The Nova 9 offers a handful of premium features at an attractive price, but the continued absence of a large number of popular apps in the Huawei AppGallery makes this phone tough to recommend.
The Nova 9 is the latest addition to Huawei’s mid-range Nova line of smartphones.
Huawei markets the Nova as a more affordable alternative to its popular P and Mate devices and, for a sub-€500 phone, the brand has managed to cram in plenty of premium features. From the 120Hz display to the 50-megapixel camera and 66W fast charging, the Nova 9 has the makings of a flagship phone without the flagship price.
However, while the Nova continues to run EMUI 12 on the Android operating system, the phone also continues to lack some of the most popular apps on the market – including a long list of Google apps.
The lack of 5G might also put some off, especially when it’s present on phones like the OnePlus Nord 2.
At risk of coming off as superficial, the Huawei Nova 9 is one of the prettiest phones I’ve ever seen, even when compared to some of the other good looking Android phones like the Galaxy S21. This is mostly thanks to the finish which Huawei (and I) fail to do justice in photos.
The phone comes in three shades: Starry Blue, Crush Green and Black. I received the Starry Blue variant, which has an iridescent blue-silver finish that reflects a glittering array of colours when hit by the sun. The design is broken up in the upper left corner by a large camera module, housing the phones 50-megapixel array.
The rear doesn’t pick up fingerprints or smudges, which is definitely a bonus. Though if scratches and scuffs are a concern, there is a clear case in the box for added protection.
The phone is tall and slim, with dimensions of 160 x 73.7 x 7.77mm. It’s also lightweight at just 175g.
As far as ports go, there’s a USB Type-C port on the base of the phone but no 3.5mm jack, so you’ll need to invest in a pair of wireless headphones or use an adapter if you want to listen to music on your own.
The Nova 9 packs a 6.57-inch curved OLED display with a 2340 x 1080 resolution and a punch-hole camera.
The display is wonderfully sharp and detailed and great for streaming HD videos on the phone. Colours are vibrant and punchy and blacks are deep thanks to the OLED technology.
One of the standout features here is the 120Hz refresh rate – a feature that appears on many flagship phones right now and makes scrolling and gameplay noticeably smoother. The Nova’s refresh rate can also be lowered to the standard 60Hz to save battery when 120Hz isn’t needed either manually or automatically if you’ve got the display set to the ‘Dynamic’ setting.
The Nova 9 also boasts a 300Hz touch sampling rate, making the display more responsive and better suited for tasks like gaming than some rival phones.
The Nova 9 features four cameras: a 50-megapixel “Ultra Vision” main sensor (f/1.9), an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle sensor (f/2.2), a 2-megapixel depth sensor (f/2.4) for portraits and a 2-megapixel macro sensor (f/2.4) with a 4cm shooting distance.
There’s no telephoto lens for optical zoom, but the camera does offer digital zoom up to 10x. Images look good at 2x, but by 5x and 10x I saw a noticeable drop in quality and loss of detail.
The 50-megapixel main sensor and the ultra-wide angle lens are definitely the standouts here.
The main sensor, in particular, produced some great results, with vibrant colours, plenty of detail and a decent amount of depth too, allowing the subject to really pop even against backgrounds of the same colour. I could easily see myself using the 50-megapixel lens on this phone as my main camera.
The macro lens does a decent job when it comes to capturing close up shots of objects, but it isn’t perfect.
This leaf was a blurry mess with the main lens, but became sharp and regained its details when I snapped a photo in the macro mode. However, the colours were cooler and less saturated and I feel like I could get more lifelike results by taking the image from further back with the main lens and cropping in.
There’s a night mode on this phone, but I can’t say I noticed a large difference between photos taken in low light with and without it switched on.
There’s also a 32-megapixel punch-hole camera in the display with an aperture of f/2.0, which I found to be clear and well-contrasted. The camera brought out the vibrant orange tones in my hair and the quality didn’t suffer massively in dim lighting.
The selfie camera is capable of capturing 720p video at 240fps, while the rear camera can record 720p video at up to 960fps. Both cameras are capable of shooting in 4K, while the latter also supports slow motion and time lapse features.
The Huawei Nova 9 runs on Huawei’s EMUI 12 skin. While the software is based on Android, the square shape of the icons and the layout of the folders on the home screen are also reminiscent of those found in Apple’s iOS.
Then there’s the elephant in the room that comes with all Huawei releases these days – there are no Google apps. This means you won’t be able to install Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps or YouTube on your phone – or at least not through Huawei’s AppGallery.
The phone is also missing a number of other popular apps, including Netflix and Spotify to name a few.
Huawei does a decent job of filling the void left by the US trade ban with its own Petal apps, including Petal Search and Petal Maps, along with Huawei-branded apps like Huawei Docs, Huawei Health and Huawei Wallet (though Huawei Pay isn’t supported in the UK just yet).
There’s also Device+ which lives in the control panel and makes it easier to streamline your work across multiple Huawei devices.
While the apps cover most of the functions you’d expect from Google apps, they’re still not ideal if you already have all of your documents stored in Google Drive or want to watch videos on YouTube. Of course, you can continue to access these services in the browser but it isn’t the same as having them stored on your phone.
EMUI aside, the Huawei Nova 9 is powered by the Snapdragon 778G, an octa-core 4G chipset from Qualcomm. While 5G isn’t a must, it is odd seeing a device in this price-range ship without it especially when similarly-priced phones, like the OnePlus Nord 2, offer it.
The phone features 8GB of RAM and 128/256GB of storage which should be enough for most people.
I found that the phone offered good performance, with apps loading up quickly and faced no issues with gaming, with the latter also helped along by the speedy refresh and touch sampling rates.
The Nova 9 packs a 4300mAh battery. I streamed 1080p video at 50% brightness through YouTube (in the browser, of course) to get an idea of how long the battery would last playing video and was pleasantly surprised.
The phone took 30 minutes to drop from 100% to 99%. From there, the battery began draining a little faster, losing around 5% every 30 minutes. It took 3 hours of continuous video playback to get the battery down to 75% and I had no issues getting a days use from the phone under closer to real-life conditions (browsing, scrolling through social media, etc).
The Nova also takes advantage of 66W fast charging with Huawei SuperCharge. The charging tech offers a full charge in just under 40 minutes and there’s a 66W charging brick in the box, so you don’t need to worry about paying out for the privilege.
You want a stunning phone with a decent camera: The Nova 9 has a beautiful iridescent finish, a great 50-megapixel camera and is incredibly affordable.
You can’t live without Google: If you’re a big fan of Google’s services, the lack of app support puts a noticeable dent in this phone’s appeal.
The Nova 9 is an affordable phone with a lot of great features, including a sharp and vibrant 50-megapixel camera, a 120Hz OLED display and an eye-catching design.
There are some minor issues with the camera and lack of 5G, but the most prominent let-down here remains the AppGallery’s lack of support for some of the most popular apps and services, including pretty much everything from Google.Trusted Score
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Used the phone for one week
Tested a variety of camera modes
Streamed HD video to determine how long the battery can last
The Nova 9 does not support 5G.How many cameras does the Huawei Nova 9 have?
The Nova 9 has a quad camera layout made up of a 50-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle sensor, a 2-megapixel depth sensor and a 2-megapixel macro sensor.What colours does the Nova 9 come in?
The Nova 9 is available in Starry Blue, Crush Green and Black.