The iQoo 9T does a lot right, with a great screen, dependable battery life and blazing performance it mostly manages to stand out in the right ways from the competition. But for poor thermals, some finish issues and ads in the notifications this would have been an instant recommendation.
Save for the likes of China, there’s almost nowhere in the world that has such a competitive smartphone market as India. From more well-known western brands such as Apple through to a panoply of Chinese and domestic manufacturers, it seems that almost everyone is looking for a piece of what remains one of the great ‘untapped’ markets.
iQoo has been in the fray for some time now, a sub-brand of Vivo (owned by conglomerate BBK electronics), and it has a somewhat brash marketing style paired with high performing devices and relatively low prices. The 9T is the firm’s latest offering, aiming for a more premium section of the market and consequently to make inroads in the west where it has yet to make a name for itself.
With an exciting list of specifications and an interesting style of its own, it certainly stands out from the bog standard smartphones we are now used to seeing on these rainy shores – but will this be enough to help the company establish a secure foothold? Read on for our full review.
Design & Build
Designed in conjunction with BMW
Mostly glass construction
Fit and finish issues
Upon first receiving the 9T it becomes clear that its design has been a major consideration. The box for the device comes with a BMW blazon, promising a collaboration with the veteran car manufacturer, in the same vein as the various ‘Porsche’ edition devices released by various smartphone companies in the past. We’ve seen this already on devices like the iQoo 7 Legend and iQoo 9 Pro Legend.
If the average smartphone in 2022 is a relatively uninteresting glass and metal rectangle, then the iQoo 9T is an average smartphone but with the tricolour stripe running down the back with ‘Fascination Meets Innovation’ embossed on it. But beyond this there is a black and white two-tone effect glass, aluminium frame and a large rectangular camera ‘island’ that display none of the same spirit.
Where the likes of the Realme GT 2 explore new colours and materials with their design, the iQoo 9T seems as though it is trying to sit on a fence bordering ‘interesting’ and ‘plain’. There is a clear effort in some areas to stand out, but not so much so that the design becomes off-putting. By holding back, however, all that has resulted is a device that is certainly nice to hold and somewhat premium but lacking a personality to match up to the marketing.
There are also some abrupt transitions, such as between the display and the frame, that leave the device feeling less premium than might have initially been intended. This is only exacerbated by the cheap-feeling pre-installed screen protector and bog standard clear TPU case included.
Away from design, build quality is another story. At 206g and with dimensions of 165 x 77 x 8mm, the 9T is not built to be used with one hand – this is a big smartphone. This won’t be an issue for some, but if you have small hands or value reachability there are other, better options available on the market. The Galaxy S22 is a particularly fine example of a compact flagship phone.
For the most part, the device feels solid and sturdy and importantly lacks the suicidal tendency of many glass-backed smartphones to slide towards the nearest hard surface with impunity. This is thanks to the relatively grippy finish applied to the rear glass. Given the weight and size, however, this is a smartphone that will need a case to survive any significant collisions.
There is no full waterproofing as the device is dust and splash-resistant.
Screen & Speakers
Display mostly matches competition
Decent stereo speakers
Only 1080p resolution
The iQOO 9T does nothing to major disappoint in the display department, matching most of the competition and even exceeding it in some regards.
The panel on the 9T is 6.78in across, and has a resolution of 1080p. This AMOLED panel offers ‘1 Billion’ colours, is HDR10+ certified, refreshes at up to 120Hz and has a (localised) max brightness of 1500nits. Widevine L1 certification is also offered, meaning that the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime videos can be played in high definition.
For the average person, the above means that this is a smartphone with a nice display indeed. But for a higher resolution or LTPO tech (where the refresh rate can be dynamically adjusted) it might have been a truly great one. Still, it’s a very good effort.
Sean Cameron / Foundry
It has colours that are saturated but not overbearing, the potential to get sufficiently bright to combat the summer sunlight and dim enough to allow comfortable bedtime reading. The high refresh rate makes the experience of using the phone feel pleasantly smooth, while viewing supported content in HDR is as cinematic as a small screen will allow.
