick, too.
- Huawei FreeBuds 4 review: Improved TWS earbuds with familiar design
- Huawei MateStation S review: Compact PC for home and office
The Huawei nova 9 is a beautiful powerful smartphone with an excellent screen and a good camera. EMUI 12 looks pretty darn good and is fast and fluid. Is it a flagship? Definitely not. I think the price is a little too much. It would be acceptable for the old pre-sanctioned Huawei, with Google services on board. But, as I said, in the current situation, this is not a product that will sell; I think that it is overpriced by design and it will be kept that way no matter what.
As a confirmation of my theory, I can cite the fact that the cost of the real flagship P40 in the new Huawei store in Vienna is the same 499 euros. By the way, the P40 Pro is not on sale (either they sold out, or there was never enough). And the Mate 40 Pro costs 1100 euros.
By the way, the day after the event, we visited the newly opened Huawei flagship store in the center of Vienna. I’d rather call it the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy of
the Republic of China Huawei. There were not many buyers there, and they were mainly interested in laptops, monitors and headphones.
But the store itself is futuristic and really impressive in its scope. The ground floor houses the main shopping area and the mini-museum of smartphones. Second floor is for technical support, service, and consultation area.
On the basement floor, there is a working demonstration area that implements the concept of a smart home from Huawei, in which all possible devices are concentrated, united into one ecosystem – a TV, speakers with a voice assistant, media players, scales, devices for monitoring and caring for children, IoT elements such as lighting, sockets etc.
Of course, the entire smart home system is controlled via Huawei smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. It is interesting, innovative and at the same time too conceptual and unrealistic for now. But, as I understand it, these are the current realities of modern China.
To summarize, I have too many impressions after my trip to Vienna. I definitely won’t be able to fit everything into one material, which is already bloated too much. After the main presentation, I was able to attend the press conference of the aforementioned Derek Yu, and it was very cool, since he was very happy to answer journalists’ questions.
He talked about the current state of Huawei, sanctions, their consequences, access to technology, the past and future of HMS, how the Harmony OS is being developed, and what are the plans for the global distribution of the operating system. We will transcribe the audio recording in the near future and release a separate material dedicated to this press conference. You can listen to the original recording:
- Thanks to Sergey Mityaev (gagadget.com) for the provided audio file!
On this I will say my goodbyes. If you are interested in the topic of new devices and the Huawei event, please ask questions in the comments.
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