The Huawei Ascend P7 was presented in Paris last week, the updated successor to the much-publicized ''iPhone clone,'' the Ascend P6. At first glance, the changes may seem small but upon closer inspection it becomes clear that Huawei has reworked the device at crucial points. Where the differences between the two devices lie and where Huawei remains true to its line shows in our hardware comparison. Update: we just uploaded our comparison video (embedded below).
Design and Manufacture
Taking in the two Ascend models from the front, the clearest difference is their size. The P7 comes with a 5-inch display, the P6 brings a 4.7-inch screen. Otherwise both both are almost identical up front. A glance at the back and sides shows the differences though: the rear of the P6 is made of brushed aluminum, where the P7 has been wrapped in glass on front and back, similar to Sony's Xperia Z series. The glass feels nice, but is a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
The edges reveal further differences: the headphone jack is moved from the bottom left corner to the top of the device and the little plug is now missing from the get go. The USB port has also switched from the top to the bottom center, making the P7 feel a lot more standard in it's port placement. The power button, which was elongated on the P6 and recalled the iPhone to a degree is now round and centrally placed, looking similar to Sony's current models instead.
It seems that the iPhone was the major design inspiration for the Ascend P6, whereas the Ascend P7 seems to look more towards Sony. The workmanship of the Ascend P7 is just as impeccable as it was for the P6 (or the iPhone for that matter). Whether you prefer aluminum or glass is purely up to your personal tastes, but both devices have a very slick look and feel.
From HD resolution to Full HD and 4.7 inch to 5 inches, the display of the P7 is not only larger than its predecessor, but also offers higher pixel density. The P6 comes to 312 ppi, the P7 with 441 ppi. Despite the significant gain in pixel density, the visible difference is not all that noticeable. Nevertheless, the Ascend P7 has a very nice, very crisp display that does, however, have a warmer pinkish glow to it compared to the clear whites of the P6. The P7, interestingly, has a color temperature slider setting that lets you shift more to warmer or cooler tints. Viewing angles are comparable, but the P7 is a little more contrasty.
User interface and software
The optical interface changes are subtle, but effective. The Ascend P7 comes with Emotion UI version 2.3. The best place to demonstrate the difference in visual themes is in the Quick Settings, where you can clearly see that v2.3 offers more subtle, flatter buttons that make Emotion UI look a lot more sophisticated in my opinion than it did in version 1.6 found on the P6. Of course, the most remarkable thing about Emotion UI is the absence of an app drawer, so all apps are listed on the home screens like an iPhone. [Update: the Ascend P6 has now been updated to Android 4.4.2 and Emotion UI v2.0]
On the P7, brightness adjustment is added as an extra slider below the Quick Settings, and there is now a floating Suspend button that remain on-screen as a semi-concealed disc accessible from the screen edge. Suspend allows quick access to important functions much like Samsung's Toolbox, but the functions appear as flaoting mini-apps, like LG's multitasking windows. But unfortunately Suspend does not allow for customization, so you are stuck with rather pointless shortcuts like Home and the Back arrow (both of which are permanently on-screen already) and no quick access to different volume profiles.
Some features and apps on the Ascend P7 are entirely new, for example, a handy magnifying glass or the Phone Manager, which is basically a task killer and cleaner app. Whether you like to believe that these task killers work at all is a matter of personal opinion. All in all, the P7 has everything the P6 has software-wise, along with some nice additions.
For example, in the settings menu, some new options are added: "Networked Apps" shows all the apps that use the mobile data connection or Wi-Fi and allows you to simply withdraw the rights to each connection method for each app or all together – a very useful addition. With the new "Start screen" style option, you can switch between standard and simple display, which looks oddly like Windows Phone. Power Manager on the P6 has become Power Saving on the P7, with the more advanced settings being moved to the overflow menu and a handy Power Monitoring option added to optimize your power consumption. The P7 also has a new "do not disturb" profile for setting rest periods.
Also new is the lock screen quick access panel on the P7, like the iPhone's Command Center, which is accessed from the lockscreen through a swipe up from the bottom to top. Here you'll get a weather widget with forecast for the next four days and quick access to calendar, calculator, flashlight and a kitschy mirror – a rather ugly viewfinder frame for the front camera that unfortunately doesn't seem like it can be removed. At least you can check for spinach in your teeth in style.
Overall, the UI changes are quite subtle, but are generally useful and seemingly designed to make the Ascend P7 an easier to use device with better access to the features and settings you need. Less useful or complex ones tend to be hidden away. Redundant features are hardly added at all and the renaming and relocating of functions for a simpler, more polished experience feels quite like iOS to me. If you don't like the complexity of some settings menus then the P7 has you in mind. The P7 is simply a better P6 when it comes to software implementation.
