Huawei might not be as well known as massive mobile makers like HTC or Samsung, but that doesn't mean it can't take a stab at crafting the next big thing. The Huawei Ascend P1S is a bold attempt -- the company reckons it's the thinnest smart phone ever, and it's got Android Ice Cream Sandwich on board too.
We've got our hands on the Huawei Ascend P1S and its near-identical twin the P1 at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, and we're ready to give our first impressions. There's no exact word on pricing or availability yet, but you can expect the Ascend P1 and P1S to arrive in the UK around April.
The Ascend P1S measures a competition-beating 6.68mm thick, making it slimmer than rival skinny smart phones such as the Motorola Razr or Samsung Galaxy S2. We don't put much stock in 'world's thinnest' labels -- as Kate Moss and co well know, there's always someone skinnier just around the corner -- but there's no doubt the Ascend P1S is impressively thin.
It's designed to take knocks, too, with a toughened Gorilla Glass screen. The display is a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED effort with a resolution of 540x960 pixels. When you're watching video or listening to music it offers 5.1 surround sound.
Inside, the P1S somehow finds room for a 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 Cortex A9 processor and 1GB of RAM, presumably crammed in like a commuter on an early morning train -- breathing in hard and trying not to poke anyone with its umbrella.
The Ascend P1 is slightly thicker, but still very svelte, at 7.69mm, giving space for a larger 1,800mAh battery, as opposed to the P1S's 1,670mAh cell. Neither phone lets you remove the battery.
The P1 comes in a friendly acid yellow, while the P1S is bedecked in a more serious black with a subtle pattern, as well as white or pink. In a fun old-school twist, the phones come in different colours with swappable cases -- we saw one at CES that's transparent, which is very cool, but whether that'll make it into shops is another matter.
Both phones make space for 4GB of storage. They connect to the web and other devices via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and DLNA. One clever feature is the MHL-HDMI socket: that's one plug for either HDMI or micro-USB cable. You can charge by either type of connection.
The P1S sports an 8-megapixel camera with a backlight-illuminated sensor, which shoots 1080p high-definition video. There's a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video calls too.
Both phones run the latest version of Google's Android mobile phone software, known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Android is endlessly customisable, so you can set up your phone to do what you want, and personalise the controls so your favourite bits and bobs are right at your fingertips.
It's based around multiple home screens that you can fill with shortcuts to your favourite apps, and widgets that update themselves automatically to show you useful information from the weather to your latest messages to your friends' latest social networks updates.
Apps are downloaded from the Android App Market, over Wi-Fi, and allow you to do specific tasks. There's a vast range of Android apps that do just about everything you can think of and more, although it's not regulated like Apple's iPhone App Store, so there's no guarantee of quality.
You can also keep options on your home screens within easy reach for handy tips like quickly turning the Wi-Fi on and off -- useful when you need to go easy on the battery. There's also a handy tray of five touch icons at the bottom of the screen that you can personalise. Below that are three physical controls: Back, Home and Menu.
Interestingly -- and unusually -- Huawei has built a custom front-end for Ice Cream Sandwich on the P1S, but not turned it on by default on the sample we saw. If in the finished version you have the option to switch between standard Android and Huawei's adjusted version we'd be very impressed indeed, as most manufacturers give you no choice when they lump you with an adulterated front end -- and for every improvement they make to the Android interface you're usually forced to accept various superfluous extras and add-ons.
Huawei seems to have decided it's tired of letting other people take the credit, and has stepped from behind the curtain with the Ascend P1 and P1S. It's a similar story to HTC, which stole the limelight from established phone brands when it created a string of Android phones that raised the bar for its rivals. With the slim and trim Ascend P1 and P1S, Huawei could be on the ascent.