Not so long ago you had to shell out a few hundred quid to get a decent smart phone. Google's Android operating system has slowly been driving prices south, and now Chinese mobile maker Huawei has put its foot on the gas to accelerate the trend.
Meet the Huawei Ascend G300 -- yours for £100 on pay as you go (plus £10 top up). It's exclusive to Vodafone for the next three months, after which it opens up to other mobile networks. On a two-year Vodafone contract, you can get the G300 for £15.50 per month.
This budget Android-packing slab is Huawei's second own-brand smart phone in the UK, but does a cheap price inevitably mean compromises in usability, build and features?
Should I buy the Huawei Ascend G300?
If you're on a tight budget but still want a decent smart phone then the G300 won't disappoint. It's not the rock-bottom cheapest smart phone out there, but the tiny premium you pay over some other budget Android devices doesn't go to waste -- it nets you a large 4-inch display and a 1GHz chip.
Other contenders for your money such as the T-Mobile Vivacity and the , have slower processors and smaller screens. If you can spare the extra tenner or so, the G300 is worth the stretch., the
Huawei'sbrings all the goodness of Android with a simple, relatively no-frills overlay that has a few neat touches of its own. It won't drown you in a tsunami of unnecessary apps and bloatware, like a lot of phones.
The G300 runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, lightly skinned with Huawei's own software interface. The result is similar to Samsung's TouchWiz, or a pared-back HTC Sense. There's a launcher bar at the bottom and a carousel of home screens to swipe through. It's simple and straightforward to use. Best of all, it's fairly fast.
If you buy now, before the phone becomes available on other networks, you will have to put up with a few Vodafone additions. They are mostly limited to a handful of apps so it doesn't detract too much from the Android experience.
Huawei says anupdate will be available to download this summer but reckons folk who buy the G300 are unlikely to want to update the operating system -- especially if they're new to smart phones.
The G300 gives you access to the Google Play store, where you can download scores of apps -- from the ubiquitous Angry Birds to the all-new , plus Facebook, Twitter, YouTube et al.
Huawei's Android skin gives you five home screens -- a number that can't be expanded or reduced. Adding widgets, shortcuts and folders is done by long-pressing the home screen and selecting the item you want to add from a list. This system is nowhere near as fancy as HTC's Sense widget preview interface, but it's simple and straightforward to use.
One distinctive and nifty Huawei addition is a directional lock screen. This allows you to swipe in one of four directions -- to either unlock the phone or dive straight into an app such as the camera or your messages. The default apps are camera, call log, text messages or basic unlock. Currently the apps that appear on the lock screen can't be customised but Huawei says this feature will be added when the G300 gets Ice Cream Sandwich this summer.
On the launcher bar that sits at the bottom of your home screens is a button to get to all your apps, and three more icons that can be customised to apps (but not folders) of your choice.
In the apps menu view, there are two big buttons at the bottom. One takes you back to the home screen, and the settings mode button allows you to rearrange the order of apps. It's not the most elegant implementation of app rearranging but again it's fairly straightforward.
Other 'no frills' additions to the interface include the app switching system -- long-press the home button and it brings up a grid of recently opened apps, enabling you to tap an app to switch to it. There's also a tabs menu on the native browser, which simply lists your currently open tabs, rather than graphical thumbnails.
The gallery view does have a few frills -- specifically a 3D effect when you reach the end of the thumbnail stack. This tilts the thumbnails towards or away from you to indicate that there are no more to scroll through. You can also quickly zip through your stack of shots using a handy scroll bar at the bottom of the screen.
Huawei has added a music player to the device. And the company reckons it has also tweaked the OS to improve battery performance.
The 4-inch screen has a resolution of 480x800 pixels -- which is the same as the Orange San Francisco 2 and the T-Mobile Vivacity. As the G300 has a slightly larger screen, pixel density is not quite as high as those two, at 233 pixels per inch versus 267ppi. The display is still easy on the eye though, with photos, icons and text all looking colourful and clear.
The viewing angle is not great. When looking at desktop versions of text-heavy webpages, you will need to zoom in to make the text comfortably legible.
The screen can be a tad unresponsive too, especially to taps. Whether that's down to the addition of Gorilla Glass to toughen it up or Huawei shaving a few yuan off the build costs, I'm not sure. Either way, it's not a terribly unresponsive screen by any means but it tends to prefer you to spoon your thumb across the glass, rather than skate lightly over it.
The 1GHz chip inside the G300 brings more oomph than you'd usually expect at this price. It'll handle all the basic stuff fine -- from navigating around menus to browsing the web, downloading and using lightweight apps and viewing maps.
While the G300 is generally pretty quick, there is typically a slight lag. Scrolling can be a smidge juddery, but for a £100 handset, what do you expect?