Huawei Ascend Mate2 review: No-contract, low price phone that lasts forever

Huawei Ascend Mate2 review: No-contract, low price phone that lasts forever

Summary: Huawei launched their first phone selling directly in the US with the Ascend Mate2 and it is quite compelling at a low $299.99 unlocked, no-contract price.

Huawei Ascend Mate2 review: No-contract, low price phone that lasts forever

Huawei recently brought their first phone to the US in the form of the Ascend Mate2 and after using it for about 10 days I believe it is definitely a phone to consider if you want an affordable, no-contract, SIM-unlocked phone with a very large display and battery that just goes and goes.

I posted some first impressions last week and also included the Ascend Mate2 in my Six clicks article yesterday. I've had a T-Mobile SIM in it for all this time and wanted to share more of my experiences.


The Huawei Ascend Mate2 is a big device and that is what it is designed to be. They did a better job than most manufacturers in reducing the side bezels around the display and there is not much room used above and below it either. The display is a 720p variant, but it still looks great with solid viewing angles and good color.

Above the display you will find the 5 megapixel front facing camera that has the ability to capture panoramic selfies so you can capture yourself and your friends. A proximity sensor is located next to the front facing camera.

There are back, home, and multi-tasking capacitive software buttons at the bottom of the display.

The power button and volume button are along the right side. The power button is positioned near the middle so it is easy to press when you hold the large phone in one hand.

There is nothing on the left side. The microUSB charging port is on the bottom with a mic close by. The 3.5mm headset jack and another mic are on the top.

The back is removable so you can acces the microSD and SIM card slots. It uses a microSIM so I had to use an adapter with my nanoSIM card. The battery is not removable. The camera is centered near the top of the back with a flash positioned below the camera lens. The Huawei name and logo are below the flash. A mono speaker is centered near the bottom of the back. It is not going to blow you away, but is acceptable for alarms.

The back plastic is smooth with a textured pattern under the high gloss finish. It is a real fingerprint magnet and like the front it seems to take a lot of rubbing to get face grease and fingerprints off the material. I've seen this before on lower cost Nokia devices and it is the one readily apparent aspect of the Mate2 that indicates it is an inexpensive device.

The camera does fine, but can't compare to my Lumia 1520 or the Galaxy S5. I would put it at about the same as the Moto X where you can capture decent photos for sharing to social networks. The front facing camera does pretty well and I like that you can capture others in the shot. HTC does the best with their wide angle front facing cameras, but the Mate2 is a close second in this type of shot.

The Ascend Mate2 has a whopping 3,900 mAh battery and it easily went for a day of heavy usage and multiple days with lighter usage. I have not seen a phone last this long and I can't tell you what a breath of fresh air it was to not have to worry about finding a charger at the end of my busy day. The long battery life alone almost has me thinking about this as a secondary Android device.


When I first fired up the Mate2, I couldn't figure out how to get to the app drawer. After installing some apps from the Google Play Store I realized that there is no app drawer in their Emotion UI. App shortcuts appear on home screen panels. You can then organize them in folders and they function just like iOS or in the app drawer on most other Android devices.

You can have up to nine home screen panels so there is plenty of room for apps. There are also plenty of widgets you can put on the home screen panels, by tapping and holding on an open spot and selecting what you want.

There are quick controls in the top of the notification area and you can customize the order and shortcuts that are included here. There is even a gloves mode option for the display.

One feature of their UI is the WOW (windows-on-window) button that is pretty slick. You can move around this opaque circle to wherever you like it best on the display. Tapping it reveals options to go back, go home, open a small secondary window (lets you pop up the calendar, text message, note, or calculator), lock the device, and initiate storage cleaner.

The storage cleaner utility cleans the cache out, cleans up residual files, and performs other type of functions to optimize the device performance. It is great to see this kind of control being exposed to the user on an Android phone and I appreciated knowing this kind of information.

The Phone Manager utility is quite useful with functions that include cleaning storage, power saving toggle, do not disturb toggle, notification manager access, and more.

There are various themes to choose from that will change the wallpaper and lock screen shortcuts. I loved the colorful theme (loaded by default) and found the quick access to the camera, phone, text message, and unlock to be very useful. You can even customize a selected theme too so there is a lot you can do to personalize the device.

Usage and experiences

I was very impressed with the hardware, battery life, and performance of the Ascend Mate2. If I didn't already own a Galaxy S5, I would likely have already purchased a Mate2 as my large screen Android device. The UI is pretty slick and I like some of the software utilities they provide.

While the display is a 720p display, I still found it to be quite good with clear fonts and true colors. Huawei did a great job at minimizing the bezels around the display too so even though the display is 6.1 inches it doesn't feel that big in the hand.

The fingerprints and face grease buildup bothers me a bit and I had to wipe the display and back down quite a bit to keep it looking good. I tested out the white model and understand there is also a black model available.

Pros and cons

To summarize my experiences with the Huawei Ascend Mate2, here are my pros and cons.

Pros Cons
Super long battery life Lower resolution display
High quality construction Display smudges easily and take a lot to clean off
Very low price for the size Average camera performance
Handy and simple user interace  
No contract and support for US LTE networks  

Pricing and availability

The Huawei Ascend Mate2 is available now from the Huawei US website for $299.99. You get 20GB of free online storage for the lifetime of your phone from Bitcasa and can use the Rescue App to get tech support help directly on the Mate2.

