Just like bunnies, the mobile world seems to be reproducing at an alarming rate. Just when you think you made up your mind of which phone to get, out pops a new one that is sexier then the one you had your eye on. With so much competition, handset manufacturers need to keep churning out new devices that are faster/thinner/smaller/bigger/longer lasting/better software just to keep relevant.
The one overriding factor that sways our buying decision is the price. When we make that 2 year commitment to a phone we ideally want the “aspiration phone” such as the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4 however these are at the high end of the pricing scale and so we look at the one level down and agree to compromise on features and the sexy looks but get a phone we can afford.
I have been using the recently launched Huawei Ascend P6 which is priced at R229 from MTN and is yet another example where quality does not need to be compromised for price.
Look and Feel:
The Ascend P6 is thin and light. Measuring at 132.7 x 65.5 x 6.2 mm and weighing only 120 g. Into this tiny body, Huawei has crammed a quad code 1.6GHz cpu with 2GB Ram and a 8 GB of internal storage where 4.7 GB is available for your data. When you need more storage, there is a microSD slot that can expend the storage up to 32 GB. The phone runs running Android v4.2.2 with Emotion UI 1.6 interface.
The phone is well built and instantly feels like you are holding a quality device. The combination of Gorilla Glass display and its curved edge make the Ascend P6 instantly stand out amongst the sea of devices that are scattered across any dinner table.
The top of the phone is where the microUSB slot is situated.
On the right of the device is where you find the power button, the volume up/ down buttons and the two trays for the microSD and the micro SIM card. These trays sit nicely flushed into the bevel and are secured in place with little chance of them accidentally opening. Don’t waste time looking for a tool to pry these trays open as the the oddly looking rivet-like protector that covers the headphone jack situated on the left of the phone is the pin-tool that you need to open these trays. No longer need to look for a paperclip or use your earing to open those trays (hat tip to Kojo Baffoe for the earring tip).
No intensive finger-hand-gymnastics is required to operate the Ascend P6 as it is geared to be used with one hand. There is a “gloves on” option that allows you to operate the phone with…eh…gloves – handy in winter. This option increases the touchscreen’s sensitivity which makes the phone even more responsive. I found no adverse effects by leaving it on permanently whether you wear gloves or not.
When it comes to performance, the Ascend P6 handles the days to day items with ease. Emails, Web surfing, Tweets, Facebook, Instagram, Vine simply worked without giving it a second thought. The only time I found a bit of stutter was when playing high end graphic intensive games but this stutter was not serious enough that games did not work but just something I noticed every once in a while. Running a web test at HTML5test.com shows that the Chrome browser scores 429 out of 500 (BlackBerry Z10 scored 485, Samsung S4 scored 465, HTC one scored 430)
The Ascend P6 has a 5 megapixel front facing camera encouraging that “selfies” trend. There is a “Beautify” feature which is essentially a filter that plays with light, colours and soften the edges of the self portrait. It sometimes did a nice job at enhancing the photo and other times not so much.
The rear-facing camera is an 8 megapixel camera which does an acceptable job. There are various shooting modes such as Smart, Single and HDR where you can set various features such as:
- Object Tracking – touch the object you want and the focus will follow it
- Capture Smiles – automatically takes the photo when someone smiles
- Touch to capture – where you touch the screen and as soon as the object is in focus it takes the pic
- GPS Tag – adds the coordinates of the where the image was taken to the pic
- Resolution – where you can reduce the image size from 8mb right down to 0.3mb (handy when wanting to Tweet a pic but there is limited cell phone reception).
Taking photos of nearby objects in decent light shows all the colours and delivers a nice quality image. Taking photos of close-ish subject does confuse the auto-focus a bit as the “green focus square” jumps around a bit before refocusing on the subject. When it does refocus, the images do come out clear. Snapping photos of far away subjects or landscapes is also ok but a lot depends on the lighting conditions.
There are various effects and filters that you can use such as Antique, Mono, Sepia etc. to give your photos that varied artistic look. The Panorama mode works superbly well guiding you through where to move the camera to in order to take the next picture. It then splices the pictures together to form one panoramic image.
When you change to Video mode, you also get various options to change such as Object Tracking, HDR Video, Stabiliser, GPS tag. When you choose HD Resolution you can set it from full HD at 1080p to HD 720p down to VGA and MMS. You really do notice a difference between the various shooting modes which are more exaggerated when you disable or enable the stabiliser.
Both the video and sound look and sound good when playing back on large screens.
Huawei Ascend P6 uses Emotions UI overlaid on top of the Jelly Bean operating system. Emotions UI have various Themes that are pre-loaded onto the device allowing you to change the way that it looks by simply enabling a new theme. It is very simple to customise the phone to your own liking by dragging and dropping apps into folders and screens that make sense to you.
I particularly liked being able to customise the “drawer” which is a list of frequently used apps that are always available to you regardless of which screen you are in. Into the drawer I placed my Phone Dialler, Calendar, Email, Chrome and Twitter and that was as simple as dragging the app and dropping it into the spot I wanted.
The standard Android options are still available when you pull down the screen from the top. Here is where can access all the usual widgets such as Wifi, Bluetooth, settings, new accounts etc. . Anyone who has used any Android device in the past will easily navigate around this interface.
The default Huawei keyboard is pretty good too. It is responsive and has an accurate auto-correct and word suggestion facility. If you want to use any of the numbers or symbols underneath the keys just swipe down on that key. This speeds up the typing considerably as you no longer have to change screens or do the long-hold to activate those other keys. Well thought out.
There are various apps that are pre-installed that are worth mentioning:
- Permission Manager – security has been placed at a very high priority. This app allows you to take control of what apps can and can not do. This feature protects various elements of your phone such as which apps can access you phone number and monitor calls. You can also decide which apps are allowed to push messages to you. Very handy feature that is easily controlled by the user with no technical know how.
- Motion Control – Using internal sensors, you can enable various actions that can occur when you interface with the phone. Flip allows you to mute the phone, Pick up reduces the ring volume, Raise answers the call when you raise the phone to your ear.
- Daydream – when your phone goes into “sleep mode” you can control what the screen displays rather then just the usual black-screen. If you set it to Photo Table Mode your photos from various applications are displayed on the screen and you can zoom in and out of your photos and move them around the screen to build up your coffee table photo album. Just be very mindful of what you have stored on your phone or in your social network streams to avoid those embarrassing moments.
The Ascend P6 has a built in 2000 mAh non-removable battery. On heavy usage days, I consistently managed to get a full day battery life and only needing to recharge around 7pm after switching on the phone at 6am. On moderate usage days this extended well into the night.
The Huawei does not have LTE or NFC (yet?) but does connect to everything else such as 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth etc. this does extend the battery life as the processor is not being hammered to constantly look for those stronger signals.
A comforting thought is that the Ascend P6 uses the now standard microUSB charging port and so if you do need a battery boost, someone will probably have the right cable for you to borrow. There are also various power consumption modes that you can set which disable features to maximise your battery life.
Huawei has once again delivered a value phone at the right price. The phone looks and feels like a quality product that was well designed to deliver a great experience. It s clear that Huawei understands their target audience and are slowly taking bites out of the Apple and Samsung dominated market.
The Ascend P6 is available in black, white and pink and is priced at R5000 or at MTN on R229 per month contract.
** Some images from the Huawei Ascend P6 South African launch event: