Huawei Ascend P6

30th Sep 2013 | 09:41

Huawei Ascend P6

Huawei takes on the Android big guns with its strongest smartphone yet

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

The Ascend P6 shows that the Chinese manufacturer can really make an impression on the Android market with its stunningly slim - if slightly derivative - design, as well as some quirky features that mark it out as a little bit different. But it's playing catch-up to an ever strengthening pack.

Like:

Sharp design; Extremely thin and light; Strong screen;

Dislike:

Small internal storage; Weak apps and widgets; App compatibility issues;

Introduction

The Huawei Ascend P6 represents the Chinese smartphone manufacturer's biggest attempt yet to join the Android elite. It boasts a level of design and a range of quietly innovative features that are in many ways worthy of Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony at their best.

Despite this, it's not quite in the same category as the absolute top-spec beasts such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, and Sony Xperia Z. In fact, with its 4.7-inch 720p display and 8-megapixel camera it's closer in raw specs to the likes of the Google Nexus 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Infact the Huawei Ascend P2 features slightly better specs such as a 13MP rear camera, although it's body isn't as premium as the P6's.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Of course, with the phone set to be offered for around £25 per month on contract, the Ascend P6 will also be considerably cheaper than the current top crop. You might even call it an upper-mid range device.

But you get the feeling Huawei is taking a slightly different approach here. With some of its sleek hardware, software design cues and focus on style and functionality over willy-waving specs, the Huawei Ascend P6 appears to be following Apple's lead more than any of the aforementioned Android giants.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

It's immediately clear the moment you take it out of its classy, compact white box. The super-slim, squared-off body, flat surfaces and metallic rim are pure iPhone 5 (though the colouring of our black model is closer to the iPhone 4S). It even comes with its own pre-packed 'bumper', but don't worry - we didn't notice any death-grip issues.

That's not to say that the Huawei Ascend P6 is a straight-ahead iPhone knock-off - its rounded bottom edge and subtly textured rear see off that charge.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Unlike the major devices listed above, then, the Huawei Ascend P6 doesn't have a distinctive design language to call its own, but that doesn't mean it isn't a pleasure to hold and to look at.

The handset's sleek design isn't just easy on the eye, either. At a shade under 6.2 mm thick, Huawei is claiming that this is the slimmest smartphone in the world. It's certainly a good 1.4 mm thinner than the iPhone 5 and a whopping 3.1 mm slimmer than the HTC One, which is the closest Android phone to this in terms of premium feel.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

At 120g, the Huawei Ascend P6 is also a good 10 grams lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Google Nexus 4.

All in all,the phone's lightness and slimness, allied to an extremely thin bezel, makes for a rare 4.7-inch smartphone that's viable to use one-handed - provided you have reasonably long flexible fingers, of course.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Going back to that 4.7-inch display, whilst it's 'only' a 720p model - which means it can't compete with 1080p big-hitters like the HTC One for sheer sharpness - it is one of the better examples of its kind.

Colour reproduction is excellent, and you can tweak the colour temperature within the settings menu if you're used to a warmer or cooler display.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

There's even a Magic Touch feature that enables you to use the phone with your gloves on, which is a fantastic thing to have when you live in a generally chilly country like the UK.

This should really be in more smartphones by now, but so far it's only really Nokia (although the likes of Samsung and co. are getting on board slowly) that's adopted it with any enthusiasm. Well done Huawei.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

In terms of external ports and buttons, Huawei has made some interesting decisions. The power button and volume rocker placement is pretty tradition, up high on the right hand side. In both look and ultra-clicky feel they reminded us of the Asus PadFone 2 equivalents, which is no bad thing.

The most notable thing on the controls front is the lack of physical or capacitive control keys. Rather, Huawei is one of the few third party manufacturers to follow Google's lead and opt for virtual buttons built into the UI (more on which in a moment).

