Huawei hosted a global event in Paris today to unveil its latest flagship smartphone, the Ascend P7. It comes as an update to the relatively popular Ascend P6, which garnered the Chinese company some fairly notable success after selling around 4 million handsets within the past year. This new Ascend still resembles the old one, but it appears to have made some worthwhile improvements in its hardware, software and general performance at the same time.
It would be natural to expect Huawei — which is now technically the world’s third largest smartphone maker, despite its lack of a significant US presence — to have its newest flagship compete directly with rival devices from the likes of Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC or Apple. This is certainly the case when it comes to the Ascend P7’s spec sheet, but the company announced today that it plans to sell the device for about 30% less than current flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One (M8). Huawei says that it plans to keep a similar pricing scheme with its other new devices, potentially giving it a hook to build on the success of the Ascend P6.
Specs-wise, the Huawei Ascend P7 boasts a 5-inch, 1920×1080 resolution IPS screen, an ARM Cortex-A9 1.8GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage. On the software side, it comes equipped with a version of Android 4.4 KitKat that’s covered up by Huawei’s own Emotion UI 2.3 skin, which doesn’t appear to feature many significant changes, but still borrows some pleasing visual cues from iOS.
Instead, the Ascend P7’s physical design looks to be its biggest advantage. Last year’s Ascend P6 was actually one of the more elegant Android phones on the global market, and Huawei has worked to perfect that device’s build this time around. Instead of aluminum, the device comes covered in a Gorilla Glass 3 plating on both its front and back. Its upper, left and right edges are made of metal, while its rounded bottom is made of plastic.
Generally speaking, Huawei again seems to have been inspired by Apple when it comes to the Ascend P7’s body, especially when it’s held next to something like the iPhone 4S. In fact, it appears to resemble the vision Apple is rumored to take with its forthcoming iPhone 6. It may not look like an original design by the end of the year, but for now, it’s beautiful.
The screen on P6 garnered few complaints, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see that Ascend P7’s 5-inch panel looks great thus far as well. With a pixel density of 445 ppi, images looked noticeably sharp, and colors looked realistic and vibrant as well. Its brightness and contrast levels were similarly great, and viewing angles were excellent as well.
The biggest gripe I had with the P7 was its capacitive Back, Home and Tasks buttons, which are located at the bottom of the screen. They take up a significant amount of the display’s real estate by remaining constantly on screen, even when using the camera app or playing games on the device. This is something Android 4.4 fixed on many other devices, but it’s something to look out for here.
The Ascend P7’s rear-facing camera was developed in tandem with Sony, and sports 13 megapixels and an f/2.0 aperture. It’s difficult to conclude much about the actual camera’s quality just yet, but one of the most unique features of the Ascend P7 is that it can be activated from standby mode just by double clicking the volume rocker. Huawei claims that this allows users to go from lock screen to snapped photo in just over a second.
The front-facing camera, meanwhile, has a whopping 8 megapixels and an f/2.4 aperture. Outside of the presumed detail such a high MP count brings, the shooter comes with what Huawei terms a ‘Selfie Panorama’ mode, which fits a group of people into your self-portrait by taking a wider location shot.
Besides its updated specs and sleek body, the Ascend P7 brings two more welcome upgrades: 4G LTE connectivity and a heftier 2500mAh battery (up from 2000 mAh). During my brief testing of the device, I noticed that the Ascend P7 heated up a little too quickly, even from basic app use, phone calls and web browsing. It’s another thing to look out for, but it’s difficult to determine how the bigger battery truly holds up without extended use.
With a lineup of impressive upgrades, I was impressed by my first glance of the Ascend P7 — especially considering its lowered price. Huawei has clearly put a great deal into crafting a better flagship, and if it delivers on most of its promise here, the company may well take another step towards becoming a more recognized premium smartphone brand. Expect to see a fuller review of the Ascend P7 soon.