Huawei Ascend P2 First Impressions

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Huawei Ascend P2.

This morning, at an event in Sydney, Huawei launched the Ascend P2, the first smartphone with Category 4 LTE launched in Australia. Featuring a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 32GB of storage, a 13-megapixel camera and a 4.7-inch screen – the Ascend P2 is launching with Telstra on July 30.

First, a quick run-down of the specs of the P2:

Processor 1.5GHz quad-core HiSilicon K3V2
RAM 1GB
Storage 32GB on-board; no microSD card slot
Screen 4.7-inch 720p in-cell IPS display (315pp)
Camera 13MP BSI camera with HDR video capture
1.3MP front-facing HD camera
Size (W x H x D) 136 x 67 x 8.4 mm
Battery 2420 mAH battery
OS Android 4.1.2 with Huawei Emotion UI

"Infinity pool design" of the Huawei Ascend P2.

The Huawei Ascend P2 looks to be a worthy mid-range phone

The Ascend P2 is an extremely comfortable phone to hold in the hand. Its plastic construction definitely doesn’t have as premium a feel as, say, the HTC One or the iPhone 5, but nonetheless fits in the hand well, helped by subtle curves, the 8.4mm frame, and by being lightweight (though not to the extremes of the Galaxy S4).

The 4.7″ screen at first appears a little small compared to most of the current flagship Android devices, but I found it very usable – and with the 720p IPS panel used, gorgeous. During the presentation, Huawei noted their use of in-cell touch technology to minimise the number of layers over the display, and it definitely results in a good-looking, clear screen, even in reflected light.

App drawer of the Huawei Ascend P2.

Software-wise, Huawei have moved towards customising the Android user interface with their own Emotion UI. In order to meet Telstra’s requirements, Huawei have reinstated the app drawer, which is missing from the Ascend Mate and the recently-launched Ascend P6. However, the majority of the Emotion UI customisations are present; the biggest changes are the customised lock screen design, the customisable Me Widget (with options for weather, clock and frequently accessed contacts, amongst others), and various theming and quick setting options.

The internals are much the same as the Ascend Mate, with the same in-house 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM – though Huawei representatives were also keen to point out the in-house modem providing Cat4 LTE support. I’m particularly interested in seeing how Huawei’s in-house processors compare to the big players like Qualcomm and Samsung, and whether Huawei’s claim that its in-house chip design works for consumers holds true.

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The camera… could prove to be a strong differentiator

Huawei are making a big effort with the camera on the Ascend P2, featuring a 13MP BSI sensor and a dedicated camera shutter key, which I’m really excited to see, since most manufacturers have chosen to dispense with these dedicated buttons. The camera also features HDR video capabilities for capturing more detail in highlights and shadows. During my time with the P2, I was impressed with the responsiveness and the ease-of-use of Huawei’s camera UI compared to stock Android, which could prove to be a strong differentiator against other mid-range Android devices.

The Ascend P2 is launching on Telstra for $0 per month on a $60 Freedom Connect plan, or for $504 outright. Category 4 LTE is available right now on Telstra in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, and will be launching in other regions soon. The P2 is launching with Android 4.1.2; I asked a Huawei representative about upcoming software updates, and they indicated their long-standing partnership with Telstra on phone and modem software, which should hopefully mean a timely update to Android 4.2.

The Huawei Ascend P2 looks to be a worthy mid-range phone, with a great screen, great in-hand feel, better real-world performance than the Ascend Mate, and unique selling features such as ultra-high-speed 4G and solid camera options. Huawei’s main challenge will be to convince buyers to look at the Ascend P2 compared to the only marginally higher-priced options in Telstra stores.

Does the Ascend P2 tick your boxes? Let us know in the comments.

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