Huawei Ascend P6 review

The ports are even more unorthodox. You'll find the microUSB port situated on the top edge of the Ascend P6, which is unusual in itself. But the truly out-there element here is the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is situated right at the bottom of the left hand edge.

That would be odd enough, but then there's the bizarre metal nub-like cover that we initially mistook for a lanyard hook. Once removed, it turns out that it's a small drawing pin-shaped tool for accessing the Ascend P6's SIM and microSD trays.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

It looks quite stylish when in place and serves its purpose well when out and in use, but what do you do with this tiny metal object when you're using the headphone socket? Lose it, we suspect.

Still, at least there is a microSD slot present to require such a tool. With a paltry 8GB of internal storage available here, additional memory is sorely needed. For music fans, gamers, and power users 8GB definitely won't be enough, so we're extremely glad that Huawei included a microSD slot - even if accessing it proves a little fiddly.

Interface

The Huawei Ascend P6 runs on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which is the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. While Huawei has layered on its own Emotion UI, it still benefits from the optimisations made to the core OS, and swiping between home pages and through apps feels for the most part buttery smooth.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei's Emotion UI is one of the cleaner custom efforts we've seen from Android manufacturers, though it doesn't quite match up to the level of fit and finish found in the Ascend P6's hardware.

It's certainly not without its faults - chiefly in the shape of some poorly executed and thoroughly unnecessary custom apps, which we'll discuss later - but at least the core navigation experience is very slick.

As with the hardware, Huawei appears to have looked to Apple when it comes to software. Not only do the square app folders smack of iOS, but Huawei has taken the unusual step of removing the Android app tray altogether.

Whereas virtually every other custom Android UI copies stock Android in providing a shortcut to a menu of every app stored on the device, Huawei's Emotion UI doesn't. What you see on its multiple home screens (you can have up to nine) is what you get.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

This may take some getting used to for long time Android users, but it's really no great hardship. It simply places the onus on creating logically themed app folders, and remembering that you can use the Google Search function to locate specific apps installed on your device.

One thing that feels like a missed opportunity given the lack of an app drawer button is the size of the fixed app bar at the bottom of the home screen.

It would have been nice to have a fifth slot for another frequently used app, but instead Huawei has gone with a chunky four-icons-wide approach.

Another notable feature of Emotion UI is the choice of themes you have. Enter the Themes app and you'll be presented with five possible skins stored locally on your handset. Each them presents a new background skin and complementary stock app icons, as well as unique lockscreen configurations.

You can also customise each element of these skins - so for example you might want the Halo lockscreen for its four unlock shortcuts (the rest have two), but prefer the Apple-esque (pre-iOS 7) brushed aluminum style of the default Taste theme.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

There are also a bunch of additional themes that can be downloaded to your phone, expanding the potential for personalisation considerably. It feels a little like downloading a new launcher each time, though in truth the core elements of the UI remain unchanged.

We're not going to say that we prefer this Emotion UI to stock Android - in fact it remains slightly childish-looking and a little unfinished - but at least Huawei is trying something a little different.

Unlike Samsung, for example, it's actually tried to simplify the Android OS and make it more intuitive and attractive to the casual user.

The addition of a dedicated Profiles app, which lets you add customised profiles (who would have guessed?) with tweakable volume, brightness, vibration level and more, is another strong feature of the Emotion UI.

Huawei's own Me widget, which occupies your main homescreen by default is a bit of a mixed bag. It's a mish-mash of basic functions that occupies a good two thirds of the screen.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

The weather section is functional but ugly, while the two preferred contact shortcuts are reasonably useful.

The picture book provides a nice automated carousel of your pictures, but it seems strange that it doesn't also provide a shortcut to the Gallery itself.

Most if not all of these functions can be better handled by individual widgets, but at least it's a small matter to delete and replace them through the time-honoured Android method of pressing and holding on a blank area of the homescreen.

As we've made reference to already, the Huawei Ascend P6 adopts Google's preference for virtual navigation buttons over physical equivalents (unlike the Ascend P2 and Huawei Ascend G510), so it's wisely kept the Android functionality related to these keys pretty well untouched.

