You could be forgiven for not really knowing much about Chinese company Huawei (It’s pronounced ‘wah-way’, in case you were wondering). They are actually the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, but have been relatively low-key in the Australian market, producing a few lower-spec, budget devices. Now they’re attempting to make a bigger splash in the market with high-end devices like the Ascend P1 and the Honor. It appears that they’ve saved the best for last with the Ascend D1 Quad. Huawei have been talking this one up for a while, since it sports their K3V2 1.4 GHz quad-core processor that they developed in-house. But is it enough to compete against the Samsungs and the HTCs of the world?
Inside the Ascend D1 Quad box, aside from the phone and battery, you get a user manual, USB cable, wall charger and 3.5mm stereo headset. The phone itself looks rather unassuming. Its design is quite clean and minimalistic, if a little uninspiring.
The weight feels about right at 130gms, and its 129 x 64 x 8.9 mm dimensions means that it fits quite nicely in most hands. The screen itself is a 4.5″ HD (720×1280) IPS+ display, and it looks great, with everything looking really crisp and snappy. The front of the phone has a 1.3 MP camera and notification light in the top right corner, and capacitive buttons along the bottom for back, home and menu. The top of the phone houses the power button and 3.5mm jack. The volume rocker is on the right hand side, and the micro USB slot is on the left, with the bottom of the phone left empty. The back and sides of the phone are made from a single piece of plastic that has a rubbery feel to it. This makes it a great phone to hold, and is really easy to grip. The whole thing comes apart to reveal the SIM and micro SD slots underneath.
The first thing that strikes me about this phone is its speed, which is evident from the moment it’s switched on. The whole booting up process is quite fast, about 15-20 seconds. Everything is super responsive, it never feels laggy at all. I tested it with a few graphically heavy games, including the latest Need For Speed game from EA, and had no troubles at all. This thing runs super smooth.
Another thing that struck me is just how good this screen is. Colours are vibrant and crisp, and everything just pops off the screen. The IPS+ display means that everything looks consistent from almost any angle. It’s nice and bright too, with no troubles viewing it outdoors.
The build quality is seriously impressive, and probably the thing I was most worried about with this phone. Given their history, Huawei have often had a reputation for being a bit cheap and nasty, but this is certainly not the case here. The phone feels really solid in the hand, and the plastic backing has a bit of a rubbery quality to it. It really feels like it can withstand a fair bit of wear and tear. The sound from the external speaker is crisp and loud. There was a little bit of distortion from some of the more bass-heavy songs I tested it with, but overall it was quite impressive. Bluetooth, FM radio and Wi-Fi all worked fine with no issues. Call quality was outstanding, with everything sounding crystal clear. It’s great to see Huawei really going the whole hog with this phone, and you can really tell that they’ve put some effort into making this a great device. The only thing I could find fault with is the vibration, which is quite poor. There have been many times where I haven’t felt my phone ringing at all because the vibration is just too soft, and there’s no option in the settings to increase the intensity.
The front-facing camera is 1.2MP and is nothing to write home about, but the pictures are okay and it’s enough to do the job it’s intended for. The rear camera is much beefier, coming in at 8MP, which seems to be the standard for higher-end phones these days. The camera is nice and quick and the photo quality is quite high, although it’s a little grainy in low light. There are also a whole bunch of filters and editing options available inside the camera app to play around with. The HD video is pretty good, although most of the videos I shot were shaky and stuttery, and the stabilizer setting didn’t seem to change this at all. Overall, the cameras do their job, just don’t expect to throw away your DSLR or your video camera just yet.
One of the things that irks me about a lot of recent phones is the move away from removable batteries. If the phone belongs to me, I should be allowed to change the battery if I want to. I know many recent devices have done away with removable batteries, and it seems to be the direction things have been heading ever since Apple started enclosing batteries in their laptops, but there really isn’t any need for it. the excuse usually offered is that you get increased battery life, and this is true of laptops but doesn’t seem to make a difference in phones. Having said that, the battery life is pretty good. The 1800mAh Li-ion battery does a good job at keeping keeping everything running, and it usually lasts about a day with moderate to heavy use, although this starts to drop as soon as you’re out of network range, even for just a little while. The rubbery plastic back on the phone works well as an insulator, so it never really gets too hot.
Huawei have a reputation of offering a virtually stock version of Android on their phones with a couple of minor visual changes, and the Ascend D1 Quad is no exception. A few of the icons for things like messaging and the calendar have been changed slightly, but these really are just small cosmetic changes, and do nothing to change the smoothness of the stock Android experience. The slick interface works so well, hopefully other manufacturers take note of this and start offering versions of Android that are a bit closer to stock.
While the stock Android experience is a plus for this phone, the fact that it is only running Ice Cream Sandwich is disappointing. We’re a good six months into the life of Jellybean now, we shouldn’t be accepting outdated software on phones like this, especially when they’re aiming for the higher end of the market. The fact that Huawei’s version of Android is so close to stock only makes this decision more baffling. Huawei have said that they currently have no plans to upgrade the Ascend D1 Quad to Jellybean, and given that most of the other high-end phones on the market have already been updated to Jellybean, this is a real oversight on Huawei’s part.
Huawei have also pre-loaded a few apps onto the phone, including All Backup, App Installer, DLNA, Facebook, File Manager, Flashlight, Music+, Notes, Security Guard, Sound Recorder, Twitter and Weather Clock, which is a nice touch. It’s not all gold, though.
They’ve also included their own keyboard, which is rubbish. It’s unresponsive, the dictionary is very limited and the spacebar key is so tiny you’ll almost never hit it on the first go. The stock Android keyboard is available, but seems broken, with no predictive text and no vibrations on keypresses. Luckily this is easily fixed by installing your preferred keyboard app but it’s not a good look, considering how important a decent keyboard is on modern day phones.
Ascend D1 Quad U9510
- Android™ 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- 4.5” HD (720×1280) IPS+ display (330PPI)
- MicroSD (up to 32 GB)
- 8MP autofocus BSI camera with LED flash
- 1800mAh Li-ion
- Quad-core 1.4GHz Balong K3V2
- Bluetooth 3.0, MicroUSB (MHL), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- 129.9 x 64.8 x 8.9mm @ 130g
ConclusionThe biggest issue this phone faces is being potentially overlooked due to its brand. JB Hi-Fi are selling it for $388 outright, which is a great price for a phone with specs like this, but it’s still a lot of money to spend – especially if you’re not overly familiar with Huawei. It’s more likely that customers will turn towards more established brands such as Samsung or HTC. This is a real shame, because the Ascend D1 Quad really is a great phone. It’s fast, has no trouble with graphically intense games or applications, has crystal clear reception, a great screen, and feels great in the hand.
If you’re looking for a phone to buy outright with good specs that won’t break the bank, it’s well worth giving this a look.