Like all manufacturers Huawei puts great emphasis on the camera. In this regard the P7 performs really well, in addition to some interesting new features such as the Selfie panorama ("Groufie"), whereby you can capture group selfies with a panoramam motion, you can also add an audio note or watermark to a photo. With HDR mode, beauty and best photo, the picture quality and functionality of the P7 is pretty convincing.
With a maximum of 13 megapixels, the P7 also has the higher resolution than its predecessor. The front camera is nothing to sneeze at either: at 8 MP, the P7 has one of the highest-resolution front lenses on the market, and the picture quality is even better than the P6. For especially quick snapshots, the camera of the P7 can be started directly from a lockscreen shortcut, or even quicker with a double press of the volume down button when the screen is off entirely - but this shortcut does not work if one is listening to music at the same time and the focus was pretty unreliable when taking these Ultra Snapshots.
A nice inclusion in the Gallery is the ability to simply swipe up on a picture to share it with a nearby device via Bluetooth, which Huawei called AirShare on the P6. If you're trading photos with a friend or your laptop, this can make the process a lot easier. Huawei seem to have a lot of these clever little features sprinkled around Emotion UI and the stock apps on both devices. Not all of the new additions are that great, like the mirror, but many are well considered and effective, and the improved camera settings in the P7 put it ahead of the P6.
The P7 is the first Huawei flagship product which is LTE-capable. In addition, the P7 has an NFC chip on board. Both the P6 and P7 have a slot for microSD cards, but the dual-SIM international version of the P7 also multitasks the slot for the second SIM card so it can also be used for microSD cards. The P7 is equipped with 16 GB of internal memory - twice as large as the P6. Some of the hardware additions on the P7, like the addition of NFC and LTE radio, are impossible to ignore as significant bonuses for the P7.
The small battery of the P6 (2,000 mAh) was enlarged by 25% to give the P7 a 2,500 mAh battery - but even that is at the lower limit for a 5-inch smarpthone, especially one with Full HD resolution. An ultra energy-saving mode has been added to the P7, with limited acces to SMS, dialer and contacts to help extend the battery possibilities. It is more limited than that found in the power-saving modes on the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), but more sophisticated than the P6. When it comes to speaker output, the P6 has Dolby Digital sound, but it doesn't make much difference in terms of clarity or volume, and when put side by side both Ascends offer unremarkable speaker performance, although the P7 is crisper, louder and has a little more depth than the P6.
Neither device can lay claim to performing in the premium class. In general, they respond quickly and without delays to input, but then again there are little jerks and pauses that disrupt the user experience when compared to flagships with better processors. In direct comparison though, the P6 in some places seems to be even faster and more fluid than its successor. Some apps, like the camera, launch faster on the P7, while others are snappier on the P6. At any rate, the more powerful processor on the P7 is not all that noticeable. Both devices have 2 GB of RAM and run Android 4.4.2.
|Ascend P6||Ascend P7|
|System||Android 4.2.2, Emotion UI 1.6 [updated to Android 4.4.2 and Emotion UI 2.0]||Android 4.4.2, Emotion UI 2.3|
|Display||4.7 inch IPS+ LCD, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 312 ppi||5 inch IPS LCD, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 441 ppi|
|Processor||Quad-core Huawei K3V2, 1.5 GHz||Quad-core HiSilicon Kirin 910T, 1.8 GHz|
|RAM||2 GB||2 GB|
|Internal Memory||8 GB||16 GB|
|Connectivity||3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v3.0||LTE, WLAN, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC|
|Camera||5 MP (front), 8 MP (rear)||8 MP (front), 13 MP (rear)|
|Battery||2,000 mAh||2,500 mAh|
|Dimensions||132.6 x 65.5 x 6.18 mm||139.8 x 68.8 x 6.5 mm|
|Weight||120 g||124 g|
|Price||449 Euro (at launch)||449 Euro (at launch)|
On the surface, the Ascend P7 may not seem like a significant enough improvement to warrant the upgrade. If these were Samsung devices we'd be hearing a familiar battlecry about lack of innovation. But when you dig a little deeper it becomes clear that the Ascend P7 brings key improvements at critical points: the internal memory is larger, the camera more powerful, the software extended to include new options and everything streamlined to improve the user experience. Almost nothing extraneous has been added and the things that worked in the P6 were left alone. Hence the design language of the P6 remains strong in the P7, but key changes like port placement are made. In the final analysis, the benefits offered by the P7 are too significant to ignore: LTE, NFC, larger battery and enhanced functions of the camera app simply make it a better Ascend.