There are the same back, home and multitasking buttons that generally make themselves available when needed and dip out of view when not needed - though they continue to remain distractingly present during many games.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Multitasking works exactly the same as in stock Android, with a vertical list of snapshots of recently opened apps frozen in the state you left them. They can be jumped into with a touch or dismissed with a swipe.

Notifications are handled in a very similar way to stock Android, with incoming messages, app updates and system requests accessible through a drag-down menu at the top of the homescreen, as well as a number of apps.

Individual items can then be jumped to with a tap or dismissed with a swipe, and some things - like emails - can even be responded to from within the notification bar.

The main change here, other than the switch to a brighter colour palette, is the custom Huawei settings toggles at the top of the notification menu.

You get a choice of nine functions in a horizontally scrolling sub-menu, including Wi-Fi, GPS, and screen brightness. You can customise these from a permanently available 'More' option.

As discussed, the lockscreen changes according to the theme and your own preferences, but the best one contains four drag-to-activate shortcuts for home screen, camera, messaging and phone.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

If you're playing a music track through the default Music app or (more likely) Google Music, then you'll also get pause and skip command shortcuts added to the lockscreen too.

Besides the strong Android 4.2.2 foundation and relatively light Emotion UI skin, the Huawei Ascend P6 has the benefit of a 1.5GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB of RAM to keep things ticking long smoothly.

We did notice a little choppiness when multiple things were happening simultaneously (multiple apps downloading or updating in the background for example), but in general usage we found it to be fine.

Our benchmarks revealed that this unit's CPU credentials are roughly in the region (in fact falling a little short) of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and other phones of the 2012 elite class, which tallies with the Ascend P6's other specs and price point.

Contacts and calling

Contacts

As with previous Huawei handsets containing the Emotion UI, the Huawei Ascend P6 derives its Contacts app from the stock Android utility.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

This makes for a clean, tidy and intuitive way to locate and interact with your contacts list, and we still have no real complaints about the way Android handles this.

There's a lack of social network account integration by default, but the official Twitter and Facebook apps are only a short hop to the Google Play Store away.

The stock Contacts app contains three main tabs for accessing a list of all your contacts, as well as one for Groups and Favourites - a great way to message multiple contacts and minimise scrolling through hundreds of names to get to the same few people respectively.

Heading into an individual contact listing brings up all of the information on that person that you have tied to your Google account. Tapping the message or phone icon from here will bring up a choice of messaging or calling apps through which you can chat with your contact.

If you have Skype or WhatsApp installed, for example, they will appear here alongside the stock SMS app. This stage can be dismissed by selecting a standard method, if you so wish.

Calling

Huawei has stuck with the stock Android calling app for the Ascend P6, which is another wise decision given its slick tie-in with and thematic similarity to the contacts (or People) app.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

It's another case of crisp, minimalistic Google design, and it doesn't feel completely out of place here given the stripped-back nature of the Emotion UI.

More importantly, it's incredibly functional. A chunky dialpad takes up the bottom two thirds of the screen, along with shortcuts to the contacts app, options, and a bright green call button.

You can also make use of smart dialling - just type in the bits of a number you can remember and the top third of the screen will instantly narrow down the numbers that contain this sequence.

Otherwise, the top part of the screen contains your most recent calls, ready to be called again with a tap.

Calls on the Huawei Ascend P6 were impressively loud and clear during our tests, and we didn't experience any drop outs or issues with holding the device in a certain way - which is reassuring given the design's similarity to the iPhone 4.

Messaging

The Huawei Ascend P6 is as complete a messaging device as any other modern Android phone - which is a round-about way of saying that emailing and texting is pretty much identical.

But that's okay. Android is possibly the best smartphone platform around for messaging. Why mess with what works best?

