LAS VEGAS -- Smartphones aren't at the forefront of this year's CES, but those companies that have debuted new handsets have shown that mobile tech for 2013 is all about massive displays.
Chinese technology giant Huawei unveiled its Ascend Mate device at its press event on Monday, and today we got a hands-on glimpse at what is now the world's largest smartphone.
The Huawei Ascend Mate comes equipped with a whopping 6.1-inch display, the biggest of its kind. Although the smartphone's screen is longer than that of any other handset on the market, the device still manages to boast a lightweight body. Despite its size, it doesn't feel as awkward as we may have expected. The lightness and thinness of the device somewhat make up for its imposing size.
The display's quality may be considered mediocre at 720p, but considering this is meant to be a lower-cost device compared to other phablets like Samsung's Galaxy Note 2, it seems to make sense. With a resolution of 720p, this means that Ascend Mate buyers will be getting 241 pixels per inch. As a point of reference, Apple's iPhone 5 features 326 ppi with its Retina Display technology. That is the highest ppi of any smartphone on the market, but other high-end devices like Samsung's Galaxy Note 2 come with a ppi of about 265.
As for the specs, Huawei's latest smartphone-tablet hybrid comes with a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor, a powerful 4050mAh battery and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean right out of the box. The camera comes with 8 megapixels, which is significantly lower than Huawei's other new offerings such as the 5-inch Ascend D that packs a 13 megapixel camera. However, the 6.1-inch phablet's camera does match those of most standard high-end current generation smartphones. The term "phablet" typically refers to any smartphone surpassing five inches in length, resulting in a crossbreed smartphone-tablet hybrid.
While the Ascend Mate may not come with some of the glitzy and glamorous features that Samsung's Premium Suite Jelly Bean boasts, Huawei has loaded some capabilities that help users adjust to its abnormal size. For example, users can opt to have their touchscreen keyboards aligned on either the right or left side of the screen so that one-handed texting is still possible.
There's no home button on the device, but it does feature on-screen home and back buttons just like most standard tablets. To access this home button toolbar, users need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen while in an app. The Ascend Mate also comes with three customizable home screens where users can add and arrange apps or widgets.
Huawei's rendition of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean comes with a feature that tiles certain widgets on the home screen. The user interface can be configured to show the weather or a user's contacts and photos as the home screen in tile form.
Pricing and availability has not been announced for the United States yet, but we've heard from a Huawei representative that it could land in the $300 range. This hasn't been confirmed, but if it holds up to be true Huawei would be offering a phablet alternative that is significantly cheaper than Samsung's. The Galaxy Note 2 can cost upwards of $600 without a contract, which is double the estimated cost of Huawei's upcoming offering.
It's clear that the Huawei Ascend is touted as a device aimed at those who love to view media or consume social media on the go rather than make phone calls. A Huawei representative admitted that this smartphone isn't targeted at avid phone callers, but is a less costly alternative to purchasing a Galaxy Note 2 or 7-inch tablet.
We expect to see a variety of larger smartphones throughout the year as the demand for hybrid devices increases. It's unlikely that many handsets will be quite as big as Huawei's Ascend Mate, but the fact that a low cost phablet could be hitting the market just illustrates how quickly demand is growing.