Bucking the supersized smartphone trend, Huawei’s P1 squeezes the latest Ice Cream Sandwich Android OS and a dual-core brain into a shell that won’t have your pockets bursting at the seams.
If it weren’t for the camera lens and a matching bulge at the bottom, the P1 would be an incredibly thin phone. It still feels very slender and has almost no mass at all, making it very easy to live with. The punchy, bright “PenTile” screen isn’t hi-def but is bursting with colour. The beadiest eyes will spot some jagged edges on fonts due to the arrangement of the pixels, but it's not a dealbreaker.
You’ll have to factor in the cost of a 32GB microSD card, because the P1 has just 4GB of storage. That’s a puzzlingly low amount of space that, without expansion, is only capable of storing a handful of music tracks, videos and small apps. You could easily fill that on the first day of use.
Otherwise the spec is ample but not outstanding. It's a notch below the quad-cored Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, so while it's not breaking any records it still delivers a fine phone experience.
In use you’ll have few complaints. The Android 4.0 OS has been given a carousel-style skin with a neat 3D effect, and it’s preloaded with all the main apps you’re likely to need for serious smartphonery. There’s enough power to shift everything around smoothly but if you want even faster response you can switch the front-end back to the standard 2D Android style (press the Menu key and select 2D Home).
You might expect poor battery life from something this thin but the P1 will generally make it through to bedtime before needing a charge, and that can include some sat-navving and Angry Birding sessions along with plenty of intermittent messaging and calling.
In laboratory conditions the camera is very impressive. Autofocus is quick and guesses correctly most of the time, and both still shots and hi-def video are detailed.
However, footage gets disappointingly choppy if you’re shooting on the move or panning around, as is likely to be the case with a phone. Still, it works well with the onboard video editing app, which allows you to cut clips together and overlay music from your library before exporting the project as a new movie.
If the showy HTC One X and Galaxy S3 feel like overkill, the discreet P1 could be for you. Expand the memory and you've got yourself one of the best smartphones around right now.
Huawei Ascend P1
A stylish and powerful Android that's just one step behind the leaders of the pack