Huawei Ascend P6 Android phone
The Ascend P6's physical design is impressive but it has too many other issues to recommend
- Thin and stylish design
- 5-megapixel front camera
- Reasonable price
- No 4G connectivity
- Questionable performance
- Underwhelming battery life
The Huawei Ascend P6's physical design is certainly impressive, but its lack of 4G connectivity, overheating issues, poor port placement and below average battery life make for a less than pleasing user experience.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Huawei can't be accused of quietly going about its business. The little known Chinese company generated plenty of hype when it announced the Ascend P6 earlier this year, claiming the 6.18mm thick smartphone was the thinnest in the world. The Ascend P6's physical design is certainly impressive, but its lack of 4G connectivity, overheating issues, poor port placement and below average battery life make for a less than pleasing user experience.
Razor thin style with odd ports
The Ascend P6 is one of the most striking Android phones we've reviewed this year.
The smartphone market seems to have plateaued, with most new models not breaking any new ground when it comes to hardware. Huawei seems to be oblivious to this trend because the Ascend P6 is one of the most striking Android phones we've reviewed this year. From the brushed aluminum finish on the sides and back, to the sharp edges and the distinctive, rounded bottom, it's definitely one of the more stylish smartphones on the market. It's also very light at 120g so the size and weight compares very favourably against alternatives from more established brands like Samsung, HTC and Sony.
The Ascend P6's style isn't without substance as it feels pretty well constructed. There's some slight creaking when force is applied towards the bottom of the back panel, but otherwise, Huawei's attention to detail is notable. We particularly like the way the speaker grill blends into the glossy bezel above the screen, while the split in the sides and the position of the rear camera are very iPhone-like. The brushed aluminium finish on the back is both attractive and easy to grip, and it's also easy to keep clean.
The strange layout of ports is an annoyance, particularly the side headphone jack.
Unfortunately, Huawei hasn't quite nailed everything else. The strange layout of ports is an annoyance, particularly the side mounted headphone jack on the left and the top-mounted micro-USB port. The headphone jack in this position is very awkward, particularly when using headphones and trying to slip the phone into your pocket. The battery is not removable, though the microSD card slot on the right side means you can expand the rather low 8GB of internal memory.
Also odd is the SIM and microSD-eject tool that doubles as a headphone jack cover. It's a nice idea, but it's so small you'll end up losing it and it's a little difficult to remove. The power/lock screen button and the volume rocker on the right side of the phone also require a rather firm press to operate, and the edges of the handset are a little sharp. The latter makes for poor ergonomics when holding the phone, as the edges tend to dig into the palm of your hand.
Achieving the Ascend P6's thin and light design is helped by a slightly smaller screen than most of its competitors. The 4.7in display also has a lower 720p resolution of 1280x720, so it can't display the same crisp text as full HD screens. However, the difference is pretty small and doesn't really detract from the overall user experience. Viewing angles are excellent, colours are vibrant and the screen is bright, clear and responsive.
Like the Nokia Lumia 920, the Ascend P6's screen can be touched even when wearing gloves. It's a nice feature to have, though not really as relevant in Australia's warmer climate.
A mixed bag of emotions
There's no way to automatically sort any downloaded apps.
The Huawei Ascend P6 runs the Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) operating system but is skinned with Huawei's Emotion UI. The biggest change is the lack of Android's traditional app drawer, so all apps sit either on the home screens or in the dock. Huawei used the same system on its 6in Ascend Mate smartphone.
If you're coming from an iPhone this may be more to your liking but it's ultimately a personal preference. It does result in a more cluttered home screen if you have a large amount of apps installed, and there's no way to automatically sort any downloaded apps — you'll have to drag them around yourself or leave them in the order they were installed.
We particularly dislike the skinned app icons.
The Emotion UI skins almost every part of the Android OS and most of it is for the worse. We particularly dislike the skinned app icons, which place third-party app icons into a grey box. Even if you install a different launcher from the Google Play Store, the icons are a standard feature of the Ascend P6.
Huawei has at least included a few useful features, headed by a range of notification panel shortcut toggles which can be customised. You can also adjust the colour temperature of the screen, select from three preset power settings in an attempt to save battery life, and activate three motion settings including flipping the phone to mute an incoming call, picking up the phone to reduce the ringtone volume, and raising the phone to your ear to automatically answer calls. We've seen similar motion settings in many of HTC's smartphones and they are a nice touch.
The default Huawei keyboard is poor.
There's also a permission manager that monitors any installed apps and can be set to display a notification when an app is attempting to access data. The ability to change themes, customise specific sound profiles and choose from nine different home screen transitions when swiping between pages are other available features.
Annoyingly, the default Huawei keyboard is poor and is missing the ability to swipe through letters to draw a word, though you can easily replace it with a third-party keyboard or Google's default Android keyboard in the Play Store. A file manager, music player, sound recorder, flashlight, FM radio, Polaris Office, and Huawei's Backup and Air Sharing apps come pre-loaded on the Ascend P6, as does the Riptide GP game.
The Ascend P6 can actually become uncomfortably hot during regular use.
Unfortunately, there's a few significant issues with the Huawei Ascend P6 that detract from its appeal. Firstly, the phone gets extremely warm on the right side, on the back. This is immediately evident when playing games, using the camera for a long period or even running third apps like Spotify and Twitter for more than a few minutes. While many smartphones become warm during extended use, the Ascend P6 can actually become uncomfortably hot at times.
The phone also has questionable performance, despite running Huawei's own-developed 1.5GHz quad-core processor and boasting a healthy looking 2GB of RAM. While it's not a slow smartphone, the Ascend P6 lacks the speed and zip we are used to in a modern day Android phone. A number of apps crashing frequently without warning during our test period and we experienced lag in even the most basic places, such as swiping through home screens and opening apps. The whole experience just lacks that extra bit of polish you should expect from a high end smartphone at this price.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the Ascend P6's lack of 4G connectivity. While $499 is a competitive price for a smartphone with these specifications, the lack of 4G is a big downside. We can't recommend anyone spending close to $500 on a smartphone without 4G, particularly if you live in one of Australia's capital cities where the coverage continues to improve and expand.
Good front camera, average battery life
The inclusion of an f2.0 aperture and a 4cm macro view are nice features.
The Huawei Ascend P6 has an 8-megapixel rear facing camera with single LED flash. The position of the lens right in the corner isn't the best for cropping photos but the inclusion of an f2.0 aperture and a 4cm macro view are nice features. The latter makes it very easy to take close up shots with good detail.
The front-facing camera is also worth a look as it uses a 5-megapixel sensor. Most competing smartphones use a 2-megapixel front camera so as you could expect, the Ascend P6 takes good quality selfies. Huawei says the front camera is aided by an auto facial-enhancing setting called beauty mode, which is meant to smooth skin tones, but we found it a little excessive, as shown below.
The Huawei Ascend P6's 2000mAh battery should get you through a full day of use, though heavy users may need to recharge before the end of the day. Given the handset lacks 4G capabilities, doesn't have a full HD screen and has a smaller display than most other flagship devices on the market, we found the battery life a little underwhelming.
The Huawei Ascend P6 is available now in Australia in black and white variants through retailers JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith. It sells for $499 outright.
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