China’s fast-growing Huawei — it’s pronounced wha-way — is better known for its network gear than its consumer devices. The company has been making Android-powered budget smartphones for a number of years. With the Ascend P6, the latest razor-slim Huawei’s device has snatched the slimmest smartphone title right under the nose of the big guns.
The Huawei Ascend P6 was introduced in June and is now every good shops. The Ascend P6 is 6.18mm thick (hence the model name) making it the thinnest smartphone in the world. It’s incredibly thin, and light too at about 120g which is impressive.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the P6 takes a number of design cues from Apple’s iPhone 5 — and almost certainly deliberately so. From the rounded top corners and recessed Sim and microSD trays to the aluminium edges, the Huawei looks a lot like an iPhone might if Apple made one with a 4,7-inch display. The P6 is definitively a great looking device.
Aside from the power/lock button and the volume rocker on the right-hand side of the device, there are no other physical buttons. For the home, back and menu keys, Huawei decided to go with on-screen buttons. This isn’t a bad design decision as it means users get maximum use of the big display.
The display itself, while not in the same league as the 1080p screens is nevertheless sharp, vibrant and easy to use — even in broad daylight. The pixel density is 312ppi, puts it in the same category as the iPhone 5’s “Retina” display.
Beneath its svelte and minimalist exterior, the P6 houses a quad-core 1,5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, which can be expanded by up to a further 32GB via the microSD card slot.
A strange bit of design is that the headphone jack is plugged with the SIM card and SD card removal tool – something I only found out after a while with the phone. It’s a neat idea but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with it when headphones are plugged in. It’s small and will be easily lost.
It’s highly customizable with plenty of themes, lock screens and even screen transitions to choose from. You can also change the style of app icons and customizable profiles provide an easy way of changing settings for a meeting or when you jump in the car, for example. The customization continues in the notification menu where you can select which settings you want access to.
The ‘Me Widget’ is the main part of the home screen and has things like a clock, weather and photos. Although it has different sections, you can customize it to how you like. It is also intelligent so, for example, will add a second clock and weather when you go abroad. I like the slightly geeky ‘My Permissions’ app which allows you to see what your apps are up and do things like restrict their 3G and Wi-Fi data access.
Huawei touts impressive photos thanks to an IMAGESmart Engine with auto scene recognition and other features such as HDR video and in focus macro shots from 4cm away from the object.
An 8Mp BSI main camera is certainly not overkill and while some handsets have 13Mp whoppers the Ascend P6 can hold its ground here. I found photos and video to be excellent quality with the macro mode easily one of the best I have seen on a phone.
HRD, panorama, smart and effect modes are all handy. At 5 Mp the P6 has the highest resolution front camera I have seen. It seems a bit overkill but nevertheless produces a stunningly good picture. Perfect if you enjoy taking selfies with the front camera of your phone. And its features an app called “Beauty Level” which Huawei claims can make you look up to 10 years younger. Designed to remove blemishes and create more flattering portraits, it makes while making me look like I belong in Madame Tussauds but it is quiet fun! I love it!
About the battery, some may find the non-removable battery unacceptable, but lots of manufacturers these days are resorting to a similar design in order to keep their phones beautifully slim, yet sturdy enough. The phone holds its charge well for a normal use but using the phone for things like gaming, web browsing or watching video really drains it quickly as usually.
The Ascend P6 also shares something else with the iPhone: excellent build quality. A lot of time and effort has clearly gone into making this phone and the result is a premium feel way beyond what the price tag suggests. If it feels precious you’ll be pleased to hear that Huawei includes a basic silicone case in the box.
Outside and in, the Huawei Ascend P6 is a winner. The hardware specs combined with Android Jelly Bean OS work magnificently to provide a fast, smooth experience. I found it generally responsive. It is a hugely impressive smartphone for the price and it’s certainly going to get briefly the attention of lot of customers.
There are a couple of minor missteps in the P6, but for each there seems to be a thoughtful addition to offset it. For example, when using the browser, the on-screen keyboard replaces the spacebar with a “.com” shortcut key
Still, regardless of its small foibles, the P6 shows just how intent Huawei is on competing with the big boys.
The Ascend P6 is available in white, black and, unlike the iPhone 5, pink, and costs 399 euros.