Huawei has built a huge 6.1-inch phone, but how does it stack up to the rest of the competition? Let's find out
Thanks to Samsung, we are now seeing more and more manufacturers creating big phones. I really hate the word phablet, but that's really what they are. A phone/tablet hybrid. Dell initially started it with the Dell Streak, but that device didn't really catch on. Not in the way that the Galaxy Note and Note 2 did for Samsung. Since then we've seen Sony announce the 6.44-inch Xperia Z Ultra, HTC is rumored to announce a bigger version of their One, and there's also the Huawei Ascend Mate. The Ascend Mate was announced back at CES earlier this year and it was a pretty popular phone on our site during that time. Because many of our readers love the big phones like the Galaxy Note 2. The Ascend Mate is only currently available in Asia, so you won't see it on any carriers here in the US. But you can buy it unlocked. I can also confirm that it works on T-Mobile and AT&T's HSPA+ networks. There's no LTE support for the US carriers, so if you're fine without LTE then the Ascend Mate will work on any GSM carrier here in the US.
Now as far as specs go, we're looking at:
- 6.1-inch 1280×720 resolution IPS+ display
- 2GB of RAM
- 8GB internal storage; supports microSD card
- Huawei K3V2 quad-core 1.5GHz processor
- 4050mAh battery
- Android 4.1.2
- 8MP camera on the back, 1MP on the front
The display on the Huawei Ascend Mate is pretty spectacular. While Huawei says it's 720p, I don't believe them. It looks a lot better than 720p. I've been using the Ascend Mate as my daily driver (replacing my Nexus 4) for about a week now and I really wish this display was on my Nexus 4. Even though it's technically the same display as the Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 has a 1280×768 resolution IPS+ display, so the Ascend Mate's is the same just bigger. It's really a great size for watching YouTube videos or just videos in general.
This is really the first Huawei device I've used, and I have to say I'm pretty impressed by the build quality. I mean it's nothing pretty like the HTC One, but it feels like it was made to last. The back has a kind of rubberized material which makes it a bit more difficult for you to drop it, compared to other devices out there. The sides appear to be made out of aluminum too. Then on the front the bezels are fairly small, especially for a phone of this size.
On the front, we've got the 6.1-inch 720p display with the front-facing 1MP camera and speaker grill up top. On the top we've got the micro SIM card slot and the headphone jack. On the right side there is the power and volume rocker. At the bottom there's the micro USB port and on the left side is the microSD card slot. Flipping the device over to the back you'll see the 8MP camera and flash along with Huawei's logo.
The processor inside the Ascend Mate is the K3V2 which is built by Huawei. The chip runs on Cortex A9 cores, so it's fairly powerful. What also helps is that Huawei hasn't bogged down the system like certain other manufacturers have. Just in day-to-day activities the Ascend Mate was very snappy. In fact, the only slow downs appeared to be the speed of T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. When changing screens, if I blink I'd miss it. It's just that fast. And I was thoroughly impressed by the performance of the device. Huawei also has the K3V3 coming out later this year, which is based off of ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, so I'm excited to see what kind of power that will bring to their phones and tablets.
Emotion UI v1.5
The skin that Huawei uses on their devices is called the Emotion UI. Now the version that is on the Ascend Mate is 1.5. There are some things I like about it, but there are also some things I dislike. To me it seems to be a lot like MIUI. There's no App Drawer. Instead all of your apps are on your home screen, which took some getting used to for me since I like keeping my homescreens clean. You can see what I mean in the screenshots above.
Additionally, the Emotion UI allows you to customize the theme of your phone. You can change the lock screen style, the icon style, the wallpaper for both the lock screen and home screen, the font, and so much more all from the 'Themes' app on the device. This is actually something I wish more manufacturers did. Of course, you can always install Nova or Apex launcher if you really want the stock Android look and feel.
Some of the apps look a bit different on the device. While it still has parts of the stock Android look and feel, as you can see in the status bar of some of these screenshots, the Settings app is very much themed. But it's not terrible. It's actually white with a black font. It's tabbed like Samsung's Galaxy S4's Settings app, but you can also just see all settings in one place which is really nice. You'll also notice that there are options for one-handed operation. Which work with the keyboard, dialer and i call keypad as well as the unlock screen. Now I wasn't too fond of their keyboard so I quickly installed Swiftkey, which doesn't work with their one-handed operation settings.
Another interesting feature here is the "Suspend Button" which basically looks like Halo from Paranoid Android or Chat Heads from Facebook. It allows you to open the calculator, camera, messages, or take a note from any screen on the phone. Which is pretty darn cool.
Hey it's Android 4.1.2, not sure there's much to be said about it. The Ascend Mate does use on-screen navigation buttons, which you can hide easily which I find pretty cool. The on-screen buttons make it easier to access Google Now, at least in my opinion. But for some reason the newest version of Google+ keeps giving me a Force Close. It looks like only the version of Google+ that shipped on the device works. So it must be a problem on Huawei's end. All the other Android 4.1 features are there including Project Butter, expandable notifications and more.
It's important to note here that Huawei doesn't sell many devices here in the US. In fact, most of them are mid-range and low-end devices, like the myTouch for T-Mobile. Thus, showing us in the US that they aren't good with updating phones. Now this could be completely wrong, since their flagships never make it here so we really never hear about them. But seeing a device that was announced in January, and now 7 months later it's still running Android 4.1 which is now 2 full versions behind, kind of proves my point. This isn't bashing Huawei at all, in fact I'm a huge fan of the Ascend Mate, we just want our readers to know the good and the bad.
The Camera UI on the Ascend Mate is pretty simplistic in my opinion. You can easily see the option to change cameras in the top corner along with the flash. There's also the arrow on the side that allows you to dive into the settings. As well as the option to switch from camera to camcorder in the usual spot. Nothing too out of the ordinary here. Down below you can see a couple of shots I took with the Ascend Mate. One with the flash and the other without.
For a 6.1-inch phone with a 4050mAh battery, the battery life has been pretty good in my opinion. As you can see from the image above, I did use it quite a bit. I was pretty impressed by how great the battery actually performed on this huge phone. Although it does have a huge battery to match.
- Display: It's a huge phone, and the display is amazing. While Huawei says it's a 720p display, I think it's definitely closer to 1080p
- Battery Life: As I stated above, this battery can definitely last you all day long and then some. Which is great to see.
- Works on T-Mobile and AT&T: For those looking to import the Ascend Mate into the US, it does work on T-Mobile and AT&T. But there's no LTE connectivity on the unlocked version. So you are stuck with each carriers HSPA+ network.
- The size: Now this is just my opinion, but the phone is just to big for my liking. I like big phones because they have big batteries, but I think 6.1-inches is pushing it a bit.
- Not Available in the US: Sure you can get it unlocked, but that's not going to make it a huge seller here in the US.
If you love big phones or "phablets" like the Galaxy Note line or the Xperia Z Ultra. Then you're going to love the Ascend Mate. The build quality of this device is right up there with HTC and the One. I didn't personally like the size of this phone, doesn't mean that others won't. The only real gripe I have is that the Google+ app doesn't work on the phone, only the version that shipped on the device works. Which leads me to believe it's a problem from Huawei and not Google. Other than that it's a pretty solid phone that I wish was available here in the US on a few carriers. I know a few people that would love to upgrade to this phone.