Seldom does one single feature on a smartphone shock a person. But the battery life on the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G 6.1-inch phablet, a whole four-day plus days, will grab anyone’s attention. Add a great off-contract price, a Corning Gorilla Glass screen and solid construction, and we’ve got a phone that demands attention even if it comes from a company with a name that used to be synonymous with cheap junk.
Huawei pulled back from the US market last year thanks to poor stature. We seldom saw a Huawei product we liked. Now, a year later, the company offers a new entry into the crowded phablet smartphone market and it’s definitely not junk.
Did Huawei do enough for buyers to give them another chance? In a word, yes!
The big wireless carriers and big box stores won’t sell the Huawei Ascend Mate2, but buyers can find it directly from Huawei or online stores like Amazon for $299.99 unlocked and off contract for use on all major US carriers. I tested it on AT&T.
For those who don’t know, an off-contract phone means the owner doesn’t have to sign up for a two-years subscription or risk an early termination fee. Sign up one month and cancel the next. Since most phones of this quality will cost around $200 on contract, Ascend Mate2 buyers can pay just $100 more for a nice phone without a contract. That’s a big plus! However, they will need to sacrifice a few things, as this review outlines.
Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G Design
The first thing people notice when looking at the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G is the size. This thing makes the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 look small. The IPS Gorilla Glass screen measures 6.1-inches. The phone itself measures 181mm tall, 84.7mm wide and 9.5mm thick. It’s a little heavy at 202g.
Our review unit comes with a white face around the 6.1-inch screen. The white hard plastic back doesn’t feel as cheap and flimsy as other plastic phones, like those from Samsung. The sides look aluminum, but they’re actually plastic like the Note 3. Huawei also sells a black version.
For some reason Huawei put the volume buttons above the power button along the right side of the phone. Experienced smartphone users may find this annoying, since most reverse these buttons if on the same side.
The headphone jack comes out of the top.
The micro-USB port is on the bottom left corner next to the speaker.
The Gorilla Glass IPS display won’t scratch easily and looks nice despite the low 1280×720 resolution.
Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G Battery Life
No other phone matches the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G in terms of battery life. It lasted an incredible 4 days, 8 hours, 46 minutes with 4% remaining when I plugged it in. During that time the phone saw normal use with lots of email, some map navigation, video playing and streaming and surfing the web.
The phone does something called Reverse Charging with a $10 cable sold by Huawei. Plug the micro-USB cable into the phone and something like a Bluetooth headset and the phone’s battery will top off the other device’s battery. That’s an awesome feature for people who know they don’t need multi-day battery life.
The huge battery powers the large screen and does so for a long time. Even if someone uses this phone more heavily than during the test and cuts the time it lasted in half, it’s an amazing 2 full days of battery life.
The battery’s not user replaceable, but who cares with that kind of power?
Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G Camera
The Ascend Mate2 comes with a decent 13MP rear facing camera and a nice 5MP front facing camera for better selfies than most phones take. The built-in camera takes decent shots in good light and the flash will make darker environments look bright without washing out the shot. The phone’s camera won’t replace a dedicated camera for photo enthusiasts, but most ordinary users will like the shots they get.
The camera offers 7 modes on the back camera and 5 for the front.
- Smart (rear only)
- HDR (rear only)
- Panorama – called Groufie on front facing camera
- Sound & Shot
The Normal mode on both cameras produce decent shots. Beauty face smooths out the person’s face blemishes, although our shots show little difference. Smart mode changes the camera settings based on the situation to get the best shot. HDR takes a better shot when there’s difficult lighting, like a backlit scene.
Other settings on the camera include …
- Object tracking
- Smile mode which captures a portrait when the camera detects a smile
- Touch to capture which turns the touch screen into the shutter release
- Voice activated captures a shot by voice command
- GPS tagging
- Timed shutter release
- Lower resolution mode
- Change the saved photo location to an SD card
The Panorama mode behaves like most cameras with the rear camera but even the front camera offers a panorama mode called Groufie. It takes three shots so more people can get in the shot. This lets users take close-up group selfies, hence the strange name – Groufie.
