This may not seem to be the fairest match up at first glance: a relatively unknown Chinese brand up against the best the Apple empire has to offer. But you might be surprised. Apple hasn't really been doing much lately and Huawei, on the up and up, recently snagged an award for best European consumer smartphone. I've lived with the Ascend P6 for the last couple of weeks, and have been playing on and off with a 5s in the office, and I thought, based on the similarities in looks, what would I find if I asked the question: is the Ascend P6 a cheaper iPhone? Read on to find out.
First off, I don't want to present a big argument on the Android versus iOS debate. I'm not interested in presenting arguments for either side here, just presenting the two devices as smartphones that look and feel very similar. A lot has been said about Huawei modeling their Ascend P6 on the iPhone and I think it's safe to say that when you see them close up, it's strikingly obvious as well as surprisingly different. I also won't get into the nitty gritty of spec comparisons (especially processors) but the spec sheets are listed for you to compare yourself.
Design and Display
The iPhone is notoriously well liked for its design language, and Huawei obviously paid attention. The two devices in the hand are remarkably similar, due in large part to the metal chassis on both handsets combined with the beveled edges that are almost identical on both. The iPhone 5s features a unibody aluminum casing, while the Huawei has a brushed aluminum plate on the back and a segmented band around the edge. The 5s is a whole 8 grams lighter and is significantly smaller, yet the feel of both is very similar. The P6 is significantly larger in both dimensions and screen size though, more so than I would have thought before I put them side by side.
The Ascend P6 has a 4.7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen in a body of 132.7 x 65.5 x 6.2 mm. The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, packs a 4-inch IPS LCD in a frame of 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm. The P6 therefore has a roughly 20% larger footprint than the iPhone, except in thickness, where the P6 is thinner. Both IPS LCD displays are crisp and bright and I couldn't really tell much of a difference when they were both pumped up to full brightness, except perhaps the 5s produces richer reds than the P6. Blues on both were luxurious as you can see on the home screen photos. The Ascend P6 has slightly higher resolution and the iPhone 5s has slightly higher pixel density, but again, you really can't tell the difference.
Operation and Control
One of the strangest features of the Ascend P6 is the fact that, unlike almost all other Android phones, it does not have an app drawer: all apps are simply tiled endlessly on the home screens. This simple fact makes it feel so much like an iPhone - which also has no app drawer - that the general operation of both devices, despite the obvious platform differences, feels very much alike. It could almost be the same OS with two different launchers. The additional space on the P6's screen gives a bit more breathing room to the app tiles, whereas the 5s seems a little cramped by comparison. Both devices have drop down notification and quick setting screens and while they look different, they perform the exact same functions.
The Ascend P6 however, has many more features accessible through its notification and quick settings menu. The iPhone hits all the major ones, but if you want to dig any deeper you'll have to take the traditional route through the settings menu. The Ascend P6 runs Android 4.2.2 and a swipe up on the home screen or voice activation brings up Google Now. The iPhone of course features Siri and iOS7. Scrolling between screens is equally smooth and responsive and even games and web pages seemed to perform equally quickly and smoothly, although under extreme duress the iPhone 5s pulls ahead significantly. For a casual observer you're really not going to notice any major differences in this category unless you're really stressing the processor with HD games.
The other significant difference to mention here is the single button on the iPhone 5s, which is, of course, also the TouchID sensor for unlocking the phone with a fingerprint. The Ascend P6 has the Android-standard three software buttons. The iPhone physical button is used to go back to the home screen, and also to access Siri or running apps, whereas the P6's buttons access running apps, the home screen or the last screen visited. But all things considered, you'll get used to whichever one you are using. Both devices have physical power and volume control buttons on the sides: the iPhone 5s on the top and left side, the Ascend P6 all on the right side.
Camera and Speakers
The Ascend P6 has an 8 MP main camera and a 5 MP front-facing camera that perform perfectly acceptably and really quite well in comparison to some other Android phones. The iPhone has an 8 MP main camera and a 1.2 MP front-facing camera, but, of course, the iPhone camera performs exceptionally well and there is really no comparison, although I must commend Huawei's inclusion of a 5 MP front camera on the Ascend P6. While the iPhone camera is better, the Ascend P6 is really very good.
Audio quality on both devices was decent enough, but nothing really spectacular. The Ascend P6 has Dolby Digital Plus sound enhancement but sounds a lot like the iPhone except tinnier at high volume. Both handsets go louder than what is really comfortable to listen to through their speakers though. The iPhone, at a pinch, sounds better but it's really quite close in my opinion. As audio players with headphones, both sounded about the same to me. Music libraries are another thing entirely: it's hard to compete with iTunes, unless of course, you hate iTunes.
|Huawei Ascend P6||Apple iPhone 5s|
|Display||4.7-inch HD IPS+ LCD, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 312 ppi||4-inch IPS LCD, 1,136 x 640 pixels, 326 ppi|
|Processor||Quad Core Huawei K3V2, 1.5 GHz||Dual-core Apple A7, 1.3 GHz Cyclone (ARM v8-based)|
|RAM||2 GB||1 GB|
|Internal Memory||8 GB (microSD expansion up to 32 GB)||16 / 32 / 64 GB (non-expandable)|
|Camera||8 MP (rear-facing), 5 MP (front-facing), 1,080p video recording (30 fps)||8 MP (rear-facing), 1.2 MP (front-facing), 1,080p video recording (30fps)|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GSM/HSPA||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GSM/CDMA/HSPA/LTE|
|Battery||Non-removable Li-Po 2,000 mAh||Non-removable Li-Po 1,560 mAh|
|Dimensions||132.6 x 65.5 x 6.18 mm||123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm|
|Weight||120 g||112 g|
|Price||8 GB model (unlocked ) 420 USD||16 GB model (unblocked) 650 USD|
Conclusions and other details
The dimensions may be different but the weights are the same. The operating system may be different but the operating feel is remarkably similar. The screen sizes and resolutions are different but both produce the same crispness and brightness. Both smartphones are made of metal and feel almost identical in the hand. Both devices put all apps on endless side scrolling home screens and most other cosmetic details are insignificant enough to not matter. Both operate very smoothly whether in apps, games or on the internet in normal circumstances. Both record 1,080p video. One has an SD card expansion slot with less internal memory, the other has more internal memory but no expansion slot.
The iPhone has better connectivity options than the Huawei (which has no no LTE support) and the P6 only supports Bluetooth version 3.0. The P6's non-removable 2,000 mAh battery is not going to get anyone excited, but then again, the iPhone 5s has a paltry 1,560 mAh non-removable battery made of the same stuff (Lithium-Polymer). You might think the smaller screen sucks less juice, but the iPhone battery life is pathetic even by the P6's rather meager standards. And in the opposite direction, the P6 has double the RAM of the iPhone and offers dual-SIM support. The iPhone has a fingerprint scanner, the Ascend P6 doesn't.
But perhaps the biggest difference is the price: the iPhone 5s costs 650 USD, the Ascend P6, 35 percent less at 420USD. Does the lower price make up for the decrease in high-end processing power and connectivity? In my opinion, yes. If you like the look and feel of an iPhone, but prefer Android, or cheaper handsets in general, you could do much worse than the Ascend P6. If you want a powerhouse of a smartphone you're probably not very likely to pick the Ascend P6 in the first place, and if you did, you'd be disappointed. If a powerhouse is what you wanted, you'd probably be willing to spend the extra to get the performance you want (or just wait for the Nexus 5). For the casual smartphone user who likes the look and feel of an iPhone but not the price, the Ascend P6 really is a cheaper iPhone.