Much more than just a gaming phone

You may not have heard of iQOO yet. It’s a subsidiary of Vivo, one of several companies under the BBK Electronics umbrella (which also includes OnePlus, Oppo, and Realme). It was founded in 2019 with a clear focus on gaming and other performance-focused tasks, but without all that RGB lighting that adorns most gaming consoles. The latest flagship phone in its plan, the iQOO 9 Pro, is no different in this respect.

The iQOO 9 Pro is packed with the latest high-end specs, a versatile camera setup that includes a gimbal, and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra-like design is very simple — except for its iconic BMW M Motorsport-inspired branding on the back, but that’s only available in the Legend version we have at our disposal for this review. .

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to set

  • storage: 256 GB
  • CPU: Snapdragon 8 first generation
  • memory: 8/12 GB
  • The operating system: Android 12 / Funtouch OS 12
  • battery: 4700mAh, 120W wired / 50W wireless charging
  • Ports: USB Type C
  • Camera (front): 16 MP (f/2.45)
  • Cameras (rear): 50 MP GN5 Gimbal (f/1.75), 50 MP 150° wide-angle (f/2.27) 16 MP Portrait (f/2.23)
  • price: INR74,990 (~$990)
  • Delivery: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, 5G
  • Dimensions: 164.81 x 75.2 x 8.83 mm
  • Colors: Legend (White) / Dark Cruise (Grey)
  • Show: 6.78 inch 3200 x 1440 OLED
  • Weight: 209.98 grams
Positives

  • Top notch devices at a lower price
  • Stylish and bright 120Hz OLED panel
  • Good performance thanks to cooling components
cons

  • No rating for water and dust resistance
  • The screen is prone to discoloration on the curved sides
  • Some software quirks make the phone less fun

buy this product

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The iQOO 9 Pro is a marvel of design. Looking back, you can see its unique effect on the camera bump. Instead of just raising the area directly around the sensors, it offers a rectangular three-lens glass window on the left side. The rest of it is left blank, with nothing left but a few details about the camera installation. This contrasts with the white fingerprint-rejecting carbon-fibre-coated rear, which is only interrupted by the IQOO branding, and a red-black-blue stripe similar to the BMW M Motorsport colors. The only real complaint I can have here is that the camera array makes the phone a little heavy, but that’s not something we haven’t actually noticed with other flagships.



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Up front, you’ll find a 6.78-inch curved screen with a resolution of 3200 x 1440 WQHD OLED that delivers a dynamic refresh rate from 1 to 120 Hz — state of the art, if the curved parts of the perfectly exposed screen didn’t have discoloration when viewed off-axis. At least, the top and bottom edges around it are about the same, and the central 16MP selfie camera mostly gets out of the way. An aluminum frame ties the phone together, with an IR blaster and microphone cutting through the top, a SIM card tray, a USB Type-C port, and a speaker grill placed on the bottom. The textured blue power button and volume button can be found on the right, providing nice tactile feedback.


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The iQOO 9 Pro’s internals are quite impressive. It comes with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 paired with 8 or 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, and it supports the latest connectivity standards such as 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 and of course NFC. It’s missing one obvious feature though: IP certification. The SIM tray is protected by a gasket and the USB-C port appears to be locked from inside the device, though, so it should survive minor mishaps.


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The iQOO 9 Pro’s ultrasonic fingerprint reader is fast and reliable, making it more enjoyable to use than the Pixel 6’s optical sensor, especially during setup – you only need to scan your fingerprint once, as there’s no need for the usual repetitive process of lifting and touching the scanner repeatedly and over and over again. Qualcomm’s new fingerprint technology is really cool.

The 9 Pro also has a stereo speaker setup Just Loud enough for media consumption, but at least pleasant enough for the ears and not getting overly tinny. The vibration motor feels solid and tactile as I type, although the vibration is too weak for me to be noticeable for notifications, even when set to the highest level.


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Unlike many smartphones today, the new IQOO phone comes with accessories. In the box marked BMW M Motorsport, you’ll find the iQOO 7 Pro (obviously), a case that mimics the look of the phone itself, a 120W charger paired with a long USB Type-C to Type-C cable, and a headphone jack adapter. The screen protector is pre-applied to the phone as well.



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Software, performance and battery

iQOO 9 Pro comes with Funtouch OS running Android 12, which is Vivo’s custom Android skin. People who have used appliances from other BBK Electronics brands should feel familiar with the layout and how to organize the settings. Some parts of the OS haven’t received English translations yet, with Chinese text appearing during fingerprint setup and in the PIN entry form on the lock screen. Since both are a very sensitive part of the OS, I’d feel more comfortable providing biometric data or a PIN if I could 100% understand what I’m doing. This is supposed to be fixed by a later software update I haven’t received yet, though, and it shouldn’t be something retail units encounter at all.

