The Huawei Ascend Mate is so big that we had to step back to fit it in the frame when shooting this phablet at CES 2013. At 6.1 inches, the Mate (coming to China in February and other markets thereafter), makes the iPhone 5 look like a Tic-Tac. It also has a much bigger 720p screen than the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II, although Huawei says that it has a more compact screen-to-chassic ratio than competing phones.
The other thing about the Mate that's large and in charge is its 4050 mAh battery. Huawei says the Ascend Mate should last two full days of working, and back up its claims with some test results versus the Galaxy Note II. For example, the Mate should last 14 hours of web surfing, versus 11.5 hours of the Note II. The Mate tries to outshine Samsung in the innovation department, too.
What can you do with 6.1 inches? The Floating Windows feature will be able to let users run multiple applications on the screen at once. For instance, you could view a video, send a message and have your browser on the background all simultaneously. Unfortunately, this feature wasn't working yet on the units we tried.
Other features of the Ascend Mate include a 1.5-GHz quad-core processor, 8-MP HDR camera and a microSD Card slot. A Magic Touch feature lets you operate the phablet with a gloved hand.
The design is slick, available in black and white, but we found it unwieldy. Fortunately, Huawei includes a one-handed operation mode for shifting things like the keyboard or dialpad to the right or left side.
Although the Mate doesn't include a pen, it's clear that Huawei is going after the Galaxy Note II by piling on the features. A Smart Reading feature lets you isolate a word, name or phrase you can search, define or translate it, while Swift Sharing is supposed to let users share files even faster than S Share, offering speeds up to 150 Mbps.
The Emotion UI has some benefits, such as multiple screen unlock options, settings shortcuts in the notification drawer and easily customizable widgets. Plus, you don't have to deal with a separate apps screen. They're all integrated across the multiple home screens. Huawei says the Ascend Mate will run Android Jelly Bean, but we couldn't get Google Now to pop up.
We're not sure consumers are ready for a smartphone with a screen this big, but the Ascend Mate certainly tries to make the most of its extra real estate. We look forward to seeing whether any U.S. carriers pick this phablet up.