I would say that by now a lot of you guys reading this review would have heard of Huawei as a smartphone manufacturer as we at tracyandmatt.co.uk have looked at and reviewed many devices in the past. So with that in mind I would also imagine that you will have heard whisperings of the Huawei Ascend P1, the company’s’ flagship smartphone? If you haven’t heard of this phone then you will have by the conclusion to this review. Huawei have certainly got some stiff competition from the likes of HTC, Samsung and now Apple with the recent announcement of the iPhone 5 (I shall reserve judgement).
So I bet you’re all wondering what is this phone all about? And also maybe how well it will stack up against the mountain of competition?
Well if you do indeed wish to find out the ins and outs then I recommend reading on… after you’ve watched Matt’s unboxing and hands on video first of course.
10 Second Review:
- Product: Huawei Ascend P1
- Price: £234.99 SIM Free £299.99 for the LTE version from EE and from £21 pay monthly
- Summary: A nice phone with great specs and battery life, but the screen isn’t good enough and it’s much too thin and slippery for my liking.
- Best of: Lightweight, great price point,
- Worst of: Too thin and slippery,
- Buy from: www.clove.co.uk
- Also Consider: HTC One S, Sony Xperia range
What’s in the box?
Well this is an early review device that I have in for review so literally all that I have is the phone itself so I am as yet unaware of what accessories will come bundled with it. I would assume though that the usual suspects will come boxed such as charger, USB cable, headphones and if you’re lucky maybe even a screen protector.
On top of the device is the 3.5mm headphone/aux jack, MicroUSB slot and the USIM slot for a normal size SIM card I might add, which considering that the other big smartphone companies are opting for the Micro SIM is a little strange. Also the slot is covered by a protective cover.
The left side of the device houses the up/down volume rocker and the rest is plain and smooth
The right of the device is where the power/sleep button and the MicroSD slot are, the SD slot has a protective cover which is again unusual.
All there is on the bottom is a little hole which is the speaker for voice calls.
On the back of the P1 is the 8 megapixel autofocus camera and dual LED flash and the only other thing on the back is the nice Huawei logo.
Finally on the front where the magic happens is the speaker at the top again for voice calls, next to and around that are the proximity and light sensors and also the front facing 1.3 megapixel camera. Below the sensors etc is the 4.3 inch Super AMOLED display, and then below that are the three touch sensitive buttons: menu, home and back.
Huawei Ascend P1 Hardware:
As Huawei are essentially only just ‘becoming’ a force in the mode industry you would imagine that they have some way to go to catch up with the likes of HTC and Samsung regarding innovation, build quality and design? Well usually I would say that they absolutely do have some catching up to do but with the Ascend P1 I think that Huawei have done quite a good job with innovation.
I will get the bad stuff out of the way first as it’s quite important in this case, the actual build quality of the device is mostly good although it is a little creaky in places, the one problem with the build though is the fact that it’s made entirely of what I consider now to be cheap plastics and this is very disappointing. The phone is very slippery in the hand which can make keeping hold of it quite tricky at times which isn’t good considering people will be forking out their hard earned cash on this product. The one other thing that annoyed me during my time with the phone was that it is an absolute fingerprint magnet! Especially the screen itself, when it attracts fingerprints on a touch screen device usually you don’t really notice them until you put it under a light or in sunlight whilst the phone is locked, but with this device you notice it when you are using it! Not cool.
As for the design of the phone I am unsure if I like it or not, it’s one of those marmite designs I think, this is entirely down to how thin it is as it is a mere 7.6mm thin at its thinnest point. This in my hands felt way too thin but for some people I would imagine them loving how it feels. As for the lightweight nature I do like that as I’m sick of manufacturers releasing phones saying that they are ‘such and such lighter than this phone blah blah’ it is a refreshing change for something so large to be so lightweight.
As most of you guys will be aware, android is a mobile operating system that is constantly evolving with new releases of the popular software being brought to market every six to twelve months. So for this reason would you expect a ‘new’ android smartphone to come with the latest software? The answer for most people would be almost certainly yes, so why have Huawei only provided its consumers with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with no word on Jelly Bean 4.1? I’m not sure of the answer to that myself but my speculation is that the company had a deadline to meet with the release of the device and decided that it was simply ‘easier’ to release the phone with the last version.
Aside from the fact that the phone doesn’t pack the latest version of android this does not by any means say that it’s totally useless, it’s quite the opposite actually as I really have found that using both the ‘vanilla’ android experience and the Huawei themes to be really enjoyable to use.
Here first for you is the nice slightly modified lock screen; I think that this works really well as it gives you the chance to jump right into apps, it isn’t quite as nice as the standard android lock screen though but you won’t spend your time in this area when using the phone anyway so it’s fine.
