Marvellously crisp display, excellent, functional, feature-rich dual cameras, slender and good looking.
Awkwardly placed port for headphones, inadequate virtual keyboard, accelerometer that’s too sensitive, crowded desktops, lacks 4G.
It is easy to get excited about the Huawei Ascend P6. It is an attractive phone, with an impressive HD screen, and superb cameras. But there are also plenty of annoying problems, like the suspect headphones port, a poor keyboard, and no 4G support. The phone is outstripped by rivals.
The Huawei Ascend P6 has some fabulous features, including the impressive HD display, and the cameras, but it also has some annoying features, and lacks 4G.
Huawei has been rushing phones out at a rate of knots. No sooner had the P2 hit our shores, than we were up to the Ascend P6. It is the thinnest smartphone in the world, measuring just 6.18mm. Even at that titchy width you still get a full set of specs, including a quad-core processor, and sharp HD display. But also a few detracting issues.
Slender phones are a trademark of Huawei. The original Ascend P2 measured 8.4mm across the middle. Huawei has gone even further with the Ascend P6, putting it on a diet that takes it down to a skinny 6.18mm. It hardly feels like you’re carrying anything at all in your pocket, and in the hand it feels comfortable to hold.
There’s a distinct whiff of being inspired by Apple’s iPhone 5 to the Ascend P6 with its white case, glossy front panel, and stretched design with narrow bezel around the screen. There’s differences, including the Huawei logo of course. The white matt is scuff resistant, and gives it a clear, straightforward look. Overall, this is an attractive phone that’s both smartly dressed, and fun.
Nearly all the ports and control buttons are located on the right edge, and these fit nicely down the side. There’s easy to reach power and volume buttons, plus MicroSD and SIM card slots at the bottom. A little pin will allow the slots to slide out of the casing. There’s also a pin for the other side of the headphone port, for emergency access.
We definitely had a problem with the headphone port. It is a major flaw in the Ascend P6’s design, in our opinion. And this will be an issue if you like to use your smartphone to listen to music. It has a metallic cover, and this has to be prised off before you can plug the headphones in. This won’t be an issue if you have fingernails, but we didn’t, having trimmed them right back just earlier that day. Getting the cover off was a struggle, and when it finally came free we managed to send it spinning across the footpath.
That’s not the only thing wrong with the port. The headphone jack is located on the left-hand edge. All other smartphones we’ve seen use a port on the top, or bottom. Much easier that way to pop the phone into your pocket while listening to music. You can see where this is going. The side location made it overly difficult to plug headphones in while on the move. And we do like to listen to music on our commute to work. Perhaps if you have big pockets this won’t be an issue.
There’s a vast range of apps already installed on the Ascend P6. Which is good except that this fills up quite a bit of the phone’s 5GB of storage. These include Google apps, and stacks of management apps (such as App-installer, Permission Manager, Backup etc). In short, lots of apps that most users will never need. Which would be OK if you could remove the unwanted ones. But you can’t. More useful apps included are a Notes app, Flashlight, and Polaris Office 4.0.
By default, the phone is set to Automatically update my apps at any time. Very naughty of Huawei – this can quickly take up your data allowance. Change it so it is disabled or only updates when on WiFi.
Copying the Apple approach, Huawei forces users to keep all their apps on the desktops. This quickly creates a lot of clutter. We’d have preferred the way most Android phones do things, using menus with shortcuts to your favourites. You’ll have to organise apps into folders to keep things manageable, and this method felt awkward, difficult, and outdated on the iPhone, and it doesn’t work any better here. Those that like using widgets will rapidly run out of desktop space. Still, you can choose four favourite apps, and place them across the bottom of the screen, where they will stay visible on all desktops.
An emotional interface
Running on the latest Android OS, which is Jelly Bean 4.2, the Ascend P6 overlays this with the proprietary Huawei Emotion interface for a very different look. We’ve also noted the odd app management, but the other differences are just skin-deep. Huawei has simply given a little bit of polish to make everything such as the notifications bar, and the desktops, sparkle. It is a fresh look, combining a tidy aspect with splashes of colour.
Most people want to customise the look of their phone though. There’s some well thought out themes included. Such as a serious charcoal design, and a very pink effort. If nothing suits there’s hundreds more available to download.
The notifications menu is new, and we rather liked the customisable settings bar. With this you can quickly access to toggle features that might drain your battery the most, including WiFi and GPS. It also accesses the settings menu. There’s notifications of waiting messages, and so forth, as well. One interesting point was that, by default, Gmail doesn’t trigger these message notifications. A little odd.
Even more odd though, and very surprising, is the lack of 4G support. This will appear across the UK this year, although there are already active hotspots. So, this phone from Huawei will be outdated in just a few months. Not an issue if you don’t ever plan on using 4G. But still. Odd for a flagship phone. Plus, there’s no NFC support, which means no support for sharing files or making mobile payments.
It is nice to get to the features we want to rave about. The Ascend P6’s superb 4.7-inch display is one of these, and definitely the best feature on the phone. It manages an impressively sharp 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. Text and images appear crisply focused. So much so that the tiniest writing on a website was readable. We tested this by zooming right out on the page. We were even able to target and tap these tiny links. It is impossible to describe how impressive watching a movie on this screen was, with excellent HD images.
