Huawei Ascend P2 review

Huawei makes inexpensive phones that often get re-branded for specific carriers. The P2 is something different; an Android phone with a very particular bit of industry-leading technology under the hood.

Huawei Ascend P2: On the plus side

Huawei’s phones to date have played very much in the value segment of the market. You know what you’re getting there; not exactly cutting edge features or performance, but a much happier wallet at the end of the day as long as you can live with a few compromises.
The Huawei Ascend P2 is different, in at least one respect. It’s a 4G-capable phone, but one that operates as a CAT4 device where every other currently available device is CAT3 only. That raises the download possibilities up to a potentially staggering 150Mbps downstream, which is seriously impressive for a bit of mobile technology.
The Huawei Ascend P2 is a Telstra exclusive device for the moment, and Telstra’s CAT4 offerings only extend to Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. Vodafone states that wherever it’s got 4G, it’s CAT4 enabled, so to test the Huawei Ascend P2 I used a mix of Vodafone and Telstra SIM cards.

It’s not clear, however, if a full retail unit will be unlocked when you get it on contract (I’d say not), so unless you buy it outright, you’ll be currently limited to Telstra’s CAT4 sites if you want full speed. Not that the Huawei Ascend P2 is a slouch if it drops back to CAT3, mind you; testing with a Telstra SIM I managed an entirely respectable 52.2Mbps downstream result using; swapping that out for a Vodafone SIM saw speeds jump up to an impressive 89.5Mbps at best. As always with mobile networks, there are other users and interference issues to contend with, so it’s unlikely that you’ll hit the actual 150Mbps ceiling in any real world test.
Outside the speed that is its calling card, the Huawei Ascend P2 is an acceptable mid-range bit of kit. A 4.7″ 720p-capable IPS LCD display sitting above a 1.5Ghz Quad-Core ARM processor and 32GB of storage. It’s a sealed unit, so there’s no media expandability. The camera is a 13MP model with only really average shooting capability.
That results in a fairly average mid-range Android device any way you look at it, so its Geekbench score of 1680 is hardly surprising. In day to day use the Huawei Ascend P2 is pleasant without being stunning.

Huawei Ascend P2: On the minus side

There’s not too much to complain about with the Ascend P2 that you couldn’t ascertain from a quick bit of hands-on usage. It’s light in the hand, but feels relatively plasticky, which is perhaps a little undesirable in a phone that’s priced at a similar point to many “hero” handsets. There’s no capability to expand the storage (outside, say a wireless drive like Seagate’s Wireless Plus), and it’s only Android 4.1. Given the telco track record with Android devices, it’d be wise to assume that’s all it will be.
Huawei has its own skin over core Android, but not a whole lot in the way of unique applications. Performance was exactly what I was expecting from a mid-range phone, with some intermittent slowdown. The screen is midrange, the camera is midrange. You’re sensing a theme here, right?
The CAT4 capability is nice to have, but it’s essentially an investment in future capabilities for a lot of the Australian marketplace given the Telstra tie-in for this particular phone. If you’re in a CAT4 area it should work well, and those areas will expand — but by that time, it seems unlikely that the Huawei Ascend P2 would be your only CAT4 smartphone choice.

Huawei Ascend P2: Pricing

Telstra’s offering the Huawei Ascend P2 on a $60/month contract, which gets you $600 “worth” of calls, unlimited texts and 1GB of data per month (minimum overall cost $1440), or outright for $504. Early orders also scored a free 10″ Huawei MediaPad to go with their phone, but that pre-order bonus ends on July 30th.
Mobicity lists the Huawei Ascend P2 for the importing crowd, but with price to be confirmed — which means they’re not selling it just yet.

Huawei Ascend P2: Alex’s verdict

The Huawei Ascend P2 is a decent but not great handset on its own, with CAT4 being the real key selling point. It doesn’t do too much wrong in the budget space, but its pricing — at least on a plan — suggests that it should be a slightly better device than it actually is.
If you’re desperate for faster 4G and can bear the potential bill shock that goes with it it might be worth it in the short term, but given what else you can get for around $60 a month in terms of other headline features, I’d be looking elsewhere.

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