As there isn’t really much to be said of the lock screen I will move straight onto the home screens and show you a mixture of default screens but also ones that I’ve modified to my needs. You will hopefully notice which ones I’ve modified and the default ones:
As you can see above there are five customisable home screens as opposed to seven like on some android smartphones, I quite like that there’s only five as it means less clutter on the screens but obviously I’m sure that a lot of people enjoy having more screens. The above screenshots are of the ‘vanilla’ android option and this is my preferred way to use this particular phone, for no other reason than it’s nice to look at and simpler to navigate around.
There are two other ‘themes’ installed on the device from Huawei themselves and they are called- Breeze and Dawn, if any of you guys have seen the Huawei Ascend G300 then you will notice that Breeze is the default view from that phone but Dawn is something that’s new to me as I’ve not seen it before, so maybe Huawei are considering this for their overlay in the future. What I thought I’d show is all of the parts of the interface that change when you activate each theme so below you will see a lot of screenshots:
Also available on the Ascend P1 is something called ’3D home screen’ the name speaks for itself, basically when activated it creates the idea of the home screen (only some apps are compatible-Weather clock, calendar, music+) To give you an idea of what this mode looks like I took some extra screenshots for you and they are below:
Hopefully you’ll be able to see the 3Dness, to be honest in my professional opinion it’s a bit pointless having it installed as it doesn’t necessarily do anything at all apart from provide the poor 3D images you see above, even though I think it’s pointless I thought that I would show it to you anyway so that it gives you the overall view of the device.
Now that you’ve seen ‘Breeze’ I will show you ‘Dawn’ which is quite a bit different from the other two choices but I will leave the judging to you guys.
Now that you have seen all of the home screen options I will move onto the settings section, not very exciting I know so I will keep it short and sweet.
First of all the settings menu is not that different to any other android phone, apart from maybe if you haven’t seen the ‘vanilla’ look before then this will all be new to you.
Here are the Wireless network settings for your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile network needs:
As you can see there’s nothing terribly difficult to understand here as it’s all laid out very simply to enable consumers to navigate through the menu as if it was second nature.
The next part I will show you is something that isn’t often seen built right into a phone, the Data Usage feature. This is where you can modify the settings to for example put in that you have 1GB of data each month and your contract month ends on the 22nd of every month, and then basically what will happen is it will show a line graph of how you use your data and whether you need to slow down or whether you actually don’t use it much at all. It’s a very handy thing to have built in but I tend to prefer using an application called ‘Onavo Extend for android’ this does a very similar job but what is different about this app is that it compresses your data to enable your data to go further every month.
And finally here are the display settings for the phone, the reason I’m showing you this is because you will quite often want to change the brightness to save on battery power and even change your wallpaper, I am a sucker for cool wallpapers so I often change mine, sometimes every day!
I think that now is the perfect time to move onto something a little more interesting and this of course brings me to the web browsing experience on the Ascend P1.
How is it? I hear you cry. well the simple answer is that it’s very good indeed but of course you guys aren’t reading this for short answers so for a more in depth look at the browser I must show you some screenshots:
There are some really good things about the browser but unfortunately these are surpassed by the bad, the bad being that the screen’s colours make reading websites quite difficult at times due to the very vibrant way that it portrays blues, greens and any other bright colour, you will see above that the blue on tracyandmatt.co.uk is very blue indeed? Well then take a look at these screenshots from a super LCD 2 from HTC on the One X and you tell me which is easier to read?
In my personal opinion I believe that the colours on the One X are more ‘true’ than on the P1 but that’s just one opinion I’d be glad to hear your opinions over on the tracyandmatt forum.
One other problem that I think is quite frustrating is the fact that when a web page has loaded on the Huawei, it loads up already zoomed but as you will see in the first screenshot I showed you above it zooms in to the left so you can’t read anything unless you scroll across the screen, whereas on the One X the page loads exactly as you can see above which is what I would expect from a smartphone browser nowadays.
The most frustrating thing about the P1 though is the fact that browsing is actually brilliant, pages load superfast and the change from portrait to landscape is seamless, it’s just a bit of a shame that the screen isn’t as good as it could be.
I think that now is a good a time as any to show you the keyboard options that this phone has to offer seen as though you will be using them a lot if you choose to purchase the device.
There are two variations of keyboard to choose from, both offering brilliant typing experiences and I suspect that different people will like both, but for me I preferred to use the Huawei keyboard for two reasons- reason 1 is because it looks nicer on the eye with the awesome blue and white colour scheme, but also because it has the option to resize it by moving it further up the page up to 5 times, this makes for a lovely large keyboard and this coupled with the sensitive touch display is great for typing quickly.
I did however use the android keyboard and this too was great to type on but due to its relatively small form factor I simply preferred the other one.
Firstly I will show you the android keyboard:
And here is the Huawei keyboard:
As I do with every review device the very first thing that I do is set up my e-mail addresses, which then subsequently sets up my calendars for me as well which I do like about android.
