From 80s-era goliaths and 90s-era Nokia wedges through to today's monolithic slabs, phones are continuously changing their size and shape. Even today, some smart phones are neatly palm-sized, while others -- like the Samsung Galaxy Mega -- sport screens so large that to use them you must stretch your thumbs further than nature ever intended.
Huawei's take on this is evidently 'the skinnier the better', as it's given the Ascend P6 a superbly narrow 6.18mm frame. That makes it the thinnest phone on the market today. Into that body, Huawei has packed a quad-core processor, a 720p display and Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
It's available from July for £330 SIM-free.
Should I buy the Huawei Ascend P6?
If you want to win a specs battle against your-packing friends, then no. With a 720p resolution display, 8-megapixel camera and mediocre performance from a quad-core chip, the P6 is much more akin to last year's smart phones.
If specs are less important than an eye on design then the P6 has more to offer. At 6.18mm thick, it's the skinniest phone on the market. The metal design looks good too, so long as you can ignore thestylings and stupid port placement.
It's not perfect though. I found it overheated easily and there were a couple of slight build quality and software issues that caused me some concern. They could be down to errors specific to my early review model, so I'll come back to these when Huawei puts the P6 on sale.
If a super-skinny body is paramount, the P6 is a fair option to consider. The Google Nexus 4, however, boasts similar specs and delivers a much more spritely performance. Its stock Android software is much more user friendly too and you can pick it up for less money.
Design and build quality
Okay, let's get it out of the way early -- the P6 looks basically like an iPhone 4 that's had an altercation with a rolling pin. The edge of the phone is a strip of brushed aluminium that may as well have been lifted straight from Apple's phone. It's broken, too, at the top corners by the same little black lines seen on the iPhone.
The front and back panels both protrude away from the metal edging -- again, exactly like the iPhone. The front is an all glass affair while the back is made from black brushed metal. Huawei may have spent a lot of time in research and design, but it doesn't seem to have left the Apple store much during the process.
The bottom half of the phone has a rounded, black bottom, mercifully setting it apart from the iPhone. In fact, the bottom looks like a different phone altogether -- almost as though Huawei has glued two halves of different phones together. That's not helped by the Huawei logo on the bottom. Most of the time when I pick the phone up, I pick it up upside down, as I'm so used to the branding appearing at the top.
iPhone stylings aside, the P6 is a great piece of kit, thanks to its supreme slimness. It measures a ridiculous 6.8mm thick, making it the thinnest phone you can currently wrap your hands around. It looks almost like a 2D sliver of black when it's sitting on your desk. Hold it between your fingers and I expect that, like me, you'll be quite taken aback by how ridiculously narrow it really is.
is super skinny too, but it looks positively portly when compare with the P6. If a size zero phone to slide, unnoticed, into the pocket of your skinny jeans appeals then the P6 should be high up your list of candidates.
That slimness doesn't seem to have come at the expense of structural rigidity either. The solid metal back and side bar help make it feel very stable -- there's no flex in the frame at all when you give it a bit of a bend.
The metal design makes the P6 feel like a satisfyingly luxurious product, far removed from awfully plasticky phones like the G510. It looks and feels considerably more premium than the as well.
It's not perfect, though. The metal back panel displays a small amount of movement when you press it in certain places. It also doesn't sit exactly flush with its surround, resulting in quite a harsh edge. Neither are exactly deal-breakers, but it does suggest that a a closer eye on quality control is needed.
The handset I reviewed was an early sample, so it's possible that the phone simply has a couple of manufacturing issues. I'll take another look at a different model closer to its launch and update this review if I'm satisfied it's been improved.
A larger problem though is the amount of heat the phone generates when in use. The slim design means the processor and other components are pushed right up against the metal back. It heats up extremely quickly when you play demanding games, and at some points actually became uncomfortably hot. I thought it was just me, until the phone gave me an actual warning that it was overheating -- something I've never seen before.
While it might not be an issue in everyday use, it's definitely a concern to keep in mind -- overheating repeatedly to such levels isn't going to do the phone any good at all. While nothing seriously bad happened in my testing, I worry that it could become a real issue over longer periods of time.
Huawei doesn't seem to have thought about its port placement at all. Stuck on the top of the phone is a micro-USB port. Not a problem, you think? Try popping your phone into any of your existing charging or speaker docks -- your phone will be upside down. You'd better make sure you have auto-rotate enabled.
On the left edge at the bottom is what looks like a little metal button. Pry your fingernails under it though and out pops a SIM ejector tool. Aside from functioning as a tool, it's also plugging up the 3.5mm headphone jack. There are two glaring problems with this. First off, the ejector tool is so tiny and easy to remove that I guarantee you'll have lost it within your first week of owning it -- I almost lost it on several occasions.
Secondly, putting the headphone jack on the side of the phone is just an awful idea. It might not seem like much of an issue, but imagine trying to slide your phone in your pocket when your headphone cable is poking out the side. If you have headphones with a straight jack, rather than one that lies at 90-degrees, you'll definitely find it annoying. It also means your headphone cable jack is at much greater risk of being damaged each time you try and cram it into your jeans.
The P6 comes with 8GB of storage, of which a little over half is available for you to use. That's not a massive amount, so you'll want to make use of the microSD card slot tucked into the side.
The P6 packs a 4.7-inch screen with a 720p resolution. That's no match for the Full HD big boys like the Sony Xperia Z,or Samsung Galaxy S4, but it's still a decent resolution that puts it more or less in line with phones like the Nexus 4.