An experience you can share with friends as this phone has wide viewing angles. Images stay crisp when viewed at a tilt, and there’s very little colour loss. In fact, colour on this is deep and rich, with the reds, greens and yellows standing out in particular. Turning the brightness right up means that this screen can be viewed even in direct sunlight.
We’re used to phones in the £300 or more bracket coming with a quad-core processor, so it wasn’t a surprise to find one in the Ascend P6. With a quad-core processor you can be assured that the phone will operate lots of tasks with ease. This means that apps can run on in the background, without the phone stuttering or stopping. Wistfully, we’d like to see this used to run apps side by side but that’s not the case here. You do get this on LG handsets, including the Optimus G Pro, and on the Samsung Galaxy Note II. It is nice being able to check contact details and write a text message at the same time.
There were a couple of moments when the quad-core let the Ascend P6 hang a little. Google Chrome was particularly prone to this at first, closing unexpectedly, or doing strange things with web pages. This slowly disappeared with more use. Other glitches included YouTube freezing up, but nothing was so bad that it required a phone re-boot.
There were absolutely no glitches when it came to gameplay. The latest games were downloaded from the Google Play store – a mix of racing, running and shooting titles. Frame rates were smooth.
Our next gripe is more of a minor one. The accelerometer. This is just far too sensitive much of the time, in our experience. It is easy to adjust to this when playing games, so we didn’t notice any issues there. But it is irritating when all you are doing is navigating menus on the Ascend P6 or web surfing. Just a tiny tilt to the left and bam, the screen changed to horizontal mode. And in everyday use those little tilts happen quite often, making this more than just annoying. It affected the usability of the handset. A first for us, we preferred to turn off auto-rotate on this phone and actually manually switch it back on when we wanted to change the aspect.
To get a good feel for a review phone we use it as our personal phone, and this gives us an idea of what the battery performance is like. Compared to similarly priced smartphones, the Ascend P6 did quite well. Even with regular internet surfing, the phone gave us a full day’s use between charges. This was with the screen brightness turned right up. If you need to be frugal with power, just simple texting and emailing could see this phone through a couple of days with one charge.
Games and movies take their toll though. The Ascend P6 will stream video constantly for four hours before needing a recharge. That’s about average for this sized smartphone.
The Power Manager app will increase the amount of time you can go between charges by shutting down non-essential background tasks, stopping apps from automatically starting, and giving you a running total on power when browsing the web, making calls, or playing media. As a battery app we were impressed. This is one of the more useful we’ve seen. However, basic settings aren’t tweaked, such as screen brightness, to preserve power and that’s a little odd.
There are user friendly aspects to Huawei’s virtual keyboard. And there is a user-frustrating side too. The layout is good, the keys spaced nicely, and there’s quick access to punctuation. We liked that you could hold a key down for a second to get to the alternative symbol, rather than tapping it.
But there are massive failings with auto-correct and next-word prediction. These were turned on in settings, but still ... nothing. Unless there was a particularly un-intuitive way to fix mistakes that we just couldn’t find, you have to tap on them manually and select from a drop down menu. We have no idea why Huawei changed this from the perfectly adequate Android keyboard.
The Ascend P6 has an 8 megapixel camera, and this is a real find. On a trip about we took lots of photos, and found the results were beyond expectations.
No matter what the environment was like, the Ascend P6 took a great shot. Images taken in harsh sunlight came out as perfectly well lit as those in more dim surroundings. This is all down to the ‘Smart’ mode. As with the screen, the level of detail in images is captured minutely. We could even make out the words on distant signs. The Sony Xperia SP produces more vivid colours, but the Ascend P6 holds its own with realistic tones. The built-in flash is perfect for night time photos.
Other camera features include panorama shots, HDR, and Full HD video, which is good enough to look amazing even when played back on a TV screen. Some editing functions are available for photos.
That’s the rear camera. The 5-megapixel front facing camera is just as impressive. In fact, that’s as high a resolution as the main camera on most phones. This is superb for online video chats. There’s a Beauty mode, that’s supposed to make you look more glam, but we must be a lost cause as we couldn’t see any difference at all. However, it is useful for the two second countdown so you can compose yourself before the photo is snapped.
This is a complex smartphone. The Huawei Ascend P6 as a simply superb display, and the dual cameras are amazing. The customisation on the themes is a nice touch too. But there are just too many negatives. Lack of 4G and NFC, awkward keyboard, pain in the rear accelerometer, and the bizarrely positioned headphone jack. You’d be better off with a Sony Xperia SP.
Dimensions : 133 x 66 x 6.2mm
Weight: 120 g
Screen size: 4.7 inch
Screen Resolution: 1280x720 pixels
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 312PPI
Processor speed: 1.5GHz
Battery capacity : 2000mAh
Onboard Memory: 5GB
Memory card slot: microSD
Camera : 8 mega-pixel, 5 mega-pixel (front-facing)
Operating system: Google Android (Jelly Bean 4.2)
Wi-Fi / Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE : Yes/Yes/Yes/No
Bluetooth : Yes
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