Huawei Ascend P6 review

The actual messaging app on the Huawei Ascend P6 is, once again, derived from the stock Android Jelly Bean example. You get a sparse, clear conversation view with speech bubbles that alternate between the left and right hand side of the screen, as well as between white and green, depending on who is talking.

It's incredibly easy to follow conversation threads in this way, which is why it's a method that pretty much everyone has adopted, including Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone.

You can also zoom into and out here to make the text bigger or smaller, and there's a permanent phone icon at the top of the screen to jump you into a phone call with the current message recipient.

As has become normal with Android phones these days, the Huawei Ascend P6 comes with a choice of keyboards - the stock Android Jelly Bean example and a custom one from the manufacturer.

The Jelly Bean example is preferable thanks to its voice-input and smart prediction capabilities, the latter of which offers you a constantly updating choice of possible words based on your inputs.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

This isn't the latest version of the Android keyboard, however, and it's worthwhile downloading Google Keyboard from the Google Play Store. This is very similar, but it adds a swipe-based (and Swype-like) handwriting system that many users have grown to prefer.

The Huawei Input Method may not be as strong, but it has a couple of unique ideas that we rather like. Its method of selecting the alternative inputs by swiping down is excellent, and far smoother than the standard long-press method.

We also appreciated the ability to switch to a T9 keyboard by swiping to the left or the right, which makes one-handed text input a real possibility.

Email is handled by the standard Gmail app, which has recently been improved considerably. As mentioned earlier, you can now reply to or archive emails directly from the notification menu.

There's also now a slide-out folder navigation menu and a new system that tags each email with the profile pictures of all the contacts involved.

In addition, there's a standard email app that enables you to pull in any other email POP3 or IMAP accounts you might have. You can flick between multiple email accounts easily enough, but we were strangely unable to set up our Yahoo account whilst our Apple 'Me' account worked just fine.

Internet

Huawei joins the likes of Asus in including both the stock Android web browser and Google Chrome with the Ascend P6. It's a baffling decision any way you look at it, though not a unique one.

There's absolutely no call for two web browsers on mobile, especially when one is the natural replacement for the other from the exact same developer (Google).

Huawei Ascend P6 review

In fact, we'd say that the old-style Android browser has been made the default, purely because it stands on its own on the home screen, whilst Chrome is tucked away within a Google apps folder.

That's not to say that the Android browser is bad. It's still a very slick way to browse the internet, with tabbed browsing and the ability to save pages for later offline viewing.

It's just that Chrome is better. It's quicker, better looking, and it ties in with the desktop version of the browser - which is one of the world's most popular, lest we forget - to enable synced bookmarks and search results.

Chrome no longer supports Flash, but that's no longer the pain in the neck that it used to be. The web is rapidly transitioning to HTML5. Still, if you really must have a Flash-compatible web browsing experience on your Huawei Ascend P6, there's always Firefox on the Google Play Store.

The beauty of Android is that you can swap to any other browser - be it Opera, Firefox, Dolphin, or any of the others - and make it your default option.

But with Chrome on board, we can't see that this will be necessary for many people. Just find a nice quiet folder to tuck the Android browser into (it can't be deleted) and pull Chrome out of its corner.

Camera

There are signs of notable innovation in the Huawei Ascend P6's camera set-up. The first caused a bit of a double take when we first saw the spec sheet - it has a 5-megapixel FRONT-facing camera.

That's a lot of pixels for something that's essentially used for video calls and the odd casual self-shot. Even high-end Android phones tend to have only 2-megapixel front-facing cameras at best.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

With the addition of Huawei's facial enhancement software, and the default two-second countdown timer when you switch to the front camera, Huawei is clearly angling for for improved self-portrait photos.

Beauty mode gives you an instant airbrush effect that smooths out those wrinkles and pock marks. This can be adjusted on a scale of one to ten, with the top setting making you look a little odd and rubbery, like a soap star in a cheap gossip mag.

