It was a little hard to ignore the audible disappointment at Huawei’s Australian launch of the Ascend G6. Despite overnight news in Paris of the Ascend P7, a more high-end, 5-inch phone from Huawei, today a small gathering of Australian’s tech media were instead shown the Ascend G6, a phone originally exhibited in February at MWC.
Though despite the unfortunate scheduling, the phone Huawei Australia flaunted today, while sort-of old news, was still rather nice to check out in person, even if it is aimed at the low-end part of the smartphone market.
With a 4.5″ qHD (960 x 540) display taking center-stage of a cool, matte black body, the Huawei Ascend G6 was noticeably light (115g), thin (7.85mm), and felt great in the hand. Inside the refreshingly human shell, compared to the sometimes machine-like feel of other smartphones, is a quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor, a comparatively small 2000 mAh lithium polymer battery, and LTE Category 4 capability, which promised speeds of up to 150 Mbps. On the back is your average 8 MP camera, which can shoot 1080p video. As well as that, the phone also has DTS sound, which may or may not mean something to you. And according to their press release, the phone also has an NFC FM Radio. I’m certain it’s a typo, but a little part of me died inside when Stewart crushed my dreams of NFC stickers which changed my FM Radio channel.
In terms of software, the phone is running an older version of Android, Jelly Bean 4.3, with an average skin on top, and the melodramatic name of ‘Emotion UI’. The skin looks similar to an iOS 6 icon-pack, and while it does show glimpses of a nice design, with some work being put into it, it’s still what you’d expect from an Android skin: pretty worthless.
Also, to help with the comparatively low 2000 mAh battery are 3 power modes, which will automatically shut-off parts of the phone, or apps, which are using too much power in stand-by, or if you have little power left. It’s nice, but it still has a manual component to it that I wish wasn’t there.
Other software features include, as Huawei’s press-release states, voice call, supplementary services, voice mail, calculator, Huawei IME (the keyboard), Contacts Import, Notepad, and plenty of other Emotion-packed UI features.
Though, as you might have seen with the announcement of their flagship Ascend P7, the big feature of the Huawei Ascend G6 is the ‘Selfie’ camera, or as we like to call it in the biz, the front-facing camera. And when there’s a bandwagon to hop on, smartphone makers are quite happy to wear it out. To give them credit, Huawei have put in a pretty nice wide-angle, 5 MP front-facing ‘selfie’ camera with, as Howard Chen, Huawei Australia Device Director, puts it, the power of “hands-free activation” to make sure “nothing will get in the way of a great selfie.” And that activation comes in the form of a smile-sensor, which takes a photo as soon as it detects a smile (which does require your and your friends to smile-sync), as well as a noise-detecting mode which is genuinely useful. Their camera software also includes a Beauty mode, which lets you “look as beautiful as you feel,” and Voice-Photo capabilities, which will attach 10-seconds of audio to photos. The latter is also pretty cool.
And finally, it would be remiss to conclude our report on the Huawei Ascend G6 without looking at the Simple-UI, which hopes to recreate the Android experience, with big Windows-tile like icons. It’s the Android experience “with simplicity”. Although hopefully they fix the spelling of the Camera icon, which was spelt as Camara in press shots, by launch.
With 5% of the Australian smartphone market share, Huawei aren’t going to be the next Samsung or Apple any time soon, and while there are definitely some problems with their latest phone, mostly small problems, they are the company you shouldn’t rule out just yet. We were shown some genuinely cool ideas today, which at least shows the company can think for itself in a way, and their phone, while visually comparable to the iPhone (from the side at least) wouldn’t feel too bad as my daily-driver. The phone will hit stores in June, via Optus and Vodafone.