Towards the end of last year we began to hear about the Huawei Emotion UI, a user experience which Huawei hoped would help define it as a unique smartphone maker -- the way the Sense UI has for HTC.

The Ascend Mate is our first time playing with the Emotion UI, and the experience is pretty underwhelming. There is a single Huawei-designed widget which can be customised to show the time, weather, music and favourite contacts, and a selection of themes which can be applied to the phone, but this is about all there is.

Huawei Ascend Mate 4

To be fair, the themes are pretty comprehensive. Each gives the user experience an overhauled appearance, including wallpapers, ringtones and customised application icons.

Interestingly, Huawei's UI does away with the application drawer that is common on almost all versions of Android. Instead, Huawei takes an iOS-like approach, with all application icons living on the numerous homescreens, mixed in among the widgets

Huawei UI

The 'suspend button'in action

To spare you from having a dozen screens of app icons when you first turn the phone on, Huawei bundles a bunch of them into folders, like a Google folder with all of your Google-made apps in one place, for example.

Dipping into the system menu reveals a few other interesting tidbits in the Emotion UI interface. There is an option ofr one-handed operation tucked towards the bottom of the list, which gives you alternate ways to unlock the phone and type messages without needing to take a seat and use both hands.

There is also something that Huawei calls "Suspend Button" which, when on, places a semi-transparent grey ball on the screen that hovers over any apps you might be using. Pressing this ball opens a circular menu with four apps that can sit on the top of any screen. There is a note-taking app, an SMS app, quick access to the camera and a calculator.