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MWC 2013: Huawei Ascend P2 hands-on preview

It may not be the rumoured octa-core smartphone we were expecting, but Huawei is calling its latest device, the Ascend P2, "the world's fastest smartphone." We have no way to be sure about that yet, but it sure looks nice. We got a chance to check it out here at Mobile World Congress.

"Today is the day that Huawei really grows up," Amy Lou, Huawei's global brand director, announced at the manufacturer's press conference. That statement may have been more appropriate at CES, when Huawei introduced the gigantic 6.1in Ascend Mate. The Ascend P2, on the other hand, is smaller, trimmer, and more refined. It's the kind of phone I'd personally choose over the Mate, and yet something about it just didn't quite wow me.

The Ascend P2 is made entirely of high quality plastic, with a second-generation Corning Gorilla Glass display. At 4.7in and 1,280 x 720 pixels (that's 315 pixels per inch), it's a bit lower in resolution than the 1080p displays we're starting to see in phones like the HTC One. It still looks sharp in person, if not quite as eye-catching as HTC's latest flagship device. The handset is capable of reaching 500 nits of brightness, so it does get very bright.

The Ascend P2's predecessor, the Ascend P1, was billed as the world's thinnest smartphone when it was launched last year at CES. Smartphones keep getting trimmer, but the Ascend P2 still manages to cut a lovely 8.4mm figure. Huawei says it could have made the P2 even thinner, but that wouldn't have left enough space for its 13-megapixel camera.

Outfitted with BSI 3 and HDR, it snapped photos very quickly when I tried it. But as we've seen on a number of phones, like the LG Optimus G, more megapixels don't necessarily equal a better picture. Of course, we can't be sure about the camera's performance until we can truly put it to the test via a full review. One final point – the photo gallery has built-in face recognition, which is a nice touch.

Everything else about the phone is clearly high quality, if a little bland. It has a fairly standard slab design, available in either black or white. There's LTE and NFC support, and a 2420mAh battery which should provide plenty of power.

The phone is running Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) as opposed to the newer Android 4.2.2 (still Jelly Bean), and Huawei has made a number of customisations to the OS with its Emotion UI. It has added a "theme manager," with over 100 built-in themes, as well as the ability to create and save your own. There are also data and power management apps included, which are always welcome. I'm not sure if the software here is final, but I wasn't able to locate the Apps menu.

Curiously, processor speed was never mentioned in the presentation, but it looks like the P2 is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core chip. That should make it comparable with the new fleet of quad-core devices, if not quite at the head of the pack.

The Ascend P2 is a lovely looking phone – it just doesn't really stand out. We're still looking forward to getting one in the office and putting Huawei's "fastest phone" claims to the test.

The Ascend P2 will be available globally in Q2 costing 399 Euros (around £345). At CES, Huawei mentioned that it would be showing two phones at MWC. It turns out that second phone won't be announced until the summer, but Huawei's CEO assured the audience that it would be "disruptive."