The front-facing 'selfie' shots do pack in a little more detail than rival efforts, but not to the point where you'll be taking any serious images with it. The real mark of a strong smartphone camera tends not to be the megapixel count. As we've discovered, the image sensor and lens array is far more important.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Which brings us to the main rear-facing camera. It's an 8MP effort, which is in keeping with the Huawei Ascend P6's upper-mid-range specs. It follows the pattern for your average smartphone camera in taking decent pictures in optimal lighting and slightly noisy, washed-out images in anything less.

But where it truly impresses is in its 4cm macro capabilities, which allow you to get in extremely close for those arty Instagram-worthy shots. Combined with a healthy f/2.0 aperture, you can get some lovely depth of field effects with plenty of detail in the foreground and deliberately defocused background (also known as 'bokeh').

Another noteworthy camera trick Huawei has included with the Ascend P6 is a special shooting mode that, each time you press the shutter button, takes both a standard single shot and an HDR (High Dynamic Range) one simultaneously.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

We're big fans of this in principle, because it means you get the benefit of HDR without having to specifically set it up - the hassle of which can leave the feature neglected by most users. HDR can often help out when there's a strong contrast between shade and light within a single picture, but it's also dependent on a steady hand and a reasonably static subject for decent results.

This special mode gives you the chance at getting those balanced HDR images with the constant fall-back of a normal image. Having said that, we were left a little disappointed with the HDR results on the Ascend P6, with only a slightly noticeable improvement in contrast and occasionally unnatural-looking skies.

Elsewhere, the camera UI is a bit of a mixed bag. Previewing images feels plain weird, as you realise that swiping 'back' through your pictures (left to right) will return you to the live view. Instead you need to swipe 'forward' in order to navigate backwards. It will feel a little counter-intuitive to some.

Elsewhere you'll find standard Panoramic and Effect modes, with the latter providing a somewhat scanty eight filters to apply to your live pictures.

Other camera settings are generally quite limited, and things like ISO and white balance are tucked away in a menu-within-a-menu, making them impractical to access in a pinch when you're trying to nail that chance shot. Which is pretty much what mobile photography is all about, after all.

All in all a clean and generally intuitive camera UI, but with one or two quirks and limitations.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Video

We found the Huawei Ascend P6 to be merely competent when it came to shooting video. It can handle Full HD 1080p footage, though in our experience it wasn't completely smooth, with the odd noticeable glitch or stutter.

Video is set to 720p by default - perhaps due to the Ascend P6's limited internal storage, or perhaps because 720p video is that much easier and quicker to share.

Reasonably impressive was the way the phone handled changes in light when moving from the glare of a sunny summer afternoon to the shade of a tree and out again. The auto-correction on these occasions was quick and effective, which is all you can ask of an upper mid-range smartphone camera.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

One notable feature that's missing here, and which can be found in most of the Huawei Ascend P6's high-end (and near-high-end) rivals, is the ability to take stills whilst recording video. Instead you simply have the option to switch between the two with a virtual toggle.

On the other hand, image stabilisation, HDR video and object tracking are all options within the stripped-back video interface, though as with the phone's Full HD capability they're all turned off by default.

Image stabilisation didn't seem to be particularly effective when, for example, taking a video whilst walking along.

Media

The Android platform has grown into one of the best media portals around, and the Huawei Ascend P6 generally capitalises on this well with its strong hardware - though the lack of internal storage is an issue.

Add a hefty microSD card, though, and you'll have a fine music and video-playing device in your pocket.

Although the Ascend P6 has access to the full suite of Google media apps, its own attempts at media apps are somewhat below par. Still, if Android is about one thing it's flexibility, and you can really shape your media needs as you see fit here.

Music

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Nowhere is the mixed nature of the Huawei Ascend P6's software offering better illustrated than with music.

Starting with the positive - which is the dominant feeling here - Huawei has included Google Music in amongst the suite of Google apps. It's a sublime music player in every way.

Google Music acts as stylish music playing app (complete with lock screen and notification bar control shortcuts), MP3 store (through Google's well-stocked and cheap online service) and cloud music player all in one.

