BERLIN—Huawei on Thursday announced one of the biggest phones at IFA—literally. The Huawei Ascend Mate7 is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest flagship handset, with a fingerprint sensor, brand-new octa-core chip, and a truly tremendous battery.
The company also announced the Ascend G7, a midrange phone, as well as a sapphire- and ceramic-clad edition of the Ascend P7. We got a chance to check them all out.
Huawei has managed to stuff a lot of hardware into a (relatively) tiny space with the Mate7 (pictured). True, the phone’s 6-inch screen size means there’s some extra room to work with, but it’s rare that I’m impressed by the size of a battery. The Mate7, however, is packing a 4,100mAh Li-Polymer battery, which Huawei says is good for up to 2.33 days of talk time. The company also claims the phone’s screen is the world’s first JDI IPS-NEO with negative crystal display. This supposedly allows for an ultra-high contrast ratio and 15 percent lower power consumption. I couldn’t tell whether any of this was true in the demo station, but it looked nice.
Huawei Ascend Mate7 Huawei Ascend Mate 7 back Huawei Ascend Mate7 side Huawei Ascend G7 Huawei Ascend G7 back Huawei Ascend G7 side Sapphire Ascend P7 scratch test
The design of the phone itself reminds me a bit of the HTC One (M8), which is a good thing. It’s made of more than 95 percent metal and has a solid feel in the hand. And even though it has such a big screen, barely existent bezels mean it doesn’t actually feel quite as large as some other phablets on the market (including the Ascend G7). On top of this, a lightly curved back makes the phone easier to hold.
The back of the phone is home to a fingerprint sensor, like the HTC One Max. I didn’t get a chance to test it out, but it sounds like it could be more useful than options we’ve seen from HTC, Apple, and Samsung. For instance, the sensor uses active RF field sensing, so you only need to rest your finger on it, unlike the iPhone 5s which requires you to press the home button or the Galaxy S5, which requires a swiping motion. And in addition to simply unlocking the phone, Huawei has built in some cool features, like the ability to offer a modified phone screen for visitors that hides any private material. You can also use it to protect certain folders. And it works in wet or dry conditions, which will be a nice change if you’ve ever tried to activate your iPhone right after washing your hands.
From a hardware perspective, the phone is powered by an interesting new chip. It’s a Kirin 925, which is an LTE Cat6 octa-core SoC. It uses four larger A15 cores and four smaller A7 cores to balance out the workload, while still keeping the size manageable.
The Mate7 is expected to become available this quarter, in a standard 2GB RAM/16GB memory version in black or white for 499 euros. A premium 3G RAM/32GB memory version in gold will be available for 599 euros. Unfortunately, there’s no word on a release in the U.S., and given Huawei’s track record, it doesn’t seem likely.
2014 IFA Bug ArtHuawei also announced the Ascend G7, which is company’s latest midrange option. You might notice from the pictures, that it looks a little something like the iPhone 5s—from the metal frame to the two-tone color combinations (not to mention the choice of colors, including silver, gold, and black). That said, it’s an attractive device, though its 5.5-inch, 720p screen could stand to be a little sharper. It also feels larger in the hand than the 6-inch Mate 7.
Inside, the phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor (Huawei didn’t specify what kind) and has a large 3,000mAh battery. There’s a 13-megapixel camera on the back of the phone, and a 5-megapixel camera on the front, with an 88-degree wide-angle lens for selfies (that seems to be a theme this year). All in all it looks like a decent phone, but not a terribly exciting one. The Ascend G7 will become available this month for 299 euros, but again, a U.S. release doesn’t seem likely.
Finally, I got a chance to check out the new sapphire edition of the Ascend P7. It features a sapphire glass display on front, and a ceramic back panel, but is otherwise the same phone Huawei announced back in May.
Much like the recently tested Kyocera Brigadier, the sapphire P7 was easily resistant to scratches from a Swiss Army knife Huawei had stationed at the demo booth. That means you won’t suffer any scratches from accidentally putting the phone in the same pocket as your keys.
On the other hand, I’m not sure I see the benefit of the ceramic back panel. Maybe it was the lighting, but on the phone I saw, it was an absolute fingerprint magnet. The phone will be available in limited quantities in China this quarter, but Huawei didn’t mention a price. I expect it to be more expensive than the standard model, though.