The Sound & Shot records up to ten seconds of sound with a single image. Unfortunately users can only enjoy the sound on the phone. It gets stripped out when uploaded to the cloud or a computer.
Videos shot with the phone look decent, but they’re only 720p. That’s mediocre compared to the Galaxy Note 3’s 4K video camera. See the video samples below.
Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G Software
Huawei puts user-interface software they call Emotion UI 2.0 on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It offers a few interesting features, while not getting in the user’s way too much.
The phone’s lock screen slides in four directions giving users quick access to the dialer, camera, messages app or it unlocks the screen taking the user to their home screen. The user can’t customize which apps go on the lock screen.
There’s an interesting collection of useful widgets, but the best Evolution UI feature comes from the WOW button, which the user turns on inside Settings. A tiny button sits along the edge of the screen. Tap it and five icons flare out from the button in a half circle. These do the following:
- Back returns the user to the previous screen, like the Android OS back button at the bottom of the screen.
- Home takes the user to the home screen, like the Android OS home button.
- Apps opens another four floating app buttons that show a tiny app window on top of the current screen that includes a calendar, notes, messages and calculator apps.
- Lock button locks the screen.
- Memory cleaner will shut down unused apps to speed things up.
The Phone Manager app includes a big Scan button that finds potential memory or storage optimization tweaks (see above). In notifications, we get a graph sometimes showing the battery level and how long it should last, or how long it will take to charge, depending on whether the phone’s plugged in or not.
Notice the settings below to turn on the WOW button and two other interesting features: the Gloves mode and One-hand UI mode.
Glove mode lets users tap and swipe while wearing thin gloves. Thicker gloves didn’t work too well. The One-hand UI mode moves parts of certain apps to the left or right to make them easier to reach while holding the large phone in one hand (see below).
The Evolution UI makes the Ascend Mate2 a nice option for a beginner smartphone users, or people with poor eyesight, thanks to the simple mode (see below).
Turn Simple mode on in Settings and it changes the user-interface, replacing the typical grid of icons and widgets with a 2×3 grid of buttons labelled with the main features of the phone in nice, large easy-to-read buttons.
Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G Specs
Aside from the highlights mentioned above, the phone’s other specs won’t impress too many people. The phone comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.6GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. There’s only 16GB of storage and the 6.1-inch screen resolution measures 1280×720. Finally, it only runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean when we’re about to get a big update to Android later this year, which will make this phone two generations behind. Huawei’s silent about when an update will come, if ever.
On the positive side, the 6.1-inch IPS display looks good and, thanks to Corning Gorilla Glass, it’s not going to scratch or crack easily. We already mentioned the incredible battery life. Despite the slower processor, it performs fluidly. Huawei put LTE in to make it fast when on a good data connection. The phone includes sensors for GPS, Gravity, Accelerometer, Light, Gyroscope, Proximity and Compass sensors.
Huawei doesn’t play the specs race game with their phone. Instead, they’ve created a nice phone with a few great features that really appeal to average users all for a very nice price.
Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G Competition
The phablet market keeps growing. According to a recent Business Insider article, the large format smartphones will account for half of all smartphones by 2016. That’s possible thanks in part to the likely introduction of an Apple iPhone phablet later this year.
The Ascend Mate2 4G begs comparison to the most popular large format phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Other Phablets include phones like the Nokia Lumia 1520, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and HTC One Max (above). Most of those offer better specs and probably better hardware, but also cost twice the price off-contract. I own an Note 3 and love it, but a $300 price (versus the Note 3 at over $700 off contract) and battery life make the Huawei Ascend Mate2 a serious option.
Android and smartphone enthusiasts won’t like the Ascend Mate2 because of the slower processor and older operating system, but average buyers and especially new ones will enjoy it.
If Huawei keeps offering this kind of hardware, then they will win some fans in the US market again. If they update the phone to Android 4.4, add a faster processor, an option for larger storage sizes and a higher resolution screen, then even enthusiasts will get excited about Huawei too.