Apple and Huawei have the two best super flagship smartphones, after Samsung’s fiasco with its Galaxy Note 7 last year. The iPhone 7 Plus is the most advanced large-screen phone with iOS, while the Huawei Mate 9 is, at least at the moment, the most advanced large Android OS phone.
The specifications, benchmark results, and everyday experience of both devices are outstanding, but there are a surprising number of details in which they differ. This includes the finish elements, the functionality of the display, the battery life, their software options, and dual rear-facing cameras – offered by both products. A comparison of these can help buyers decide whether the Huawei Mate 9 or Apple iPhone 7 Plus would be a better choice.
Build & Design
Both these smartphones have a metal unibody with a sturdy, flagship-worthy appearance. Although the Huawei’s 5.9-inch display is larger than the iPhone 7 Plus 5.5-inch one, their dimensions and weight are quite similar. To be precise, the Mate 9 is a tad bit wider and taller, while Apple’s device is slightly slimmer and lighter. That said, the differences in all of these measurements is less than 1%.
The Huawei model has a slightly rounded back, unlike the perfectly flat iPhone, and it therefore feels more natural to hold. However, this feeling fades with time, given that the surface of the Chinese phone is slightly smoother and it easily slides off the hand.
The iPhone 7 Plus oleophobic coating attracts far fewer fingerprints than the Gorilla Glass 3 front of the Mate 9, so users will feel the need to polish the Huawei with their clothes much more often. What also tips the scale to Apple’s side is its IP67 certificate, making the iPhone 7 Plus water and dust proof (if submerged under 1 meter of water for less than 30 minutes).
Both Apple’s and Huawei’s devices offer the same 1080 x 1920 (Full HD) resolution, but the screen sizes are different, resulting in slightly different pixel densities. To be precise, the 5.9-inch display featured on Mate 9 offers 373 ppi, less than the 401 ppi offered by the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus. However, no difference in imaging sharpness can be detected with the naked eye, and both phones offer immaculately sharp imaging on their IPC LCD displays.
What’s more, all the other features of these two screens are equally above average, whether it’s color saturation and realistic color imaging, or contrast and usability when exposed to direct sunlight.
Despite this, the everyday experience with the Mate 9’s display is better due to the larger screen area. Although the phones differ less than 1% in their overall dimensions, the screen-to-body ratio offered by Huawei amounts to impressive 77.5%, compared to Apple’s 67.7%. What this means in layman’s terms is that the display bezels on the Mate 9 are noticeably smaller than on the iPhone 7 Plus. Partially, this is a result of Apple’s large physical Home button, while the Android control keys (Back, Home, and Menu) are included on display itself.
Some will find the iPhone’s lack of a 3.5-mm headphones audio port a deal breaker because they cannot listen to music and charge their device at the same time without a third-party adapter. The only exceptions are people who have decided to switch to wireless headphones, or do not mind using the adapter for the Lighting port which Apple includes in the box with its model. The Mate 9, by contrast, has a standard headset port and a separate micro-USB port.
On the other side of the coin, the iPhone 7 Plus boasts a much more responsive biometric fingerprint reader which operates almost instantly, making this security function actually useful.
The Mate 9’s processor is produced by Huawei itself. The octa-core Hisilicon Kirin 960 boasts four 2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 cores along with four more 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53 cores. It also features the octa-core Mali-G71 MP8 graphic subsystem, plus 4 GB of RAM. Just one option for memory storage is available, 64 GB, but this capacity can be expanded with microSD cards.
An unusual feature offered by the Mate 9 is an algorithm for machine learning enabling the phone to remember and analyze the user’s work habits, and adjusts processor resources in order to provide better performance. While this is innovative, the fact is that Apple doesn’t need something like this. A stand-out feature of all iOS devices is that they can go through several operating system upgrades without any performance issues cropping up; purchasers of the iPhone 7 Plus can rest assured that they will be able to enjoy the same high-end performance for at least three more years.
It’s thanks to Apple’s ability to optimize iOS for each particular device that it performs so well. This phone offers a quad-core 2.34 GHz Apple A10 Fusion chip, and hexa-core PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPU. There’s also 3 GB of RAM. Its memory cannot be directly expanded with microSD cards, but the device comes with 32 GB, 128 GB, or 256 GB of internal storage.
It is clear that both smartphones are tops in their own operating system, and those looking for cutting-edge performance really cannot go wrong with either.
Double rear-facing cameras have become an expected feature of flagship smartphones, and it’s perfectly natural that both the Mate 9 and iPhone 7 Plus offer them; however, these employ entirely different concepts.
Huawei has co-branded its camera with Leica, and it offers both a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel black and white sensor, both of which offer optical image stabilization and an unimpressive f/2.2 aperture. The black and white sensor really increases creative freedom when shooting, and is one of the best sensors featured on any Android phone under poor lighting conditions. Still, it’s not much help for those who want to take color images. And despite the fact that the 12 MP RGB sensor offers above average quality for Android OS phones, it’s not at all the best available. Manually setting the shooting parameters helps a lot, but potential users should in mind that this is a smartphone and not a DSLR.
This is why the iPhone 7 Plus is a far better choice, at least in poor lighting conditions, because its camera offers a much better dynamic range, less noise, more details, and livelier colors. This isn’t surprising, given that Apple’s offering has two 12-megapixel sensors, one of which offers a 28-mm lens (expressed in film equivalent numbers) with more contemporary aperture of f/1.8 and OSI, while the other has a 56-mm lens and aperture of f/2.8. The second camera on Apple’s phone does not offer as much creativity potential as the black and white lens on the Mate 9, but it very much comes in handy when the user wants to zoom in on something or do a bokeh portrait—one where the subject is in focus but the background is blurred out.
The camera arrangement offered by Apple is much better for a phone, and pictures taken with the iPhone 7 Plus (below, left) are generally better than those taken by the Huawei model (below, right).
Many users purchase large phones because they also boast large batteries. On paper, Huawei seems like the undisputed winner because it has a 4000 mAh battery, while the iPhone 7 Plus has a significantly smaller 2900 mAh one. The situation is quite different in real-world use though, and the Apple phone always offers longer battery life, irrespective of the way it’s used. This is all down to the fact that iOS is a dramatically better-optimized software platform.
Still, Huawei includes software tools to reduce power consumption when the battery is nearing its end, as well as the option of using a supercharge feature, enabling the battery to be recharged in just 20 minutes so that it will last a while day – according to company claims. This recharge takes a bit longer in practice — it’s actually necessary to charge the phone for approximately 40 minutes in order for the battery to reach 70%. As you do not have to worry about this with iPhone 7 Plus, the Apple device will be a better pick for those who find battery life important.
The Huawei Mate 9 is the best large Android OS smartphone when it comes to features, just like the iPhone 7 Plus is the best large iOS phone, and there’s no compelling reason why purchasers who are committed to one of the two ecosystems to switch to the other, despite numerous differences between these two phones.
That said, most of those who aren’t attached to a software platform will find Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus to be a better choice, thanks to its longer battery life, better rear camera, and other features like the waterproof casing and fewer fingerprints on the screen.
The Huawei Mate 9 will be a better pick for those who want a larger display. However, this alone isn’t enough for us to conclude that this large Android OS phone can measure up to the iPhone 7 Plus.
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