It’s an unfortunate fact of life that most premium smart devices are held hostage behind stifling provider contracts. However, a relatively unknown player in the mobile world has had enough: Huawei, a Chinese device manufacturer, has just launched the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G, a phablet-style Android smartphone completely free of carrier contracts.
The Ascend Mate2 4G is a different animal when compared to other unlocked smart devices. It uses the same Snapdragon 400 processor found in the Moto G LTE and the HTC One mini. The large 6.1-inch Gorilla Glass IPS panel display has a resolution of 720p, and the unit features the same array of radios found in most of today’s devices, like Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi. These are hardly attention-grabbing features by today’s high-end standards, yet the Ascend Mate2 does have several aces up its sleeve.
The phablet only reaches 720p, but images look great behind the Gorilla Glass display. Colors are vibrant and rich with adequate pixel density. It performs very well for photos and videos, and outdoor Web browsing can be enjoyed unhampered. The highest brightness setting may not be enough for some users, but it is sufficient. In fact, I found the display to be superior to that of last year’s Galaxy S4.
Huawei Adds “W.O.W” to UI
The Ascend Mate2 has made great additions to the stock Android UI. The stock Android UI found on devices like the Google Nexus and Nvidia SHIELD are awesome. Android Origin says, “If I had to choose my favorite [UI] next to the stock Android UI, I would go with Sense without a second thought.” Indeed, it is very sexy, but there are some really compelling customization features here as well.
Huawei’s W.O.W. feature is pretty cool. “Windows on Windows” lets users overlap app windows on the screen with the Calendar, Calculator, Notepad and/or the text messaging apps. Suspending more than two windows over the default screen leaves the interface too busy to use without issue, yet one or two floating screens are perfect for quickly pasting URLs into text messages or using the Notepad to quickly jot down notes or copy longer excerpts of recipes or articles.
Tiles and the One-Hand UI
On the other end of the UI spectrum, users can convert the interface into a much simpler UI; the Settings options reveal a One-Hand mode. This aligns keyboard functions to the left or right, depending on which hand you prefer, for one-hand use. You can also convert the entire UI to a large, tile-style ecosystem, not unlike the many Windows Phones. The Glove Mode will allow the unit to respond to touch while users are wearing gloves.
Huawei is pushing for uninterrupted entertainment and media options with this new unlocked device. After using this unit lightly for the past several days, it still holds about 60 percent of its battery life—impressive. This falls in line with the company’s claim that the battery can run for more than two days of general use. Huawei claims the battery can potentially power 12 hours of Web surfing, streaming three full movies in a row, 100 hours of music listening, or 25 hours of talk time. No other off-contract device offers such stamina.
Unlocked smartphones that enjoy a life unbound by multi-year carrier contracts usually fall into one of two categories. There are some very sophisticated devices made specifically for regions overseas. Otherwise, potential users can turn their attention to contract-less service providers stateside, like Boost or MetroPCS. The Ascend Mate2 4G phablet from Huawei is the first of its type to be offered off-contract.
What do you think of today’s unlocked devices? Is the Huawei Ascend Mate2 next on your device wish list?
Image courtesy of Shawn Sanders