Huawei might not be a name you’re familiar with, but the chances are you’ve read reviews of its handsets and may even have one, as it has been producing hardware that gets rebadged by mobile operators for many years.
Now, though, the company is selling its products under its own brand, and is planning a major assault on the smartphone market. It’s flagship model, sporting a quad-core processor, is just around the corner, and meanwhile it is targetting the entry level market, with one of the most impressive £100 phones we’ve ever seen.
What’s stunning about the Huawei Ascend G300 is that it looks like a premium handset. Huawei has put a lot of thought into the physical design which is a nice mix of silver and white and has a metallic look about it despite the fact that it is made from plastic. Huawei has also managed to pack in a four inch screen, so that initial impressions are of a phone that is an absolute bargain at £100 (where it available on pay as you go through Vodafone).
Inevitably to meet the price, Huawei has had to be frugal in certain areas. It has opted for Android 2.3, for example, which is rather behind the times now that Ice Cream Sandwich is finally taking off, and Jelly Bean is imminent. There’s a fairly subtle skin over the top of the five home screens, which is nice enough though nothing special.
Huawei has even managed to emulate HTC in providing a lock screen with shortcuts opening to three apps – calendar, dialer and messaging, and to the home screen. It’s a shame you can’t customise the apps, but it is a nice touch that we’re pleased to see here.
There are also a few specially designed Huawei widgets. Again they don’t offer anything we’ve not seen before, but at least they present a different look for widgets relating to the clock, calendar and FM radio.
The screen has its good and bad points. Yes, it is large, and that means viewing video, looking at web pages and reading text are relatively comfortable experiences. But it isn’t that easy to read outdoors, and while it is bright enough it lacks the vibrancy of screens on more expensive handsets.
The screen is reasonably responsive to the touch, but the three buttons beneath the screen let the side down. These shortcuts to Menu, Home and Back functions aren’t very responsive at all – we had to tap them several times on many occasions to get a response. In the longer term you’ll either get used to this or find it very irritating.
Huawei has managed to give the Ascend G300 a 1GHz processor, and that means, unlike many lower priced handsets, that it can support Flash. Watching embedded video was no problem for us. We’re back with a grumble when it comes to installed memory, though. It’s a pity there is only 2.5GB built in. At least you can easily add more via a microSD card, and up to 32GB as well.
There isn’t a front facing camera on the G300, but the rear-facing one shoots at five megapixels and is above average for a £100 phone. We’ve seen worse in the £300 bracket, that’s for sure.
One of Huawei’s tweaks is the inclusion of the TouchPal keyboard. You can flick back to using the standard Android keyboard if you find you don’t get on with it, but TouchPal offers a range of extra functions including easy access to symbols and lots of different keyboard layouts.
Accustomed as we are to seeing and enjoying the best that Android has to offer, it’s difficult not to pick at the less successful parts of the G300. But viewed in the context of its price point really impresses. There are irritations such as poor touch responsiveness of the shortcut buttons and lack of internal memory, but considering the price of this handset we think Huawei has got the balance of features about right.
It looks and feels more expensive than it is, and that alone makes it an appealing handset.
Review written by Sandra Vogel