This morning, Ausdroid attended the local launch of Huawei‘s new Ascend P6 handset at their offices in Chatswood, NSW where we heard from Product Manager Jephix Liu about the device.

The headline news is that the device will be available at JB Hifi and Dick Smith stores in either black or white for $499. Notably, Australia won’t be getting the pink version of the phone. Somehow, I think we’ll survive.

While the occasion had a lot less pomp and circumstance than other recent launches we’ve attended, it was a good opportunity to meet with Huawei’s Australian staff face-to-face and get some hands-on time with their latest and greatest. This is the first time Huawei’s managed a near-simultaneous global launch of a product and they’re clearly bullish on the P6’s prospects, expecting to sell 10 million units worldwide. This optimism might be well-justified as the P6 has caused quite a stir since its London launch 2 weeks ago, and we’re told they’ve had a great reaction to the device in the Chinese market where they launched on 3 carriers last week.

As we’ve already seen from the London launch, Huawei is extremely proud of the P6’s slim profile and at just 6.18mm thick (alas, no longer the world’s thinnest smartphone), the phone packs an impressive feature list. Featuring the company’s own K3v2 1.5GHz quad core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of built-in storage with a Micro SD slot, a 2000 mAh battery, a 4.7 inch 720p display with 8 MP rear and 5 MP front camera, you’ve got to wonder what Huawei’s left out.

The most obvious answer to that question is 4G LTE connectivity, although the 8 GB of internal storage might also be cause for concern and it’s notable that they’re bringing a 720p flagship to a 1080p gunfight. Huawei explained that their focus in deciding on the P6’s internals was on affordability and that they see 3G HSPA+ connectivity and a 720p display as acceptable tradeoffs for their $500 price point – we’re inclined to agree, and remind you that you can add a 64 GB microSD card if storage is a problem for you.

It’s worth noting that the specs on offer in the P6 are essentially the same as the LG-built Nexus 4, which you can currently get for $420 shipped from Google Play or from Harvey Norman. However, the Nexus 4 doesn’t have the P6’s sexy slim profile or microSD expandability.

Although we’ve seen mention of an LTE version of the P6, Huawei staff remained tight-lipped as to whether we’ll see that version of the device in the local market. Lack of 4G connectivity is a pain point for me personally despite its HSPA+ connectivity, and might also explain why we’re not seeing any carrier deals for the device.

We’re also happy to report that Huawei is going to take some of the pain out of finding accessories for your shiny new phone: Jephix showed me his personal device in a protective case, and when I asked about availability of the case at retail, he revealed that the Ascend P6 ships with the case in the box. Given the difficulty we often have finding accessories for our non-Galaxy devices, this is a welcome addition and will help you protect your device from day one. We’ll check back with Huawei to find out whether there’ll be additional colours or other accessories available.

New Android, Emotion UI

In a welcome change, the P6 comes with the latest version of Android (4.2.2) on board. Despite this, Huawei still seems evasive when it comes to discussing the software update situation – pointing out that they updated one of their old phones from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t cut it when the Ascend Mate seems likely to be stuck running Android 4.1. Given the issues that have come to light recently around Android security, the ability and commitment of a manufacturer to providing software updates seems like a pertinent question.

Part of the reason for the tardiness of software updates has to do with the tight integration of their Android customisations, named Emotion UI. The Ascend P6 is running the latest version of Emotion UI (v1.6) which features an enhanced Me Widget, a number of changes to “core applications”, better power management controls and a detailed permission manager.

The permission manager in particular seems like quite an interesting add-on for power users, allowing you to limit access to your contacts, gallery and calender to certain apps, customise which apps can display notifications and limit use of cellular or wifi connectivity.

We weren’t particularly fond of Emotion UI when we last saw it on the Ascend Mate, but it’ll be interesting to see what’s changed and how it performs when less constrained by the hardware.

Huawei’s focused a lot of effort on the P6’s camera capabilities, as you might expect for a device packing a 5 MP front-facing camera. Their contention is that smartphone camera software has too many modes – night, indoor, outdoor, cloudy day, sunny day, fireworks, etc etc – and instead they’ve built a Smart Mode into the P6 which they say can detect the environment in which you’re shooting and adjust the camera’s settings accordingly. We’ve been encouraged to test this out for ourselves and will be sure to hold the Smart Mode to the Ausdroid Review Fire as soon as we get the chance.

Also, thanks Huawei for serving me my first ever cronut!

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Before discovering the Nexus One, Jason thought he didn't need a smartphone. Now he can't bear to be without his Android phone. Jason hails from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane depending on his mood and how detailed a history you'd like. A web developer by day with an interest in consumer gadgets and electronics, he also enjoys reading comics and has a worryingly large collection of Transformers figures. He'd like to think he's a gamer, but his Wii has been in a box since he moved to Sydney, and his PlayStation Vita collection is quite lacking. Most mornings you'll find him tilting at various windmills on Twitter - follow @JM77 and say hi!
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and what is a cronut? sounds painful.