Huawei hadn’t added most of its software tweaks to the demo units we got to road test at CES 2012, though. The Ascend P1 S was running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the very latest version of Google’s OS, but didn’t have the custom elements that’ll ship with the phone at launch. These are largely based around widgets, similar to those of 2011’s Huawei Honor - which has not been released in the UK as yet.
However, we wish Huawei would just let the phone be. With the vanilla version of the OS, the Ascend P1 S was wonderfully quick, the dual-core 1.5GHz processor eliminating any sign of lag. We have a feeling Huawei’s custom UI elements may only serve to slow the phone down – its own-brand phones have tried to cram in bundles of 3D elements, which have looked ropey as well as acting as an unnecessary burden on the processor. We’ll find out whether the P1 S falls into the same trap in our full review.
Aside from some potentially-dodgy UI tweaks and some wholly-welcome camera additions, the Huawei spokesperson didn’t suggest there would be many other significant custom elements. This suggests that the Huawei Ascend P1 S won’t offer as generous video codec support as the Motorola Droid Razr or Samsung Galaxy S II. If you want to play an existing movie collection, it’s highly likely a third-party app or transcoding will be necessary.
While we have some reservations about the software of the Huawei P1 S, we have no such worries on the hardware front. Huawei has sought to make its first top-end flagship phone, and from our brief time with the phone, it appears to have succeeded almost entirely. The slim bezel and 4.3in display avoid the sense that the phone will be simply too large for many, which we’ve found with some recent 4.6in handsets, and some older, less svelte 4.3in models.
The demo booths were littered with bright and patterned alternative backplates for the handset too, but we doubt whether these will take off in the UK – the rather lovely patterned graphite-style standard one already suits its position perfectly. But hey, maybe a high-end smartphone with a pink patterned back is just what the market needs.
The Huawei P1 S will be available from April 2012. We’ll be back with a full review soon.
The P1 S is what we hoped Huawei would come up with when we heard it was going out on its own, trying to become one of the big names in the smartphone game. It looks and feels better than any previous Huawei phone, and has the specs to make Android Ice Cream Sandwich fly. However, price may turn out to be a sticking point. No pricing details have been released yet, and Huawei needs to undercut Samsung and HTC if it’s going to grab the attention of smartphone buyers.