The iQOO 9 Pro comes with some bloatware out of the box (when set to US English and Germany), but most pre-installed apps like Netflix and Facebook can be easily removed if you don’t want them. It’s crazy that some system apps, like the pre-installed browser, photo gallery, EasyShare, and iManager performance manager, kept sending notifications that were impossible to disable, but at least got few and far between after the first spam wave. I’m glad to see that iQOO is relying on the Google Phone app, Messages, and Contacts in favor of custom solutions, though.


For some reason, I couldn’t get my favorite password manager to act as the default autofill, which is annoying. It’s also a problem that your own textures or dynamic themes are not yet supported, neither within the system user interface nor within individual apps.

In daily use, the phone does not heat up and can keep up with everything I do. Once you add gaming into the mix, you feel the phone heating up a bit, but the internal passive cooling is still strong enough to prevent the iQOO 9 Pro from throttling too hard. This may change in the summer, but for now, things are going well. Although I’m not much of a gamer, I’ve given the phone its fair share of Genshin Impact, one of the most taxing games out there. I handled it fine on the highest graphics settings – like a gaming phone (or performance).

For some reason the iQOO battery stats won’t start to fully charge for me, but I’ve been using the phone from 100% to whatever number you see all day

Battery life has been consistent for me, with the iQOO 9 Pro easily lasting two days on a single charge with roughly four to five hours of screen time across both. Even when I’ve been using it heavily taking pictures and navigating Google Maps, the 4,700mAh battery comfortably lasts all day without any effort. For reference, I’ve mostly used the phone with variable refresh rate enabled and only the default Full HD option. The included 120W charger was advertised to charge the device up to 50% in 8 minutes and recharge it fully in 20 minutes, although I wasn’t able to test it due to compatibility issues with the Indian plug.


cameras


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The iQOO 9 Pro has three lenses on the back. Its 50-megapixel Samsung GN 5 main camera produces competitive photos, although post-processing defaults to a rather cool color profile that makes pre-spring Berlin cityscapes look more subtle than they really are. I’m very happy with how the portrait shots look, though, as at least once I’ve turned off all the usual smoothing and beautifying effects common on Chinese phones. The only thing that really bothers me is the inconsistent lighting when photographing people, with the highlights being exaggerated.

Left to Right: Wide angle, main camera, and main camera at 2.5x default zoom

The 50MP ultra-wide fisheye lens has equal capabilities, but like most ultra-wide lenses, the results aren’t nearly as sharp as those you get with the main camera. With a 150-degree field of view, you’re sure to capture whole houses and landscapes more easily than competing phones, especially when you fire up the special fisheye mode that comes at the expense of heavily distorted straight lines.

fish eye fun

The Ultra Wide and Wide camera both produce 12.5MP photos that are pixelated by default, with a full 50MP dedicated to a special High Resolution mode. To reach this resolution of 50MP at a very wide range, you will get a fish-eye-like image that uses more of the sensor surface.

The final lens on the back is a 16MP “portrait camera” used to create beautiful fake bokeh effects for portrait shots (most OEMs call this a depth sensor), which still doesn’t quite match the Pixel’s machine learning algorithms.

During the night, the included iQOO’s gimbal has a chance to shine. An advanced optical stabilization unit helps stabilize the camera’s position when you need to collect more light, giving you sharp, well-lit results as long as your subjects aren’t moving around too much. The same goes for videos, where you have different levels of stabilization to choose from based on the desired effect. It performs surprisingly well, with the iQOO 9 Pro producing a smooth picture even when running on the street like crazy. The video section definitely leaves me impressed.

Should you buy it?

YesIf you want a high-end phone that is a little cheaper and more premium than the usual Samsung, Xiaomis and Apples in the world. There are some compromises you have to make, including fewer system updates, no IP certification, and slightly worse camera performance.


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The biggest caveat isn’t on the phone itself, though: The iQOO 9 Pro unfortunately isn’t officially available in many places around the world, having just launched in India this month after debuting in China in January. You can always still import it after checking for compatibility with your carrier, but that’s a route not many people want to go down. However, iQOO is starting to expand internationally, and it is definitely one of the upcoming manufacturers to look out for.

Buy it if…

  • You want the best hardware available in a stylish package
  • You want to save a little dough compared to the Galaxy S22 Ultra

Don’t buy it if…

  • You want a phone that is sure to receive many software updates
  • You reside in the US – you must import and check if your carrier supports it first

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