When it comes to budget Android handsets, or any Android device, there are many options with few real differences. Generally speaking, we see a lot of the same from every manufacturer.
In North America, the marketplace is flooded with the usual suspects: Samsung, HTC and Motorola. The name Huawei is fairly uncommon, and can be seen as an alternative, if its available from a service provider in your neck of the woods. Currently, US Cellular is offering the Ascend 2 as an option.
Sadly, it's an option we would ultimately say no to. Even though the Ascend 2 goes for just one penny with a two-year contract, it doesn't offer much more than that low price point.
On the plus side, the Ascend 2 is up to par in the look and feel department, more so than the Ascend 1.
For those of you not familiar with the first Ascend, it came off as rather clunky and cheap.
The Ascend 2 manages to resolve many of its predecessor's aesthetic issues. Unlike many follow-ups that hew too closely to the original's design, the Ascend 2 is noticeably redesigned and considerably smaller.
At 4.5 x 2.4 x .55 inches, it's a compact package in line with budget offerings from other manufacturers. Additionally, it's almost the same size as an iPhone 4S. At 4.7 oz, it weighs just a little less than Apple's phone.
At the very top of the device sits a 2.5mm headset jack and an on/off/sleep switch to the right. On the left is the volume rocker, while the right is completely barren. At the bottom there's a microphone and a micro USB port.
One of the biggest complaints about the original Ascend was the flimsy plastic back. The Ascend 2 improves on that with a very smooth, rubberized backing that feels fantastic in the hand. Coupled with its balanced weight, the Ascend 2 is a pleasure to handle.
We also appreciated the durability and elegant texturing of the back. Despite some "aggressive" handling, it did not retain any noticeable blemishes and scratches, whatsoever.
It's worth noting how easy it is to open the back of the Ascend 2. With some phones it's a struggle to pop it open and take a look inside. There's also the fear that the pressure you're applying might cause it to snap. No such worries here!
Huawei's industrial design in this category should be recognized. Once open you'll also find a 1500 mA Lithium-ion battery and a 2GB micro SD card, which are all fairly standard.
On the outside of the back there's a rather large (compared to other smartphones) 5.0 megapixel lens and a sizable speaker grill. The grill is so big that it gives the impression of considerable sound output, which is indeed the case. The Ascend 2 is a loud device. We'll get to the camera later in our review.
The front of the phone is nothing to get excited about, unless you owned the first Ascend. If that's the case, it'll wow you by comparison. The Ascend 2 sports a clean and modern look, far less gaudy looking than its predecessor. As a purely touchscreen driven device, it ditches the rather unreliable trackball of the original Ascend.
Also, the Ascend 2 has a more traditional set of hardware buttons, which are functional, and will be familiar to experienced Android users.
Unfortunately, we were rather disappointed with the Ascend 2's screen. The display is a 3.5" HVGA touchscreen, with a resolution of 480 x 320 pixels, and only supports 260,000 colors. This subpar screen is Ascend 2's first major miss.
While we appreciated the sturdiness of the Ascend 2's design and the nice-to-hold aesthetic of the phone, that low-color, low-resolution display really drags down the overall package.