The competition

There are other large display devices, including the Galaxy Note 3, Nokia Lumia 1520, Sony Xperia Ultra, LG G Flex, and HTC One Max. However, I am not sure there really is much competition to the Ascend Mate2 when you consider it is priced about half of what all these other phones cost.

There are some other large screen phones such as the HTC One (M8), Galaxy S5, OnePlus One, Nexus 5, and others, but these all have quite a bit smaller form factors.


  • Processor: Quad-core 1.6 GHz processor
  • Display: 6.1 inch 1280x720 Gorilla Glass 3 display
  • OS: Android 4.3 with Emotion UI
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Internal storage: 16 GB
  • External storage: microSD card
  • Cameras: 13 megapixel rear and 5 megapixel front facing
  • Battery capacity: Non-removable 3,900 mAh
  • Dimensions: 160 mm x 83.8 mm x 9.4 mm at 202 grams


I did not expect much from the Ascend Mate2 due to the low price with reasonably high-end specifications. The construction is quite impressive though and the battery life is stunning. I have come to like the Emotion UI that combines widgets from Android with application shortcuts on the home screen from iOS.

If you want a large screen device at a low price with support for US GSM carriers, then the Huawei Ascend Mate2 is definitely a device to consider. It excels in battery life while the rest of the experience is quite satisfying, and that's about everything you could ask for at the $300 price point.

Contributor's rating: 8.5 out of 10

Topics: Mobility, Android, Reviews, Smartphones

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  • Reverse charging

    When I saw this at CES one of the big highlights was the reverse charging - the ability to charge someone else's phone from your battery. Is that still there?

    It was presented as "our battery life is so great you can completely charge your friend's dying iPhone and still run for a day"
    • Hmm, I will have to check into that

      I never heard this, but will definitely look into it for you. It really is pretty amazing battery life. I was so shocked a couple of times I had to make sure my SIM was still connected to the network :)
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • It Is Surely There

        As The owner of the ascend mate2 and the ascend mate i can tell you the feature is there and even on the first mate with an otg cable you can charge another handset. i tested way back on the mate one with an htc incredible 2. the mate gives me 50-80 hours battery while the mate 2 give more because of better software tweaks and oc(or underclocking) tools for snapdragon(Im talking about constant use with both handsets). the mate cannot go higher than 4.2.2 even with custom firmware because huawei never release newer kernels but that issue is absent with the mate2. In Short. you Cant.. no matter what... regret purchasing this handset. im a Phablet Guy who has been through many large handsets and still own many(most from china companies) and own 1520 as well. the mate 2 and 1520 are the best For Me out of all. i can attempt to list them and give comparisons based on how i feel about them if requested... for those willing to plunge into the world of 6inch.. the best world there is.
    • Charge other devices

      I just got the Ascend Mate 2 with an introductory offer (which has now expired). It included the smart case and the other device charging cable. It indeed does charge any other device using a micro usb charging port. This is a great feature for when your wife forgets to charge her phone and she can't charge it. The cable is only about 6" long.

      The battery life is amazing compared to my Nexus 4. I just looked and saw that my charge was 94% since being on for about 16 hours with bluetooth , tether and Wifi all turned on.

      Every thing else in this review is right on.
  • Great Mayday feature!

    I couldn't recall my password. After a few tries some Chinese gal showed up on the screen and reminded me what it was!

    This beats Amazon's feature any day.
    • Agreed

      I had the same experience too. The Chinese gal also told me she was actually an American citizen employed by NSA and Snowden sucks.
  • LTE and battery life is what makes this really competitive

    there are better phones for the price from a number of companies (Xiaomi, Lenovo, ZTE, and others), but none of them have LTE that match US bands (not a problem if you live in Australia or Asia though). the Oneplus One is better than the Mate2 *and* has US LTE bands, but the US version is delayed so for now it's nigh impossible to get one. I dunno the battery life for any of those phones though. I'm sure they will all last at least a day though, but more battery life is always really nice, and the Mate2 might still be good in the face of these other phones just for that.
  • Chinese backdoors...

    Don't forget the Chinese malware and backdoors which can't be removed or detected. Don't think for a second this doesn't exist. China does not have companies where the government doesn't have it's hands in it. Hell we're a democracy and our government has modified exported hardware.

    Won't be purchasing any hardware or software owned by the Chinese.
  • Mate2 vs. Sony Xperia Z Ultra

    About 4 months ago, I was shopping for the largest shirtpocket phablet to use with T-Mobile LTE. I considered two choices: the Ascend Mate2 and the Sony XPeria Z Ultra C6806. I couldn't find the North American Mate2 anywhere, so I asked Ascend "Where can I get one?" on their Facebook site. They replied on the site, "Contact your service provider." I replied, "But my provider isn't selling it. Where else can I buy it?" They never responded. So I went with Sony, nabbing the Google Play Edition version for $400 new from a Craigslist seller. I'm absolutely crazy about my Sony, especially its screen size. It's amazing that a phone with a 6.4-inch LCD can slip into a shirtpocket, together with a 6000mAH backup battery. The Mate2's price is amazingly attractive. But now that Sony and Google are selling the Z Ultra for $450, the Sony remains an attractive choice.