The latter point is particularly noteworthy, because it allows you to either stream your MP3 purchases direct to your ears or upload your personal music collection to the cloud for free (up to 20,000 tracks), and then stream it back over a Wi-Fi or network connection.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Google Music is a winner, then. Which makes us wonder why Huawei then bothered to include its own markedly inferior Music app.

It's functional, with its own notification and lockscreen shortcut controls, but it's ugly when compared to the slick official Google equivalent.

Even worse, it refuses to play nicely with Google Music. Tracks downloaded through Google Music don't seem to appear on Huawei's music app by default, requiring instead that you hook your phone up to your computer and drag and drop files the old fashioned way.

But Huawei redeems this misstep with a fine Dolby Digital Plus sound enhancement system that genuinely boosts and enhances the listening experience without unbalancing the sound profile (hello Beats Audio).

There's real depth and clarity of the sound output here, it seems - and yes, it also works with Google Music.

Video

The Huawei Ascend P6 handled a range of 720p and 1080p MP4 and H.264 video files admirably, but its main strength on the video front is it 4.7-inch 720p display.

It's not the biggest or the sharpest smartphone screen we've encountered in 2013, but it's bright and crisp, rendering HD video very cleanly indeed.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Streaming HD video over YouTube is also faultless, although we did notice a persistent glitch on the right hand side of the screen when streaming HD video through the Netflix app.

As with a number of the minor technical issues we encountered with apps and media content we're hoping these are just compatibility issues with Huawei's custom CPU, and that they can be sorted with a software fix once the handset is out there and selling.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Photos

Viewing photos on the Huawei Ascend P6 is a generally pleasant experience, again thanks to that bright 4.7-inch 720p display and the phone's capable camera.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

The Gallery app itself is a fairly bare bones effort, though. Through it you access photos, videos, and even any movies you might have installed on the phone.

The photos and videos are all squeezed together into the same folder, and we would have preferred a little more separation here.

Still, the general thumbnail preview page is intuitive and quick-loading - it's pretty easy to jump to the image you want to see.

There are also four fairly self explanatory tabs for adding some kind of order to your images - Albums, Time, Location and People.

Entering the People tab will run some facial recognition software, allowing your to tag individual faces - though in our experience it didn't pick up on all of the faces in our collection, such as those that were snapped at a bit of an angle.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

You can do a spot of light picture editing from the Gallery too - just enter an image and go into the menu to access an Edit option that lets you crop, straighten, rotate, filter, and add effects or borders to your images.

There are more powerful and fully featured editing apps on the Play Store, but it's a welcome inclusion nonetheless.

Sharing is an absolute doddle - just hit the share button, followed by the app or service you want to use, and then select the corresponding thumbnails you want to share.

There's a DLNA app pre-installed for hooking up to your TV, console or any other compatible device, which applies to pushing the videos out too.

Battery life and connectivity

Battery life

The Huawei Ascend P6's 2000mAh battery is about right for a modern quad-core smartphone with a bright 720p HD display, sitting somewhere between the similar Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X.

That this average battery size didn't impact on the device's below-average size and weight is a tribute to Huawei's engineers.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

We managed to wring a full day's usage out of the phone when used normally (a bit of web browsing, light gaming, a few calls and lots of emails and messages) with a reasonable amount left in the tank. Huawei claims to have implemented a couple of energy-saving technologies into the Ascend P6 to facilitate this.

For one thing, it utilises Huawei's Quick Power Control (QPC) and Automated Discontinuous Reception (ADRX) tech to optimise power usage. Huawei also claims that packing all the antennae equipment into the plastic section on the bottom of the device preserves battery life.

In our standard battery test, which involves running a 90 minute 720p video with the screen set to full brightness and all push notifications on, we were left with an average of 78 percent battery life left in the tank.

