Huawei brings the Mate 9 to the US, but Amazon Alexa is a poor choice

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.

For more CES 2017 news from TNW, check out our event page here , and follow us on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , and Snapchat .

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