The Huawei Ascend Mate runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean skinned with the home-brewed Emotion UI v1.5. The result is a very simple, flat interface with no app drawer. It seems, it was Huawei's goal to make it friendly and simple rather than rework Android beyond recognition.
Other than the missing app drawer and the collapsible navigation bar, the rest is pretty straightforward and familiar, with most of the applications being the stock Android apps, with subtle Huawei touches here and there.
Here is a demo video of the user interface to get you started:
The lockscreen is fairly busy. At its center is a circle with shortcuts in the four cardinal directions: simple unlock to the south, camera to the north, messaging to the east and dialer/call log to the west.
The upper area of the lockscreen displays the time and date. If the music player is running, the time and date are replaced by the music player controls.
Beyond the lockscreen is a fairly standard Android homescreen with five customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom. The default selection is phone app, messages, mail, web browser and contacts but you can have any app really, or folders with multiple items, visible on all homescreens.
There are nine homescreen panes at most - at least a couple of them will accommodate actual apps. In the absence of an app drawer, anything you install pops up on the homescreen. There're no shortcuts as such -the usual routine of removing icons (dragging them up to a recycle bin at the top of the screen) will uninstall the corresponding app.
The thing is fool-proof and you just can't accidentally uninstall essential apps like the gallery or email client.
The downside of the flat structure is you cannot get rarely used apps out of the way, but folders partially make up for that.
A pinch on the homescreen triggers the familiar Overview mode to let you check out and organize the homescreen panes currently in use, remove or add panes as you please. Alternatively, the overview can be displayed when you hit the Thumbnails shortcut in the menu that appears upon a tap and hold on a blank spot of the screen.
The overview mode • homescreen actions
Widgets are available too - tap and hold on the homescreen, then choose Widgets. The Ascend Mate came only with the default Jelly Bean widgets, no custom additions by Huawei. Of course, you can get third party widgets off the Play Store.
The menu displayed upon a tap and hold on the homescreen also lets you set wallpaper and homescreen transition effects.
Live, static and scrollable static wallpapers are supported. You can activate the Shake to change wallpaper setting, or turn on Random change and set a specific time interval (5 min, 15 min, 30 min, 60 min, and every day).
Themes are available as well. A theme will change your homescreen wallpaper, lockscreen style, system icons, system font and the sound profile. There are 24 different lockscreen styles with different unlock gestures, time widgets and shortcut style and layout.
Of course, you can always opt for the default Android lockscreens - Face Unlock, Pattern, PIN or Password.
There are also 20 completely different icon sets you can choose from, including some really... creative ones.
There are some crazy icon packs
The notification area features up to nine toggles on a single side-swipeable row. Hitting More will reveal all the available toggles and you can choose which of the 15 toggles in total will feature on the top row.
The standard Android notifications stack up below the toggles. The notifications can be expanded or collapsed with a pinch gesture. You can also swipe to dismiss a notification.
A shortcut to the Settings Menu and a Dismiss All button are available in the top right corner of the notification area.
If the Music Player or FM radio apps are running in background, media player controls will be available in the notification area too.
The first toggle on the notification area is Profiles. Upon a tap, a virtual dial appears to choose the setting you need: Normal, Outdoor, Meeting, or Sleep. Each of them has predefined settings - you can't have your own presets or customize the available ones.
The Settings menu has two tabs. The first one is called General and offers only a limited set of settings Huawei thought you'll use most often.
The two tabs of the settings menu
The other tab - All Settings - has the default Android list of settings plus a few extra additions by Huawei.
One of the new settings is Navigation bar. The Back, Home and Task Switcher on-screen controls can be collapsed with you tap on the small arrow in the left corner of the navigation bar. To bring it back, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Another new setting is the Power Manager. It has three customizable modes - Intelligent, Normal and Optimum performance. You can configure each of those modes, setting up what apps run at startup, as well as which are allowed to run in the background and which aren't.
Power manager • app settings • closing apps to save power
A new Gloves mode toggle is available in the Settings menu. If turned on, you will be able to operate the Ascend Mate display with gloves, but this may reduce your battery life.
Activating Gloves mode • One-hand operations
The last two new settings are One hand operations and Suspend button.
With One hand operations enabled, you can move the screen unlock, dialer, and the keyboard left or right on the screen, depending on which hand you are using. It's a handy feature to have on such a big device.
The last new feature in the Settings menu is the Suspend Button. Turning this on will give you a semi-transparent shortcut dial you can place wherever you like on the left or right side of the screen. The shortcuts available are calculator, gallery, messages and notes. The gallery and messages shortcuts will open the full-screen apps, while the calculator and notes launch a tiny widget-like application on top of the app you are currently running.
Suspend button • Mini calculator • Mini notes
Finally, let's see what Huawei has done with the task switcher. Its interface is the same as the stock Android Jelly Bean task switcher, but offers a few extra options. Each app thumbnail now has a dedicated close key (in addition to the default swipe to close gesture). There is also a "Kill all" key at the bottom that will terminate all running apps.
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