Chinese mobile maker Huawei has confirmed a new addition to its Android family: the Ascend P2. The P2 is the sequel to last year’s relatively mid-range P1 but puts more power under the hood — with a quad-core 1.5GHz chip — and pairs that power with a more modestly sized screen (4.7 inches) than the pair of phablets Huawei unboxed at CES.
The handset is powered by Android 4.1.2, running version 1.6 of Huawei’s Emotion UI. The rear camera is 13 megapixels and flush with P2’s back — an uncommon, but stylish touch. The device’s slender slab form (8.4mm thick) has rounded edges — with a “waterfall” effect at the bottom edge of the Gorilla Glass screen. The 720p screen has a resolution of 315ppi.
Also on board are NFC, a 2,420mAH battery, and the fastest variant of LTE — Cat4 — which Huawei said supports download speeds of up to 150Mbps, assuming the network you’re using also supports Cat4. While first pointing at its P-series devices as focused on “fashion” and design, Huawei was also quick to note that the Ascend P2 is the “world’s fastest smartphone.” While we’re ill-equipped to test that particular claim right now, we got some brief hands-on time with the thing and it certainly seems fairly robust — poking around the device was buttery smooth despite Huawei’s sometimes overbearing Emotion UI, and it’s got some powerful internals nestled inside its svelte frame.
The software side seems to be rather comprehensive to boot — Cloud+ allows users to store files online and find lost phones, Air Sharing lets users stream content to compatible televisions and tablets, and a built-in permissions manager could be a boon for paranoid app downloaders. All things considered, Huawei has managed to cobble together a fairly impressive (if largely responsive) case for using its hardware.
The P2 will launch globally in Q2, retailing for 399 euros.
MWC begins in earnest tomorrow but the Sunday before the show has traditionally been a battleground for mobile makers to vie to outshine each other with glitzy product launches in the hopes of grabbing a few headlines before the clamour of MWC rises to a roar. But with the likes of Samsung, HTC and Sony choosing to step away from the stage this year, the scene has been set for a newcomer to make an entrance — and Huawei is putting itself forward to claim the limelight.
Huawei has steadily been building its profile in recent years, focusing on affordable Android devices and also dabbling with Windows Phone. Canalys, IDC and Gartner all pegged the company as third largest smartphone maker in the world in Q4 — the first time it had risen to the bronze position. But despite breaking into the top three, the smartphone space remains dominated by Samsung and Apple — who between them took 52 per cent of the global market in Q4 (Gartner‘s figure) — making Huawei’s third place something of a consolation prize. “There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the No. 3 spot in global smartphone sales,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner at the time.
Huawei will be hoping the P2 can help to raise its profile in the fiercely competitive higher end smartphone arena. Launching the P2 at a press conference on the eve of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer device business said: “We are moving from feature phone to smartphone… [and] moving from entry tier/low tier to middle tier and high tier.”
According to Amy Lou, director of Global Brand Management, Huawei is aiming to become one of the world’s “top 100 global brand in the coming years. In order to do so, it’s going to have to make some considerable in-roads in markets that it hasn’t effectively been able to crack yet (with North America prime among them), though CEO Yu was quick to note during a brief Q&A that curious consumers in the U.S. would have to purchase the device online due to a lack of strong carrier partnerships. In that way, Huawei’s branding efforts are a sort of vicious circle — some people won’t buy Huawei because they’re a largely unknown entity, but Huawei is an unknown entity because domestic carriers and retailers can be reluctant to sell them.
The company’s value-for-money pricing strategy has helped it carve out a niche for itself in the budget Android space where value can outshine branding, but the higher end smartphone market is a much tougher nut to crack. At last year’s MWC Huawei unveiled a quad-core flagship powered by its own system on a chip, the Ascend D Quad, only for the device to suffer lengthy production delays — not shipping until Q3. It will be hoping it has put such teething troubles behind it with its new top-of-the-line devices.