That's pretty strong. For example, it's exactly the same as the similarly specced Asus PadFone 2 (the 'Fone' part, obviously), despite that device having a larger battery to call upon. Impressive.

Connectivity

There are no surprises on the connectivity front - the Huawei Ascend P6 is every inch the modern upper-mid-range Android phone. This means that all of the main connection options are present and accounted for, but you'll miss out on NFC and 4G.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Given the lack of widespread support for both standards here in the UK, we'd argue that neither is a massive loss - especially if, as is likely, their absence is a contributing factor to the Ascend P6's super-slim body and adequate battery life.

Although if mobile payments finally take off nationwide over the course of your two year contract, you might come to curse Huawei's decision to omit NFC.

Otherwise you get Wi-Fi, GPS, HSPA+ (21 Mbit/s download, 5.76 Mbit/s upload) and Bluetooth connectivity.

There's also a prominent portable Wi-Fi hotspot utility featured on one of the homescreens, enabling you to connect your laptop or tablet up to the internet using the Ascend P6's network connection.

As mentioned already, you also get DLNA connectivity for wireless media streaming to your smart TV, console, or set-top box, and you can charge and hook up to your computer via a microUSB slot on top of the phone.

Hooking up to your computer presents a familiar drag-and-drop interface whether you opt for Media Device or USB storage. What's more, the File Manager app that Huawei provides an easy way to access any files you bring across without having to go searching for the appropriate app to access them with.

Maps and apps

Maps

Mercifully, Huawei hasn't tried to offer an alternative mapping solution to the imperious Google Maps. When even Apple with its resources struggles to top it, you do well to call it quits - especially when Google Maps is an Android OS staple anyway.

Maps

It's perhaps telling that the Google Maps app is the only pure Google app to be given its own homescreen allotment outside of the Huawei Ascend P6's default Google apps folder.

It runs predictably well on Huawei's latest smartphone. You have impressively accurate worldwide maps at your disposal, with many of the major cities featuring integrated public transport information and thousands of featured points of interest (restaurants, shops, attractions etc) listed and rated.

Then there's the famed StreetView, which provides interactive photos of virtually every major road and side street in the civilised world. Or at least it feels that way.

You can save limited portions of the map to the Ascend P6's storage, though this still feels like a bit of a half-measure next to something like Nokia's HERE Maps on Windows Phone, which allows for the pre-installation of full countries.

As it is, you'll still realistically need a 3G connection to get the full Google Maps experience while visiting, for example, a foreign city.

Apps

Huawei Ascend P6 review

We've made mention of the fact that the Huawei Ascend P6 comes with a full host of Google apps pre-installed. Besides Google Maps, Gmail and Google Music you get such heavy hitters as Google+, YouTube, and the new Hangouts IM and video calling app (via an update), among others.

These Google maps alone can power you through most of your mobile usage, and that's not even including the likes of Google Drive and Google Keep, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store for free (granting you free cloud storage and cloud note-taking respectively).

Ah yes, Google Play Store. We continue to be amazed at the strides this has taken in recent years; from shoddy, sparsely populated joke to vibrant App Store beater.

In terms of speed, features and design it's far nicer to use than Apple's trend-setting equivalent. The range of apps and games isn't quite there yet, but it's not far off. Almost all of the major apps are present and accounted for on Google Play, including the likes of Dropbox, Instagram, Vine, and Netflix.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Despite a generally slick experience, there are app-related issues specific to the Huawei Ascend P6. For example, when we updated the Google+ app to the latest version, it didn't work, forcing us to roll back to the default option.

Another clash came when downloading Google's own Calendar app to sit alongside the stock example (also called Calendar), which appeared to confuse the phone. It attributed the same icon as the stock example to it, which was a little weird.

There are also issues with gaming apps. For one thing, complex 3D titles such as Real Racing 3, Reckless Racing 2 and Rise of Blobs seem to struggle for performance on the Huawei Ascend P6.

Whether this is a compatibility issue that will be corrected with a simple driver update or individual developer tweaks, or a more serious case of Huawei's GPU solution not being up to the task, we don't know.

