Extensive Background Statement
I am a relative late comer to the world of "Smartphones". In fact I didn't buy my first smartphone until Mid-2012. At that time I bought an HTC Raider (known as the HTC Holiday in some places). A relatively beefy device running Android ICS. Unfortunately HTC being HTC the phone got "discontinued" about a month after I purchased it and barely 9 months since release in Canada. No Jelly Bean update ever looked likely and to be honest I was looking for an excuse to ditch my cell provider (Bell Canada) where I was spending $67 canadian dollars and not even getting simple features such as caller display. Yes, in Canada, knowing who is actually calling you is paid for extra on many providers. There is however a provider called WIND Mobile who offer a far superior deal for just $30. It's basically unlimited in most respects (including data) and does have the simple things like caller display covered. The trade off is that they have limited coverage restricted to the big cities but I don't do a lot of travelling and I can cope for the price saving.
So after making the choice to jump I thought it would be a nice idea to get a new phone. I liked my Raider. It was a fairly powerful device and I had no major gripes with Android but I did find myself increasingly annoyed at the weight (177 grams) and I found the screen at 4.5" just slightly too large in the hand for reaching the screen edges. Despite sporting a 1.2GHz dual core processor which performed well, when my wife recently purchased a Nexus 4 and we compared basic speed, the Raider definitely stuttered more at opening and switching between apps. I'd never noticed previously but afterwards it was more apparent.
I'm a fan of Windows. I've used the OS since Win95 and I got Windows 8 as a gift from my Wife at Christmas and I like it. For me it's essentially a subtle improvement on Windows 7 which I rate as one of the best OS'es MS has produced.
WIND Mobile is a small player in Canada with limited coverage and they often struggle to offer the latest and greatest devices. Essentially they offer a selection of feature phones, a fair amount of Android devices and two (lower end) Windows Phone 8 devices - the Huawei Ascend W1 and the HTC 8S. As mentioned I'm not exactly an uber power user nor am I invested in any particular phone eco-system so I decided to look at WP8. The Ascend W1 and HTS 8S are fairly similar but the Ascend has a front facing camera and it would appear a far superior battery (more on that later). The Ascend was also $50 cheaper so my decision was pretty easy.
(image from notebookcheck.net)
For a lot of people the following specs will seem pretty low end.
The Ascend W1 sports a 1.2GHz dual core processor, 512MB RAM, and a 4" 800x480px IPS LCD screen at 233 ppi density.
Main camera is 5MP and the front facing camera is just VGA but does the job.
Storage is a measly 4GB (same as the 8S) but can be extended with a microSD card up to 32GB.
Weight: 120-130 grams depending on who you ask. While this is heavier than some new devices when compared to the 177 grams of my old phone it feels way better in the pocket.
In the box it's fairly standard - charger plug, detachable USB cord and a set of earphones. Nothing fancy.
Price in Canada was $249 + tax (in my part of Canada this is 13%). I get the impression the device is cheaper in other parts of the world.
The device is actually fairly close in size to my old Raider but the screen is 4" rather than 4.5". Doesn't sound like much but for me it's an easier size and I can reach most parts of the screen better. As mentioned it feels light in the hand and in the pocket. The main body of the device is about 8mm thick and the screen is noticeably set on top so it isn't a single contour/line when viewing the device side on. The back of the device (excuse the poor description) is criss-crossed so it has a textured dimple sort of feel. Feels grippy in the hand and I like it. On the top of the device there is the power button (in silver/chrome) and headphone jack. On the left side is a volume rocker in black plastic like the rest of the case. On the right side is a silver/chrome camera button (as per WP8 requirements). On the bottom is the micro USB port for charging or connecting to the PC
Windows Phone 8
You can tell this is an OS heavily optimized for lower powered devices. Despite the specs listed above which look a bit "2009" the OS is spectacularly fast in my opinion. I've used plenty of devices over the years of family and friends and compared to my Raider on Android it feels way smoother. Opening and switching apps is noticeably faster for me and I've yet to make the phone "stutter". Using Windows 8 on the PC there are elements which are familiar to me like the "Start Screen" and overall I find it intuitive. It feels a lot "simpler" than Android and the spartan styling and colour schemes might not suit everyone but I love the minimal aesthetics.
Huawei gives you a pretty blank slate to work with here. Presumably because of the storage constraints they've decided against filling the phone with apps. I don't really mind this. I like to start clean and do what I want. As a Windows Phone it comes with Office installed and can be integrated with SkyDrive to allow you to create or edit your files between different devices. The Windows Store is still a long way behind Google or Apple but it's getting there. As this is very much a budget device the average user is likely to be a first time smartphone adopter or someone (like me) who isn't tied to their phone as if it was an extra body part. In any event the popular apps like Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber, Shazam, Adobe Reader and Skype are all present. A few bigger names are missing like Facebook and Youtube but Microsoft themselves seem to be creating a few "stopgap" apps in the meantime. Again for the "power user" they're likely to find stuff they use a lot is missing but I don't see it being a problem for myself. The built in "People" and "Me" areas on WP8 do a great job for me anyway bringing together my mail accounts, Facebook and Twitter. I actually prefer it but many people might prefer the dedicated apps as they'll have more options and settings.
