Every year, Smartphones get thinner and more intelligent, as phone makers are trying to gush out the highest ‘speced’ phones and at the same time put these phones on a serious diet. Phone manufacturers must strike a fine balance when trying to make something as thin as possible without foregoing the features we have come to love in our Smartphones. This year, Huawei seems to be closer to achieving that goal. During the time we spent with the Huawei Ascend P6, the most recurring comment we got with everyone that happened to see us use this phone was, “that iPhone 5 looks really big!” And yes they are right, this is a replica of the iPhone 5 for all intent and purposes. Huawei believes it has succeeded in creating a true Smartphone flagship, that gives the masses a wow factor at first glance with its superb design, display quality and a uni-body aluminum shell.
Does the thinnest phone on the planet feel as good as the Smartphone in your pocket? And can we finally accept Huawei in the ranks of HTC and Samsung, despite the iPhone rip off design?
As thin as it gets
Huawei’s effort to achieve a premium look and feel with the 4.7-inch is mainly centered around an aluminum unibody design and a thin 6.2mm profile. It will not be the most comfortable phone in your hands but will give the wow factor. With glass in the front and chamfered aluminum edges on the side, the P6 looks really sleek. The phone also has a surprisingly curved plastic bottom that also houses the 3.5mm headphone jack pin on the right side bottom of the phone. There are also some awkward hardware feature placements like the USB port being on top of the phone.
The left side houses the power and volume buttons– that are semi-flash to the smooth Aluminum. The same side also has the micro-SIM card and the micro SD card slots for expandable memory slot given the fact that the phone comes with a disappointingly 8GB of internal memory. A Smartphone OS that occupies over 4GB of space is up to no good. The back of the phone is a smooth soft touch plastic that beautifully curves to the front of the phone at the bottom. There is also a speaker grill at the bottom of the phone capable of Dolby Digital Plus sound enhancement that Huawei has backed into the software. Although we are not impressed by the audio output so far. There is an 8MP camera and single LED flash at the back.
720p hits the sweet spot
I have played with a number of phones with different screen resolutions; but unlike 1080p screens that are notorious for draining battery life, i have found 720p screens to have the best of both worlds. A great screen that puts less pressure on the battery life is what you get here, as the processor has less pixels to push around. This is also true for Huawei’s display — it’s an IPS LCD panel with great Color accuracy, contrast, and viewing angles with descent direct sunlight visibility.
It is no 1080p display but numerically, the P6 has 1280 x 720 resolution on a 4.7-inch screen that produces a pixel density of 312ppi, far below the current Smartphones like the HTC One with 468ppi. But once you drift past 300ppi or so (what Apple describes as the “Retina” threshold), pixels just become indistinguishable for the human eye.
At the bottom of the gorilla glass display you will find the three virtual buttons; the back, home and menu keys. Beautifully designed under the glass is a 5MP front-facing camera, an array of sensors and an ear piece grill at the top. Finally, if you’re after the phone with the best screen on the market today, your choice will be among the this phone,LG G2, Xperia Z Ultra, HTC’s 2013 One models and Apple’s iPhone 5.
In other specs
The phone features a beefy quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A9, 16-core GPU; 2GB of RAM; Huawei K3V2 chipset with 8 GB of expandable storage. The UI animations are fluid, browser performance is great (excluding the Chrome Browser) — even in more complex and content-rich websites like Techjaja — and the camera’s capabilities and processing times are indistinguishable. However all this fast processing power comes with a downside, the phone will heat up regularly.
Hardware features you’ll not find on the P6 but on other high-end phones is NFC, an IR blaster, and optical image stabilization (OIS) for the camera. Apart from OIS, I don’t believe any of them are of material importance — the IR blaster was a gimmick from day one, but OIS is paramount in those low light photographic moments.
To keep the profile this thin, Huawei had to fore go LTE and HSPA+ 42Mbps radio as the phone comes with Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; Penta-band 3G with HSPA up to 21Mbps. We shall later go into details with the speed tests. On the connectivity side of this there is also a Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA and a GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS. There is also a MicroUSB port with USB host, USB OTG, Bluetooth v3. 0 and our personal favorite the FM radio.
Same old Emotion UI
It’s a public secret am no fan of Huawei’s Emotion UI that sits on top of Android 4.2.2 on this phone. My problem with it is that it’s a blunt rip off of iOS 6’s design with the round cornered icons and the lack of an app drawer, as all apps are installed on the home screen like in iOS. The home screen comes preloaded with the Me widget that features clock/weather, Music, contacts, and picture/flipping album. The rest is the usual Android paradigm that we have come to know and love.
Huawei gives the users the flexibility of customizing the phone’s look and feel with the ability to change themes. Chrome browser comes preloaded but we don’t get a smooth experience an issue we think is a Google problem and nothing to do with Huawei.
Huawei’s tweaks and augmentations to Android are not all bad:there are quick settings shortcuts in the notification panel. You can access Google Now by swiping up the home button. The trouble is that its the same old Emotion UI that has not been famous in the Android realm — why Huawei keeps shoving this UI down our throats, we just wonder.
Adequate 8MP shooter
The P6 has an 8MP camera for utmost image resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels. There’s a single LED flash below the camera lens. The Volume Up key can also be used as a hardware camera shutter inside the camera app.
The camera UI looks pretty basic; you can easily change from still to video camera, a virtual shutter and a shortcut to the gallery on the right. The fun stuff is on the left side though everything is hidden in the advanced menu. The only two shortcuts you get are for a switch for the front camera and flash options. Single, Smart, Beauty, HDR, Panorama and Effect are the modes you can choose from in the advanced menu . You will also find additional settings shortcut here as well.
The Ascend P6’s front-facing camera snaps photos of 5MP and not bad for portrait shots you want to post to Facebook or other social network. It also offers an HTC like count down feature, beauty shot (skin smoothing effect) and Instagram-like color effects too.
The Huawei Ascend P6’s main camera records videos at up to 1080p@30fps plus 720p HDR videos, while the front facer is good for up to 720p@30fps.Videos are MP4 encoded at a bitrate of about 25Mbps for 1080p videos. There’s stereo sound and the 30fps mark is consistently met.
No LTE = Mediocre Internet Speeds
On the data speed side of things, there was obviously room for disappointment, as I said earlier given the slim profile of this phone, Huawei had to make some sacrifices. For starters they choose not to equip the phone with LTE or HSPA+ 42Mbps capabilities, so we were stuck with 21Mbps modem for all our internet speed cravings. Am not saying 21Mbps is bad, but with the trends now days we need our speed fix. The speeds were unimpressive for 21Mbps standards as we were only able to push through 7.2Mbps DL and 1.7 Mbps UL using the speed-test app. Well between you and me that’s good enough for a phone but considering the fact that am able to push over 10Mbps on my HTC One X+ which is also capable of 21Mbps, I hoped the p6 could do much better.