Huawei Outs “Entry-Level” Windows Phone 8: Ascend W1 Packs 4-Inch Screen, Dual-Core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon S4 Chip, Lowly Price Tag?

Huawei isn’t just unboxing whopping Android phones at CES. Oh no. The Chinese mobile maker is flirting with Microsoft by sticking its toe in the Windows Phone 8 waters. The Ascend W1, its first WP8 device, appears to be a distinctly mid-range smartphone that will be jazzed up with an affordable price tag. Huawei said the W1 will be available in China and Russia initially — “from January 2013” — with Western Europe, the Middle East, U.S., and other “selected countries” to follow.

While the phone’s specs have the ring of a mid-range device, Huawei is describing the handset as an “entry-level smartphone” — and talks about bringing WP8 to a “much broader audience” (it hasn’t confirmed exact pricing yet). In the budget Android space, the company has used a strategy of offering excellent value for money — via devices such as the Huawei Ascend G300 — to carve out a niche for itself, so it’s possible it’s hoping to repeat this trick with Windows Phone 8.

“The addition of the Ascend W1 to our smartphone portfolio gives consumers access to an even wider range of Huawei smartphones,” said Richard Yu, CEO, Huawei Consumer Business Group, in a statement. “At a price that makes sense to consumers, Ascend W1 underscores our commitment to put smartphones within reach of every consumer, no matter who you are or what you want from your phone.”

The Ascend W1 takes advantage of WP8’s support for multicore chips, with a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon S4 chip lurking under those brightly coloured live tiles (along with an Adreno 305 GPU). But Huawei clearly hasn’t received the missive about WP8’s support for higher resolution displays, because the W1 offers exactly the same amount of pixels as WP7 handsets (480 x 800). Still, a lower-resolution LCD pane is one way for Huawei to keep build costs down.

Beyond the as-yet unspecified but apparently affordable price tag, Huawei is making a fair bit of noise about the battery — which is a quite beefy 1,950mAh — which it says is good for 470 hours of standby time, apparently “the longest among all smartphones in its class” (whatever class that is). Elsewhere, the W1 has a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash; and 4GB of on-board memory, expandable to 32GB via a micro SD card slot.

The handset design looks pretty plain in black but Huawei is also offering bright blue and red/pink colour options, plus white — and claims the design was inspired by a “tropical island” (the camera collar is vaguely reminiscent of something volcanic, to my eye). Device thickness is a not-super-slender 10.15mm.

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Photos snapped by Chris Velazco, on the ground at CES.