I've had the phone for about 48 hours now. I've spent a fair amount of time playing around with the settings and installing a few applications. I had a skype call with my parents earlier today for about 45 minutes and the audio on the call was perfectly acceptable for me. Having the front facing camera was a definite plus over the HTC 8S as my parents could see me too even if it wasn't superb being VGA quality. VGA beats no video at all though.
This is the ace up the sleeve of this device. One of the biggest gripes I had with my HTC Raider was the battery. I had LTE/4G for a while and the battery was barely able to last from morning to evening. Switching back to 3G remedied that somewhat and the phone could get to the end of the day with maybe 30% battery. The effect was pretty much the same though...every night the phone would need charged and I'm not even a particularly heavy user of my phones. It seems many people have similar complaints with their phones regardless of OS or manufacturer. I do some browsing, keep up to date with the social networks I'm on and occasionally watch some short videos but certainly not many hours of usage. The Ascend W1 has a fairly powerful 1950mAh battery and combined with the "low end" internals and screen it's an inspired choice. The first night I got the device I fully charged it. As you can see below even with WP8's "Battery Saver" mode turned off I'm sitting at 34% battery left after 33 hours. As mentioned I've been using the phone more than I normally would. I've done some initial setup and playing around. I downloaded and listened to some podcasts. I made a 45 minute skype call. I've downloaded some games and apps and done normal browsing so I have no doubt this device will comfortably make a full 48 hours on a charge. It might even push 3+ days if Battery Saver works well (haven't tested so can't say)
I'm certainly not an avid photographer so at this stage I only have a few test snaps to look at. I find them acceptable. More skilled photograph analyzers would likely find that the images are slightly dull and more reddish than they should be. I found in lower light or the duller light as dusk approaches that the images appear darker than they ought to. In brightly lit areas (eg in a shop) the pictures are fine. At 5MP they won't win any fidelity prizes but this is a budget device. For quick snaps it'll be perfectly fine. The camera settings allow you to choose quality and aspect ratio from VGA to 1MP 4:3, 2MP 5:3, 3MP 4:3, 4MP 5:3 or 5MP 4:3. There are White Balance settings of Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Tungsten and Candlelight. What these do or how useful they are is a bit beyond me. It's rare that I take more than a handful of photos in a month let alone hundreds. As mentioned most quick photos will be fine.
In very bright sunlight I found the screen difficult to see but indoors it's very nice. It's bright and clear. I find the viewing angles to be superior to my old Android phone. I know some people look at screens and can detect the pixels and such like but I can't. For the price of this phone you won't be complaining about the screen. The 800x480 resolution is obviously pretty low but it seems to be fine the OS interface itself and web browsing isn't negatively impacted.
The 4GB storage is the biggest issue with this phone. Out of the box there is less than 2GB available with WP8 itself sucking up the rest. Anyone snapping photos and taking video or installing a lot of apps will find the storage runs out very fast. You'll likely need to invest in an SD card. 32GB cards seem to be available for under $20 so it's not exactly a big expense and certainly not like fixed storage devices where the manufacturer will offer you more space for a big hike in price. Again I can deal with it.
I'm pretty pleased. At $249+tax it looks like I've paid a premium compared to other markets. WP8 is fairly rare in Canada and WIND seem to be the only provider offering this device. Many other networks seem to offer 1 or 2 handsets so it's a pretty token effort. In Canada iOS and Android are obviously popular but unlike most other countries BlackBerry is still a big player here (home team advantage) so WP8 will likely never be higher than 4th. Even still paying extra for the "rarity" (lol) it's not exactly a huge outlay. Looking around Google it seems the device is cheaper elsewhere. o2 in the UK are pushing it for £99.99 which, frankly, is a steal. 100 quid for this device is ridiculously good value even if you need to spend a few pounds more to get a microSD card.
When you look the phone in the round you have to keep comparing what you get to the price. It's a cheaper end phone and it's pretty middle of the road in most aspects. You won't be blown away by anything (except the battery life) but you'll also be exceptionally harsh if you find too much to criticize. The nearest competition seems to be the HTC 8S or the Lumia 520. The HTC 8S is probably the nicer looking device and the Lumia has 8GB storage and I assume the Nokia apps. The Ascend W1 does however have the front facing camera and way superior battery life. Overall I think it's better than it's immediate competition. The Notebookcheck.net review I mention below suggests it comfortably out performs it's rivals.
If you're looking to try WP8 then this could be a cheap and easy way to see if it's right for you before deciding to splash bigger money on the top end Lumias.
+ Very nice battery life, Nice feel and design, Decent screen, Value price
- 4GB storage won't cut it for most people, Immature operating system means less apps. This will be most difficult for people converting from long time usage of iOS or android.
http://www.notebookc...ne.92219.0.html provides a more in-depth study of the performance of the phone
http://www.techradar...#articleContent provides a more general review and a gallery of the device.