As with most of the android devices on the market today there are 2 e-mail clients that you can use on this phone, they are the standard android e-mail app and of course as this is running Google’s operating system Gmail as well.
The fact that there isn’t a Huawei e-mail client isn’t a bad thing at all, because the standard android clients are very good and do the job very well indeed.
I won’t go into much detail on the clients as most of you will have seen it all before but what I am going to do, as I always do in my reviews is show you the apps in action as I think that this is the best way to show something.
The android app first:
And now for the Gmail application:
Onto the calendar application now and the calendar that you use on the P1 is the standard android app, which again isn’t a bad thing at all because what more could you really want from a calendar aside from what it already does? It allows you to add/change events, to add reminders so that you don’t forget those events too and it can also display calendars from your email addresses (if you have one) so all in all it’s a great app for the person on the move and it’s one of those apps that ‘does what it says on the tin’.
Here it is in action and you will notice that I had a few things going on from the 16th onwards which should hopefully show how simple yet effective the calendar application is.
Media is something that I strongly believe is now a major part of a particular phone’ success in the smartphone world, For example in my everyday life I average around an hour of listening to music and I watch a couple of YouTube videos and maybe even take some shots on the camera, and I’ve known people that listen to music for hours every day to take them away from the stresses of everyday life and then others that are actually fully fledged YouTubers and create and upload their own content from their smartphones now and then. So for me media plays a big part in my moods and I also suppose you could say that I build media into my everyday ‘routine’ if you can call it that!
Media in a smartphone comes in all forms from music, all the way through to video editing but the problem with the spectrum of media being so varied is when a smartphone isn’t actually up to the challenges that the applications bring. I unfortunately have few good things to say about any aspect of media playback etc on the Huawei P1
As I mentioned before I do love my music and I do listen a lot and one of the reasons for this is that my HTC One X is so good at the playback with its beats audio integration at the forefront of what is a great music device in the first place. But what the One X does very well the Huawei does quite badly which is a great shame considering I thought this phone could be amazing but instead it’s left wondering ‘what if?’. There are two methods of music playback on this device, the first is what I assumed was Huawei’s music player called Music+ and the second one was called Play Music which I assumed was the stock application.
What you see in the above screenshots is the Music+ application, and what you might notice is that in the right screenshot it says Dolby mobile settings? Well the reason for this is because the phone has Dolby Digital sound built in which is designed to do a similar job to the sound that HTC’s Beats tech does for their phones, the problem is that it simply doesn’t, the music no matter which equaliser setting you choose always sounds dull and lifeless as if the artist had recorded the album at low volume, and from a personal perspective this was unacceptable and I was quite disappointed because this was a feature that I was looking forward to testing out. The application looks quite nice though as it displays album artwork (if you have it along with the album) and behind the artwork is an active background but you aren’t able to change this which is a shame.
Moving onto the second music app now and I will begin again by showing you some images of the app in action.
The Play music application does the job of playing music a little better than the previous app Music+ but it’s still nowhere near the class of other devices around the same price as this device. That point aside though playback is smoother and the sound is a lot clearer using this app for some reason, the sound is also a little more customisable with the full equaliser settings on offer (as shown above) but if you prefer a pre-set equaliser then there are plenty of those on offer too and I have to say that they actually do make a difference depending on the type of music you listen to, for example when listening to a classic rock and roll track I would simply choose the ‘Rock’ setting and the sound changes into a deeper more rocky sound, which is of course what it is meant to do.
I tried out both apps with varied music genres with 4 different sets of differently priced headphones-iBeats, apple headphones, blackberry headphones and some sennheiser and the iBeats were the only set that seemed to react positively to the changes in equaliser setting which means that the sound coming from the phone isn’t very good if you HAVE to use a very expensive set of headphones to get the best from the music players.
All in all though I have to say that listening to music on this device wasn’t pleasant at all and I would recommend buying an iPod as well as the phone because you will be disappointed as well otherwise.
Video playback on the Huawei P1 was average; this again was caused by the display. What I mean by average is, put simply it wasn’t nearly good enough to be considered good enough to watch a movie or TV show on the train but it wasn’t so awful that you couldn’t watch YouTube on it.
The video formats that the Huawei is compatible with are your usual suspects, MPEG 4 etc but the quality was almost always lacking when watching a video that I put on the device myself. YouTube however is a different story because as I mentioned previously it isn’t an awful experience to watch YouTube. This is most likely down to the application being the best on any platform currently available, but the device handles Wi-Fi signal very well also as even on a 1 or 2 bar connection a video would hardly buffer, which I am so used to on my own HTC One X.
So overall the video viewing experience is as I alluded to earlier ‘average’ at best but YouTube is the device’ saving grace once more.
