Hands-on: Huawei Ascend P6
The Start of A Three-Phase Plan
At the company's tenth annual Global Analyst Summit three months ago, we were told by Huawei's Device Group Chief Marketing Officer Shao Yang that he has a three-phase plan to conquer the smartphone market in the next four years. According to Shao Yang, phase one has already started, and it focuses on developing and making the best possible hardware.
We recently reviewed the 6.1-inch Ascend Mate and 4.7-inch Ascend P2, which are not as astonishing as we had expected in terms of design and build quality. Little did we know that Huawei actually had an ace in the hole - the Ascend P6 which was just announced. Fortunately, we had a chance to try out the Huawei Ascend P6 at CommunicAsia today and here's our initial impressions:-
Design and Handling
If you used to dismiss Huawei's mobile devices due to their plasticky chassis and design, your opinion will most likely change for the better after seeing and feeling the Ascend P6. It is evident that the Chinese company spent a great deal of effort in designing the phone; the Ascend P6 is truly in a different league with its full-metal body chassis (a first for the company).
While the right side Ascend P6 looks dangerously similar (Apple lawsuit, anyone?) to the Apple iPhone 5, Huawei gives the device a nice curve at the bottom. Huawei states that the curved design at the bottom is inspired by how paper bends as pages are turned.
Huawei includes a metallic pin (or cap) for the 3.5mm audio output jack, which is located on the bottom left side of the Ascend P6. We initially thought that the metallic pin or cap is used to waterproof the headphone jack, but were told that it is merely for aesthetic purposes. The pin on the other side can be handily used to eject the micro-SIM and micro-SD card trays.
In terms of design, aesthetics and build quality, the Ascend P6 is leaps and bounds ahead of all the Huawei's smartphones we've reviewed so far, and certainly stands shoulder to shoulder with the ASUS PadFone Infinity and HTC One as one of the most well-designed Android smartphones this year. There is also without a doubt, that the handling of the Ascend P6 is top-notch thanks to the combination of a sleek (6.18mm), lightweight (120g) form factor and a metallic frame.
Huawei joins Samsung as the second non-Nexus vendor to ship Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on its mobile phones. As expected, Huawei also preloads its customized Emotion user interface (UI) on the phone, which is an upgraded version over the one we reviewed on the Ascend Mate and Ascend P2 and Ascend Mate.
During our limited time with the Ascend P6, we spotted three new or refined software features which are worth a mention. First, Huawei reverts the lock screen to a more traditional style; a swipe to the left will activate the camera while a swipe to the right will unlock the screen. Previously, the lock screen on the Emotion 1.5 UI consists of four shortcuts where the unlock option is located at a weird position, the bottom. The lock screen slider hardly gets our attention in the past, but Huawei does a great job in coming up with such an elegant design that it caught our attention this time.
The other feature which we noticed has undergone a revamp is the power management option on the Ascend P6. The Power Manager on the Ascend Mate and Ascend P2 enables you to choose three modes: Intelligent, Normal and Optimum performance. On its own, the different modes provide little or no information as to what it actually does and what improvement(s) it will bring.
To give the user a clearer picture of power management of the Ascend P6, Huawei renames the three modes to Normal, Smart and Endurance. In addition, it provides the balance battery up-time information of the respective mode when activated.
Aside from the power plan, the Ascend P6 boasts automated discontinuous reception (ADRX) and quick power control (QPC) battery optimization for up to 30% less power consumption. We certainly hope that these power management features are as effective as they claim to be as the Ascend P6 comes with a non-removable 2,000mAh battery which is considered decent by today's standards.
The third and greatly appreciated add-on is the proprietary IMAGESmart software, which provides consumers with an easy way to capture photos through contrast and color enhancement, auto scene recognition, object tracing focus, and instant facial beauty support. This is similar in concept and implementation as Superior Auto camera mode in the latest Sony Xperia smartphones.
The Ascend P6 is powered by the company's in-house Hi-Silicon K3V2 quad-core 1.5GHz processor, 2GB RAM and 8GB internal storage space. As noted in our reviews of the Ascend Mate and Ascend P2, we find the K3V2 chipset to be a generation behind the current crop of processors from Qualcomm.
Fortunately, the choice to preload Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on the Ascend P2 turned out to be a wise decision as we found the user navigation on the Ascend P6 to be better than the recent Huawei phones. This also could possibly be due to the refinements Huawei made to the Emotion UI.
We found the 4.7-inch 720p LCD display of the Ascend P2 to be excellent although we secretly wished that Huawei had throw in a 1080p panel instead. Colors are rich and text appears sharp.
Do not despair if you find the 8GB onboard storage space to be too little; Huawei has included a micro-SD card slot on the Ascend P6 which can support memory cards up to 32GB.
Its Imaging components are also another highly discussed feature of the Ascend P6. It is equipped with an 8-megapixel rear BSI camera with F2.0 aperture and a front-facing 5-megapixel camera for taking self portraits. The rear camera is also capable of taking macro shots as close as 4cm away from the subject, which seems very impressive. It will be interesting to see how well the camera fares when we get our hands on a review unit in the coming months.
It's a shame that Huawei has opted not to include 4G LTE support on the Ascend P6. With all three telcos in Singapore aggressively promoting the uptake of 4G services, we can't be sure if all three telcos will eventually carry the Huawei Ascend P6. Perhaps there might be another edition of the phone in the near future with 4G LTE support.
Price and Availability
The Huawei Ascend P6 is available in black, white and pink with matching color cases. It will begin shipping to China later this month and to Western Europe from July through Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, H3G, O2, Carphone Warehouse, TalkTalk, Media Markt & Saturn, TIM and online via Amazon and CDiscount with other markets to follow.
Here's a quick look at how the Huawei Ascend P6 compares with the recent 4.7-inch Android smartphones: