If you're after a smartphone that won't quit on you, in battery terms at least, then Huawei's Nova Y91 is your port of call. There's a massive 7,000mAh battery inside, the screen size makes it ideal for consuming media, while the rest of the spec matches up with its affordable price point.
It’s hard to find a smartphone that tries something novel. We’ve been saying this since 2009 or so but there are only so many ways you can design a rectangle. The differences all turn up on the inside. The Huawei Nova Y91 attempts something different, which is just the move you’d expect to see from a mid-range smartphone.
The reason you don’t see as many risks at the higher end of the market segment is that there’s too much to lose. But in the price bracket the Nova Y91 occupies, there’s a massive amount of competition. Everyone plays there. The key to success is standing out — provided your standout feature is worth looking into. Here, it’s the battery. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Take your tablet
Remember how we said there are only so many ways to design a rectangle? That’s quite true here. There’s little new going on in terms of design or materials. There’s a large circular camera housing on the Nova Y91’s rear that Huawei is favouring of late, but from the front, this smartphone could be one of a dozen devices. There are relatively slim bezels, an almost-there chin at the base, and a wide notch up top hosting the front-facing camera.
The usual bits, minus a 3.5mm headphone jack, are in place around the Y91’s edge. Volume and power controls, a USB-C port, SIM tray and some speaker vents. There’s nothing really remarkable happening on the design front, beyond that camera bump. The screen here is a bit of a monster — 6.95in is almost tablet-sized, though this IPS panel attains its size thanks to its vertical measurement. It’s not quite perfect for media consumption but it’s pretty good.
Huawei has deemed it fit to drop a thick clear case into the box. This saves you the trouble of purchasing one yourself and offers some protection in the event of a fall. A third-party case would probably do a better job, but those cost money. Also in the box? Some wired headphones, with a USB-C connector. That’s a very neat touch. Huawei didn’t have to do that. We’ll stick with our wireless buds but not everyone has that option.
You can expect a fair crop of hardware behind Huawei’s bright display. There’s no 5G support for the Nova Y91 (that’s a problem that may go away soon for the Chinese tech-maker) but it’s not something you’ll miss here unless you’re hoping to play games online. The phone’s spec doesn’t really support it on a competitive basis anyway, but you’ll get away with some casual titles where there’s less on the line.
Inside, there’s a Snapdragon 680 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. That’s more than enough to get by, matching some top-end smartphones (in the RAM/storage departments). It’s worth sticking around for at this price but they’re not the star of the show.
That honour belongs to the battery. Huawei’s managed to cram a 7,000mAh battery into the back of this thing. How or why is a mystery (though we can guess at the ‘why’) but it’ll take some doing to run this thing down. Huawei reckons it’ll take 29 hours of video to run it down from a full charge and we’ll have to take their word for that. That’s the sort of test that can only be done in a lab. But actually using it does support these numbers, or close to them. We find we get bored after about eight hours of constant streaming. The battery, however, doesn’t.
Because they have to
The large circular camera bump on the back of the phone is a bit misleading. There’s space for four items but only three are occupied. One of these is a decent 50MP sensor, the one that Huawei probably won’t stop talking about. The other two are an LED flash and then a 2MP depth sensor. If you’re looking for Huawei’s best camera effort, this isn’t it. Those phones tend to be… well, far more expensive. This one… isn’t. Still, it’ll throw some social-media-ready snaps your way if you ask nicely. Lighting matters but Huawei’s automated systems also do their very best to make whatever you’re chronicling look good.
The same goes for the Nova Y91’s front-facing 8MP camera. It’s not the biggest (or best) selfie-snapper but Huawei’s face-upskilling tech sticks around. As usual, there’s a slider that’ll take your snaps from ‘reality TV’ to ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians‘. It’s up to you to decide just how airbrushed you’d like your own visage to be.
Finally, there’s the software. You should know the drill by now. EMUI 13 is in place but Google Mobile Services… isn’t. There’s nothing new on that front but it’s possible to use many Google services, like Gmail and Youtube, on Huawei’s devices now. It’s not ideal but it’s easy to implement, even if there’s a hoop or two extra to hop through. We can probably stop hoping for a change back to Ye Olde Days™. Huawei’s awfully invested in its own ecosystem and we’re not sure they’d be willing to chuck it now even if fully-fledged Android was permitted again.
Huawei Nova Y91 verdict
Huawei’s newest mid-ranger hovers around the budget mark. Its R7,000 price point keeps it just out of reach of that segment. So does the rest of it, for that matter. The screen and internals are adequate for daily use without being underpowered. There are a couple of drawbacks, sure, but you’re also paying a rand per milliamp when it comes to the phone’s battery. This thing is humongous enough to keep you powered for extended periods. We’d question why Huawei felt it had to drop a massive battery into the Nova Y91 but this is South Africa. Everything could do with a bigger battery within these borders.