Huawei Ascend Y review: Inexpensive, underpowered Android

Cameras
Don't expect much from the Ascend Y's 3.2-megapixel camera and you may not be disappointed. It'll capture license plate numbers and help you remember where you parked, but you won't be turning a photo into a mug or an 8x10 wall print.

Huawei Ascend Y camera photo
This indoor photo of fuzzy toys is notably grainy. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

For starters, there's no flash, which means that night shots and indoor photos won't come out their best, if they come out at all. There's also no auto-focus, which means that you'll have to possess steady hands and a good eye for focus.

Huawei Ascend Y camera photo
Colors are muted and flat, and edges are soft. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Indoor photos came out looking dull and very noisy. Outdoor pictures that let in natural light looked better overall. Android's Gingerbread camera software contains the usual white balance presets and effects if you feel like fussing, but it lacks useful tools like a self-timer.

Huawei Ascend Y camera photo
You can see the noise in this indoor studio shot, which was lit to compensate for the phone's lack of flash. Josh Miller/CNET

You can compare the Ascend Y's studio shot to those taken on other smartphones.

Huawei Ascend Y camera photo
This outdoor photo of a taxi was the best of the bunch. The yellow color is deep and full. Josh Miller/CNET

Call quality
I tested the Ascend Y in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming network (CDMA 800/1900MHz; EvDo Rev A.) Call quality could vary for those living inside the carrier's footprint.

Voice quality was passable, but problematic overall. My regular test parter sounded hollow and tinny, and distortion in the form of a high buzz accompanied the audio every time my partner spoke. In addition, occasional interruptions such as blank spots punctuated the conversation. Volume was just right at medium-high.

On his end, my partner said I sounded a little distorted, though loud enough. I also came across a little muffled, but without background noise. My audio distorted on higher volumes, he told me.

Huawei Ascend Y call quality sample Listen now:

The speakerphone wasn't a very comfortable listening experience when I tested it by holding the Ascend Y at hip level. It was very buzzy and echoey, and voices sounded muffled. I needed to increase the volume a notch. On the other side of the line, my partner said I noticeably dropped in volume, but otherwise I sounded just as I did when speaking through the mouthpiece. When I switched off speakerphone and held the phone back to my ear, I sounded the same, just louder.

Performance
As a 3G phone, the Ascend Y will give you the best data speeds over Wi-Fi. Transfer rates in U.S. Cellular's roaming network were quite slow, with Web sites taking up to two minutes to load. The diagnostic Speedtest.net app clocked download speeds ranging from 0.1 to 0.33Mbps over the course of 9 tests. Uplink speeds were a faster 0.29 to 0.44Mbps, which was at least consistent.

Huawei Ascend Y (3G)
CNET mobile site load 34 seconds
CNET desktop site load 1 minute, 56 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 7 seconds
Camera boot time 2.6 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 2.5-3 seconds, no auto-focus

On the processor side, performance wasn't terrible on the Ascend Y's 800MHz chipset. I've definitely seen faster for this type of lower-end smartphone, but it was acceptable for the category of product. You'll still have to wait a few beats to navigate around, open apps, and attach files to your e-mail. Games won't look as rich as on a high-end device, either. On the other hand, you'd never expect them to on a starter phone like the Ascend Y. All told, I think that you'll notice slow data speeds much sooner than you would any lags in processing power.

The Ascend Y has a rated talk time of up to 4.8 hours on its 1,400 mAh battery and a standby time of up to 12.7 days. During our test for talk time, it lasted 9.67 hours. FCC measurements of radio emissions give the Ascend Y a digital SAR of 0.79 watts per kilogram. Internal memory is on the small side, 256 MB RAM and 120 MB ROM, but there's room for up to 32GB of external storage and the phone comes with a 2GB card pre-installed.

Should I buy?
If you're looking for an inexpensive smartphone with U.S. Cellular and you aren't particular about speed or high-end specs, the Huawei Ascend Y's inexpensive price tag will get you in the door. Buy it for a penny if you live in a 3G zone and plan to use the handset for basic e-mail, browsing, and texting.

However, if you have a little more disposable cash, shop around on U.S. Cellular and other networks. With specials, you can find a better phone with a comparable price, and maybe one that has a better camera, more hardware features, and a faster processor.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Huawei Ascend Y (U.S. Cellular)

Part Number: ASCENDY201USC

MSRP: $199.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Service Provider U. S. Cellular
  • Weight 4.41 oz
  • Diagonal Size 3.5 in