Huawei took to CES to announce its flagship Mate 9 is launching in the US today, January 6, for a price of $599.
It’s the first time Huawei has launched a top spec’d device in the US. The Mate 9 is a darn good phone, with near-stock Android performance, a great screen, and serious battery life. I called it the best big phone of 2016.
But in bringing the phone to the US, Huawei decided to tack on Amazon’s Alexa. Why? I have no clue.
(Okay, so it’s probably to help make up for the cost of the stateside transition, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. Xiaomi is making a similarly odd choice with Cortana.)
Huawei and Amazon showed off a video of the Mate 9 performing a variety of Echo-like functions, including turning on lights, hailing an Uber, and ordering dog food.
This is not to harp on Amazon; I like my Echo Dot a lot. Alexa is the best voice service for home automation right now, and it’s available on a ton of new devices here at CES. But when it comes to phones – you know, for things like sending texts or integrating directly with apps – Google still reigns supreme.
Of course, you could always just disable Alexa. And that’s not to say Alexa won’t get more powerful over the next few months either – this is the first time we’ve seen it pre-installed on a phone – but it’s hard to imagine it’ll ever attain feature parity with a service native to Android.
It’s also just an odd choice for a company that’s trying to break into the US market. When one of the biggest complaints levied against Huawei is its mass of custom software (despite the fact that I think it’s one of the best heavy skins around), replacing Google’s voice assistant by default seems detrimental to the power users that will be most interested in buying the Mate 9 in the US.
The first people to buy this phone will be people who have invested heavily in integrations with Google services. And if Huawei is really trying to reach a wider audience, they’d be better of using the voice service that actually delivers the best performance right now, regardless of any potential Alexa may have.
All this shouldn’t stop you from considering the Mate 9 if you’re looking for a big phone. I just worry Huawei doesn’t understand the US market, which is a shame because I’d like to see it stick around in the long run. If you’re interested, You can buy the Mate 9 unlocked from Amazon, B&H, Best Buy and Newegg.