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Review: Huawei Ascend P1 smartphone

By

July 21, 2012

Huawei's Ascend P1 smartphone could be a true Android competitor

Huawei's Ascend P1 smartphone could be a true Android competitor

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Huawei sent me a review unit of the Ascend P1 smartphone to play with for a few weeks, and after spending some time with this super-thin Android 4.0 smartphone, I'm ready to render my judgment - she's beautiful, but not the kind of device worth breaking up your current smartphone marriage for. Not yet, at least.

Allow me to elaborate with the help of some convenient categories.

Physical Beauty

The Ascend P1 is neither Huawei's fastest phone, nor its thinnest, but it is still quite thin and gorgeous, with a slight hump that will be familiar to users of Motorola's Droid Razr. The real source of the beauty here though is the brilliant 4.3" Super AMOLED display. The vibrant colors on this thing really pop, especially yellows, reds and oranges.

The body is made mostly of plastic, which feels a bit cheap, but it's also extremely light and feels like a feather in your hand or pocket.

While the back and body isn't exactly rugged, the Gorilla Glass that makes up the display helps to compensate on the front of the phone, and protects that intense, eye-catching display.

The profile of a Droid Razr (in white) and the Ascend P1
The profile of a Droid Razr (in white) and the Ascend P1

A Phone that Wants To Be Used By You

Veteran smartphone users will appreciate the fact that the Ascend P1 comes with almost no bloatware or underwhelming manufacturer skins and features. The few utilitarian apps that are included - a flashlight, sound recorder, Polaris Office, Movie Studio and FM Radio, among others - are a light, but nice, touch.

We've been hearing a lot about Huawei's "Emotion" UI, but only a few drops of it appear here, including the 3D home screens feature that adds some nice visual effects to enjoy on that sweet display. It also allows for continuous swiping through home screens - no hitting a "wall" on your last home screen and having to reverse back through.

All in all, this Android 4.0 phone has one of the best implementations of Ice Cream Sandwich I've seen this side of a Galaxy Nexus, although its touchscreen seems just a smidge less responsive than some other top-flight Android phones available right now.

Keeping three hard buttons is a nice touch and preferable in my mind to the Google approach of doing away with them altogether, although I miss the search button that Huawei dropped from the front of the Ascend P1.

Here's the 3D user interface in action
Here's the 3D user interface in action

Hearty Hardware

The dual-core 1.5 Ghz processor and PowerVR SGX540 graphics chip and 1 GB of RAM at the heart of the Ascend P1 keep pace with most things you can use it for, but it is possible to bog this device down after a while. I found other leading Android phones, like the Galaxy Nexus and Droid Razr, to be just a little bit snappier.

The speakers on this skinny little phone are another high point, especially when the Dolby surround sound software is activated. Unfortunately that little sound boost isn't supported in all apps, but the native music player can kick out the jams as well as any other smartphone.

Dolby surround sound helps create one of the best sounding phone speakers around
Dolby surround sound helps create one of the best sounding phone speakers around

Wi-fi, Bluetooth and a radio that works on HSPA networks round out what's to like about the guts of this phone. Unfortunately, there's some other details I wasn't so thrilled with.

Ascending, But Not All The Way

First there's the sealed battery, which Huawei would likely have you believe is the price of having such a thin profile.

The 8 megapixel camera also left something to be desired. Although the ability to shoot 1080p video is a bonus, overall I found it exceedingly temperamental and had a hard time getting good still shots.

It was difficult to take decent photos in anything but ideal conditions with the Ascend P1
It was difficult to take decent photos in anything but ideal conditions with the Ascend P1

The on-board storage is minimal, so you'll likely want to account for the cost of a microSD card with your purchase as well.

Finally, the Ascend P1 comes only with a slot for a standard SIM card (the bigger one), no 4G connectivity and no subsidies from carriers in the United States.

Conclusion

The lack of 4G and backing from a U.S. carrier will be deal-breakers for most American consumers. In Asia and other markets, however, the Ascend P1 could be a real player, especially if you're not particularly concerned with the quality of your phone's camera.

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets.   All articles by Eric Mack
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