The Huawei Ascend P1 was originally shown off at CES in Las Vegas back in January, but it's taken its sweet time to make it to our shelves. We were originally impressed by this super-slim chap as it was among the first wave of smart phones offering the then top-of-the-range Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) software.
With ICS becoming commonplace in most new handsets and a more recent version of Android having been released, can the P1 still engender the same excitement?
It's available to pre-order SIM-free for around £370 or it can be yours for nothing on Vodafone contracts from August, starting at £26 per month.
Design and build quality
If you've ever held an iPhone and thought to yourself, "Wow, this is just a shade too fat for me," then you might feel a little more comfortable with the P1. At 7.6mm thick, it's slimmer than most mobiles on the market -- the iPhone's girth measures 9mm and the Samsung Galaxy S3 is 8.6mm.
Of course, whether you'd ever actually notice that millimetre difference -- and whether you'd even care -- is up for debate. It is strikingly skinny, but for me, it's probably at the limit of how slim I'd want a phone to be. Anything smaller and it runs the risk of feeling weak and vulnerable. The Motorola Razr is even thinner at 7.1mm and I do sometimes worry that I could break it if I sat on it.
Like the Razr, it has a slight bump in the back, although it's towards the bottom on the P1 rather than at the top. It appears to chiefly house the speaker and other gubbins that are too chunky to fit into the rest of the case. It doesn't really add anything to the design but I found it was a natural place to rest my finger when holding it.
Style-wise, the P1 is really nothing special. The chassis is made from a shiny black plastic that's been given a carbon fibre effect on the back. It's just a printed pattern though -- there's no carbon fibre in use here. This saves the phone from being a sinfully dull, plain black slab. Huawei claims the phone will be given a matte effect when it launches in August, so head into a shop to see what you think of it before buying.
Sadly, the plastic used for the casing feels a little cheap and certainly doesn't offer the premium look of the glass-backed iPhone or the sleek curves of the Galaxy S3. But with a cheaper price than both of those phones, it's something I can forgive. What's less acceptable is the poor construction in the buttons, which actually rattle when you shake the phone. They're quite easy to press but I get the impression they're not built to last.
The front of the phone is dominated by a single sheet of glass. There's no physical home button here so you'll be using touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom to navigate. Around the edge you'll find a power button, a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port.
There's also a microSD card slot, which is absolutely crucial for the P1 as it only comes with 4GB of built-in storage, of which only a small portion is user-accessible. Even when I'd wiped the phone completely, it was unable even to install and run the game Blood & Glory. You'll really need to factor a high-capacity microSD card into the price and ensure you install apps and save images to the card, rather than the built-in memory.
The 4.3-inch screen comes with a resolution of 540x960 pixels, which isn't quite as high a resolution as the 720p displays offered on Android devices like the Galaxy S3, or indeed Huawei's own D-Quad. But it's pleasantly sharp when viewing small icons and text, so it's at least adequate for most tasks.
It uses Super AMOLED technology, which is both bright and vivid. Watching cinematic YouTube clips is a great experience, as is viewing photos and web pages. If you want a pocket-friendly phone for looking at films and pics, the P1 certainly fits the bill.
The only problem is it's pretty glossy, so trying to see what you're doing while under direct sunlight or harsh office lighting can be a little awkward -- but the same is true for most phones with high-gloss displays
Android Ice Cream Sandwich
The P1 is running on Google's Android 4.0 software, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich. Until very recently, I'd have been pleased that a phone was launching with the latest Android software on board as many handsets at the beginning of the year were still packing the much older 2.3 Gingerbread software and simply promising updates "at some point" to ICS.
With the launch of the Nexus 7 tablet, however, Google brought out the latest, shiniest version of Android known as Jelly Bean, meaning I can't give the P1 points for having the latest software on board.
Still, ICS is new to most people and it's the software running on elite Android devices like the S3 and the HTC One X, so you're not really missing out, unless you're particularly keen on trying out location-based info service, Google Now.
The ICS experience on the P1 is a pleasant one and it will be immediately familiar to anyone who's used Android before. You get the usual multiple home screens to swipe through and fill up with apps and live widgets. You can dive into a list of apps you don't want on show by hitting the menu button on the bottom bar. That bar also houses up to four icons for quick access to your phone, web browser, messaging or anything else you decide to slap down.
A handy tweak that Huawei has made is the ability to launch functions straight from the lock screen. Where usually you'd drag a lock icon across to unlock the device, you can slide it in one of four directions to instantly open the camera, the messaging app, to make a call or just to unlock as normal.
Unlocking straight into your camera might not sound the most original of concepts, but I found it very handy to be able to load straight into the phone to make a quick call, without having to find the icon on one of my home screens. When you need to alert your housemate to put the kettle on when you're nearly home, it's a godsend.
The standard Google apps of YouTube, Maps, Gmail and Google Plus are all present and correct, so setting up your email and calendars is a very simple process. You also have full access to the hundreds of thousands of apps available on the Google Play store -- just make sure you're saving them to your microSD card.
Power and performance
Stuffed inside the slim frame of the P1 is a dual-core processor clocked at a nippy 1.5GHz. Although the hardcore gadget geeks will moan that it's not a quad-core chip like you'd find in the Galaxy S3, the reality is most tasks you'd do on a phone don't require a quad-core processor -- it just drains the battery faster. A speedy dual-core chip is often a better option.
I found it provided an excellent helping of power, resulting in a swift and immediate experience when swiping through the home screens. At no point was there any of the delay, juddering or lag that tells of a processor that's too weak to support the software.
Diving into the various menus and opening apps was similarly responsive, even when there were numerous apps running in the background. Ice Cream Sandwich lets you bring up a proper multi-tasking bar to flick between open apps rather than navigate back to the home screen each time. I found that doing this was equally nippy.
Once you start filling it up with live widgets hogging your background processes, you'll start to notice a touch of slowdown. But I have no worries that it'll handle all the basics perfectly well and will tackle more demanding tasks like photo editing without screaming in protest.
It's worth noting, we also went hands-on with the virtually identical Ascend P1S in January -- the only notable difference being the slightly better battery.
Speaking of photo editing, the P1 packs an 8-megapixel camera around the back with a LED flash for low-light shots of your mates doing unspeakable things in a dingy underground bar.
The results aren't particularly sharp or bold, so if you hope to master the art of photography with a phone, the P1 probably isn't for you. It's perfectly adequate for a few snaps though, and if you're going to apply arty Instagram filters anyway, then pretty much any camera will do the job.
It shoots video in 1080 resolution, which is perfect for those moments when still images don't quite do your cat rolling over justice.
The Huawei Ascend P1 might not be the most luxurious of phones on the market, but it's super-slim, powerful and has a good screen. The Android Ice Cream Sandwich software might not have the 'cutting-edge' tag it did prior to the arrival of Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7 this month, but it will still put you above the majority of Android users and it won't charge you the Earth for the privilege.