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.

Huawei themes

The same screen with 3 different themes applied

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.