We'll have to wait and see on this front, but hardcore mobile gamers might want to hold off until matters become clearer.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Sticking with games, many don't seem to take into account those virtual controls. When playing HD video they'll dip into the background, but that's not always the case with games, shortening the game field a little and generally getting in the way.

Huawei Ascend P6 review

The other minor irritation with the Huawei Ascend P6's app offering has already been touched upon in the Interface section - Huawei's rudimentary stock apps.

One more irritant we should highlight here is the Permission Manager that acts like an over-eager shopping centre security guard, constantly checking every time a new app tries to do what it was designed for.

We're all for mobile security, but Huawei's solution seems slightly too over-zealous in its policing. Perhaps it's just the way Huawei presents these checks, but it could do with toning them down a little.

You also get access to Bitcasa, which offers 20GB of free cloud storage for your files. It's no Dropbox, but it's a welcome addition nonetheless.

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

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Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Huawei Ascend P6 review

Verdict

Huawei is really hitting its hardware stride, and with the Huawei Ascend P6 it's shown that it can put together a premium-feeling smartphone every inch as special as the major Android players it's out to emulate.

Speaking of inches, the Ascend P6's teeny-tiny waistline is truly a thing to behold - and indeed hold - and actually serves to make it feel like a much smaller phone than its 4.7-inch display would suggest.

Where the phone falls down - and where Huawei really needs to improve if it's to push on and join Samsung, HTC et al in the Android elite - is with the fit and finish of its software. Emotion UI and its attendant apps still feel like a work in progress, though one that's not without promise.

The Chinese firm has also shot itself in the foot somewhat, as the Ascend P2 is very similar in terms of specs, with a slightly better camera and more internal storage, but minus the slender, premium design and microSD slot of the Ascend P6 - this will surely only confuse consumers.

We liked

The Huawei Ascend P6 is a beautifully designed and constructed handset that feels really good in the hand. If you still think of Huawei as churning out cheap and cheerful entry level handsets, this should set you right.

It's also got a truly excellent 4.7-inch LCD display. Yes, it's 'only' 720p, but it's still a crisp and sharp example that makes any media content look great.

And besides, at around £10 a month cheaper than high-end 1080p phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, it's going to come into consideration for a lot more people.

Emotion UI does a lot of interesting things, such as dropping the App menu and offering multiple themes.

The 8MP camera is capable of some crisp images given enough light, but the star of the show is the phone's Macro capabilities. This is a potential Instagram star.

We disliked

Emotion UI doesn't quite feel there yet with its somewhat crude icons and clunky stock apps. If Huawei could design software as sharp as its hardware, we'd have an unqualified winner.

Having said that, one or two performance issues with demanding apps and some underwhelming benchmark results suggest internals that aren't quite up to the standard of other quad-core devices.

The 3.5mm headphone jack cover / SIM tray key is a novel touch, but it's just begging to be lost.

While the 5MP front-camera is a point of distinction and a source of decent 'selfies,' we can't help thinking it's a slight gimmick, and that we'd have preferred an even better main camera instead.

The lack of NFC and 4G also sets the Ascned P6 back from the forefront of the mobile market, as missing two of the latest mobile technological breakthroughs won't endear it to the tech-enthused masses.

Verdict

The Huawei Ascend P6 shows that the Chinese manufacturer can really make an impression on the Android market with its stunningly slim - if slightly derivative - design, as well as some quirky features that mark it out as a little bit different.

However, Huawei needs to bring its software design up to the same high standard if it's to truly compete at the very top of the game.

Ultimately, you'll struggle to find an upper-mid-range Android phone anywhere near as well built or as stylish as this, but for a little bit more money you can treat yourself to a truly high-end device.

The Ascend P6 may be Huawei's flagship device, but it's not a smartphone which will find itself at the top of smartphone tree - more playing catch-up to an ever strengthening pack.

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