See the screenshots below to see how YouTube looks:
This is the last little bit of the media section for you guys and then we will move swiftly on, as we know every android smartphone has a place where all photos and videos go and as this is the ‘vanilla’ version of android 4.0 we get the stock photo/video gallery.
And here it is:
Camera and Video camera:
Nowadays seeing people out and about with digital cameras and DSLR cameras are a rarity, unless you see professional photographers at work of course. So why is it that we don’t see these cameras out in the open much anymore? The answer is smartphones! The cameras within smartphones are vastly becoming better and better and more like a compact digital camera or even in some cases DSLR quality (looking at you Nokia Pure view 808).
So how does the 8 megapixel camera fare on this smartphone I hear you cry?
The answer in short is that it performs fairly well, but not as good as some other phones on the market today such as the HTC One X and One x+ or the Samsung galaxy s3. Having said that though you’ve got to think about the actual cost of buying this device outright Sim free or pay as you go and say to yourself ‘wow it’s amazing for the price!’ In the below photos I do hope that they can give you an accurate portrayal of how good the camera is for such a phone.
As for the video camera performance, it’s just as though Huawei have neglected the feature because the video that I’ve taken and will show you soon is grainy and blotchy, with me being as still as I could (as we all know without a tripod there is always movement of some sort) the video just seemed bland and uninspiring to say the least. Hopefully the video that you will see below shows you the things that I’ve mentioned; otherwise it’s just my awful camera skills that are the problem!
See the video below.
I thought that what I would also show you guys was the camera/video camera interface, just to show what to expect when taking photos and videos. The interface itself is the stock android one so if you have seen it before on the likes of the Galaxy Nexus or others then there is nothing new for you, but alternatively if you’ve never seen it before then it’s worthwhile me showing it to you.
As with all modern smartphones there are many ways of getting onto your social networking websites such as Facebook and twitter, but for some unknown reason Huawei didn’t pre install any apps for me to use which isn’t such a bad thing as it’s just as easy to nip into the play store and download them, but the principle is that when you purchase a brand new smartphone you are going to want to get it out of the box and set things like Twitter up straight away, whereas on this phone I couldn’t do that. The one really good thing about not having any apps preinstalled is the fact that there is no manufacturer made app to ruin the android experience for you, and it also enables you to choose your favourite apps so that your home screens don’t get clogged with unused apps too.
So with that in mind I’ve taken some screenshots of the apps that I prefer to use, I’m afraid though that I am a boring dude who used the official Facebook and Twitter apps as opposed to any fancy third party ones, I guess the reason for this is down to usability for me, as the official apps are so simple to set up and to use day to day so I just use those to make it easier for myself.some would say it’s lazy but I call it ‘what’s best for me’ and I think that’s a statement that could be used for every individual who would or could use this device, as there are so many apps for twitter especially that you could literally choose a different app for each day of the week if you chose to.
And my personal opinion is that the official apps are great and I will show you guys the apps in action:
Battery Life and Performance:
I wasn’t really expecting that much from the Huawei P1s’ battery life but what I got was something pleasantly surprising, in terms of medium to heavy use I managed to get a solid day of use still! For modern day smartphones that’s quite good, in comparison with my HTC One X with the same level of use with the same display brightness etc I got 8 hours of use and then I had to charge it, annoying really but that generally what you get on the really high end devices these days, here’s hoping for much better batteries in smartphones in 2013!!
But yes overall I was impressed with the battery life on the P1 compared to other smartphones on the market, most of which are much more expensive than this one.
As for the performance of the phone it did stutter a little when it came to heavy stuff like dead trigger a graphic heavy game which runs really smoothly on the Quad core One X but quite sluggishly on the dual core Ascend P1, but in day to day use of the device is mostly matched the level of speed and smoothness of the One X and at times it outdid the IPhone 4S which is pretty good going. I took the liberty of running Quadrant Standard edition on the device to see how it matched up to its competition and the result is below:
Now as you will see in the above screenshot, the phone is fast! It is a lot faster than the Galaxy Nexus and isn’t really that far away from the top end HTC One X, which I can vouch for in everyday use so I think it’s safe to say that the Huawei Ascend P1 is a fantastic phone for its price point.
The Huawei Ascend P1 has really impressed me during my time with it, it does almost everything that my One X does and it comes damn close to being as fast as that device too so for the stupidly low price of £234.99 Sim free it’s a flipping bargain! It’s a tempter even if it’s just a second device because for the everyday tasks it performs brilliantly so I would definitely recommend this device to almost anyone looking for a really great phone.
Here we are at the end of another review guys, I know it seems like a really long time since I did a review but there have been a few reasons for that which I won’t go into now but let’s say that 2013 will be a year of hopefully lots of great reviews for you lovely readers.Bring on CES 2013 and MWC 2013 I say!
Review by: Chris