While it’s an excellent panel for most use cases, it does lack a little ambition. There isn’t much in the Android world that can give the likes of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 cause for concern, pushing the resolution past 1080p would give the device a means by which to stand out in a world where Full HD is the norm. The addition of LTPO tech, usually found on the likes of ‘Ultra’ branded devices would also have allowed a little more differentiation by delivering a requisite increase in battery life.
These additions may have pushed the price up too much, so perhaps it’s too much to ask.
With regards to the speakers, they are stereo and they are loud, with enough rumble in the bass to fit most content. There’s no illusion of stereo imaging or particular highlight to the listening experience, but they are effective general use speakers and will make do for most.
Specs & Performance
Flagship Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 processor
Great performance for the most part
Gets too hot to handle under load
The Snapdragon processor line has been through quite the journey across the past decade or so, coming from general obscurity to total ubiquity. There’s seldom a flagship smartphone today that comes without an ‘8’ branded chipset, and the iQoo 9T is no exception, sporting the latest 8+ Gen 1 Snapdragon SoC from Qualcomm.
Paired with up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage this should theoretically mean that there is precious little in the Android space that can challenge the 9T, and this proves to be the case.
Sean Cameron / Foundry
As might be expected, from the most intense games through to the lightest social media there is nothing that can give the iQoo 9T any pause. PUBG and Genshin Impact both ran at stable framerates while high graphics options were activated, something perhaps aided at least in part by the included ‘Ultra Game Mode’, which promises to free up system resources and increase gaming performance.
Given that most flagship devices now come sporting much the same chipset and other specifications, the question hanging over performance is not quite what heights can be reached, but how long they can be sustained. Thermal performance is now the name of the game almost more than anything else as passive cooling components continue to evolve in their capabilities.
No great claims are made regarding the cooling potential of the iQoo 9T, but I found that the device gets very warm under sustained load, sometimes becoming too hot to hold. This was following a particularly intense benchmark test, however, it doesn’t speak well either to the cooling solution used and potentially to the longevity of the device. Mobile games may need to tread carefully if this ends up as their smartphone of choice.
On the whole, this is a smartphone that provides completely adequate performance for almost any conceivable use case. It flies through anything, and on that metric is a resounding success – provided it isn’t pushed so hard that it has a minor meltdown. The chip also means you get 5G connectivity which may be an important tick box for some users.
Features a V1+ chip for extra noise reduction in low-light video
Camera modules and components on smartphones have long been the primary means by which manufacturers have tried to differentiate their offerings from the rest. When it comes to BBK electronics and its subsidiaries, however, the situation becomes a little more complex.
Although they ostensibly compete with one another as well as those on the wider market, Oppo, OnePlus, Realme, Vivo and iQoo all share the same designs and supply chains, meaning there is often a lot of common design language between their devices.
As such, the 9T has a highly similar ‘gimbal’ optical stablisation system to that found on the likes of the Vivo X80 series, and offers a specific night video mode typically allowed by the MariSilicon found inside the Oppo Find X3 Pro (in this case provided by the V1+ chip included). This isn’t an issue in the slightest, but it is interesting to note.
From a pure ‘spec’ point of view, the 9T offers a 50Mp (binning to 12.5Mp) main sensor, an x2 12Mp telephoto and a 13Mp ultrawide, followed by a 16Mp selfie sensor. The inclusion of a short telephoto is a little unusual, but highly welcome as an alternative to the ubiquitous (and always terrible) macro sensors found on many budget brand devices.
All rear sensors are stabilised using the mentioned ‘gimbal’ system, which promises to be more effective than more traditional stabilisation options.
The camera app doesn’t particularly entice when first launched, somehow looking a little barebones and cluttered simultaneously. Switching between different photo modes and the rest is suitably quick and the device is generally fast when achieving initial focus, key for those moments when you need to catch something quickly.
Photo quality is, on the whole, excellent. Barring a tendency at times to make colours go nuclear, the iQoo 9T is a highly dependable mobile shooter in most situations. Detail captured from the main sensor is plenty and well represented, even with complex foliage. Colours are on the whole nicely saturated, with skin tones in particular rendered pleasantly.
The auto HDR means that dynamic range is typically wide, though some images can feel a little flat as the contrast can be taken away a little too dramatically on occasion. This is generally echoed with the telephoto and the ultrawide, although both capture inferior detail to the main sensor.
When the lights go out, the picture remains positive. The included night mode ensures that images taken have well-balanced exposure, detail and enough saturation to leave them relatively natural, and if pushed can almost ‘see in the dark’. The usual caveats apply regarding moving subjects, which prove to be too much of a challenge, but on the whole, this is a highly capable low-light shooter.
The only area that gives the 9T pause is autofocus. When it comes to easy subjects, there isn’t an issue, however take a puppy and toddler together and you will receive only a blurred mess. This is a common issue with even more expensive smartphones though.
If you are a keen mobile shutterbug there’s a lot to like with the 9T, which offers a lot of versatility and quality for a relatively small outlay when compared to the more premium competition.
Battery Life & Charging
120W fast charging
Over 50% of charge in under 15 minutes
With a powerful processor and a big bright screen paired with a 4700mAh battery, the iQoo 9T has a lot to prove when it comes to battery life. Of particular interest is Snapdragon chipset used, which comes from a lineage fast becoming known for being especially power hungry but the 8+ Gen 1 is meant to be a lot more efficient.
I was pleasantly surprised by the longevity offered by the iQoo 9T. With ‘average’ usage, such as watching video, using GPS, messaging frequently and browsing throughout the day I found that on average around five hours of screen on time could be achieved. This isn’t quite as impressive as the likes of some gaming phones with their often enormous cells, but will be more than enough for the average user.
This isn’t a two-day smartphone, but should be able to make it through most heavy days without issue.
The real game–changer on offer however is the fast charger included in the box. Fast charging tech has been advancing quickly for years now and it is BBK Electronics and its sub-brands that have been leading the charge (no pun intended). Fittingly, the iQoo 9T can charge very fast, around 15 minutes on the plug saw the device reach 76% from flat, and around five minutes or so following this it reached 100%.
What this means is that charging the device up ceases to be any kind of issue. No matter the situation, there is nearly always enough time for a quick top-up to see you through the day. Topping up becomes a fifteen-minute job in the morning rather than an all-night affair and relieves a lot of worry in the process.
Software & Apps
Indian apps included
Ads in the notification tray
Software is mostly low-key and well thought out
As with almost every manufacturer of Chinese origin, iQoo bundles the 9T with its own take on Android, this time titled ‘FunTouch OS’. Alongside this, unfortunately, is a suite of software localised to the Indian market including various apps and notification ads from the likes of ‘Browser’ among others. Many of these apps unfortunately cannot be uninstalled, which is a bother considering the asking price for the device.
The software itself, squiffy name aside, is mostly decent. Lots of customisation options are offered, so you can mess things up to your heart’s content by changing system font sizes and more. Beyond the ads that appear in notifications, there is little that deviates from a ‘stock’ Android feel, which means that there is a Google Now feed accessible with a left swipe and an app drawer holding every installed app.
Sean Cameron / Foundry
The only real customisation added by the manufacturer to the interface is a Spotlight aping universal search with a swipe down. On the whole, this is a simple and functional version of Android, easily avoiding the worst excesses of the likes of MIUI from Xiaomi.
Beyond the apps geared towards the Indian market, there are unfortunately a few duplicates on offer. There’s Album, Music, Browser and a few others to clutter things up, which again cannot be uninstalled, which is annoying but more of an inconvenience than a big impediment.
Two styles are available, Alpha (black) or Legend with the BMW stripes, and there is no word yet on UK or European availability.
The Indian smartphone market is one of the most competitive in the world, it takes a real cracker of a device to stand out and turn heads. The iQoo 9T does this in many ways but the opposite in others.
By nearly every metric that really matters, it delivers, with a great set of cameras, strong battery life, an excellent screen and more than enough power for most tasks. It is in small ways that the device lets itself down, with ads in the notifications, poor thermal management, weak haptics and issues with fit and finish.
As such, for most people, this will be a smartphone that will meet their needs and maybe even exceed them in most ways, and for a price that won’t leave a huge hole in your pocket. Though it doesn’t quite have the ‘x factor’ to make it a true knock-out superstar, the iQoo 9T is a well-considered, accomplished smartphone that does enough to earn a recommendation, if not an immediate one.
Android 12 with FunTouchOS;
6.78in Wide Full HD (2198×1080) Dynamic AMOLED, 120Hz