Huawei woos Amazon's Alexa for the U.S. launch of its Mate 9

Huawei has made a name for itself by partnering with Google on the final Nexus phone and selling affordable, feature-packed handsets in China, but now the company is looking to stand on its own in the U.S. Not only is it finally launching its 6.9-inch Mate 9 phablet to the States, it’s bringing along a new friend along for the trip: Alexa.

Among the features of the Mate 9—aside from its giant 1080p display—are a 4,000 mAh battery, 5A fast charging through its SuperCharge technology, and a Leica-made dual-lens camera that combines a 12MP standard camera with a 20MP monochrome one to capture more depth and detail. Also on board is Huawei’s Hybrid Zoom system that delivers 2x magnification, and a 4-in-1 hybrid auto-focus that combines “laser focus, phase detection focus, depth focus, and contrast focus.”

The Mate 9 is powered by Huawei’s in-house Kirin 960 chipset, which features an ARM Cortex-A73/A53 Octa-core CPU and Mali G71 Octa-core GPU. The company boasts that the chip utilizes a “Machine Learning Algorithm that helps deliver a fast and smooth experience, even after 18 months of continuous use.” It also runs the Nougat-based Emotion UI 5.0 out of the box.

However, the most interesting feature of the U.S. model of the Mate 9 is support for Amazon’s Alexa. The digital assistant won’t be available at launch—the company says an early 2017 update will deliver the service via an app—but it will mark the first time Alexa is built into a handset. It’s unclear if it will take over for Google Assistant or if the app will need to be launched before asking questions, but Huawei says it will deliver the same Echo and Dot experience to the phone:

“Customers can ask Alexa to set an alarm, or build to-do lists; get the weather, traffic reports, and more. In addition, Alexa can also control a broad array of smart home devices.”

The phone is available today with a retail price of $599. It is available in space gray and moonlight silver.

Why this matters: Amazon launched a mobile phone back in 2014, which didn’t do so well, but this is a much less risky venture for the company. Alexa is rapidly becoming a household name, and with more companies incorporating it into their products, smartphone integration was inevitable. While it remains unclear exactly how the system works, it could provide a boon to both companies, with Amazon getting a foothold in the Android world and Huawei receiving prominent placement in a major U.S. retailer.

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