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Huawei Ascend Y550 review: A budget phone that disappoints in almost every way

The Huawei Ascend Y550 may come with a cheap price tag, but its poor specs and performance mean it's still not a good buy.

Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Expertise Smartphones, Photography, iOS, Android, gaming, outdoor pursuits Credentials
  • Shortlisted for British Photography Awards 2022, Commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2022
Andrew Lanxon
5 min read

When 4G LTE first made its way to phones, it was a feature found only on the most high-end devices, packed with top-end technology and with a sky-high price to match. Things have changed in the last 12 months though. A lot.


Huawei Ascend Y550

The Good

The Huawei Ascend Y550 is cheap, it has 4G LTE and a recent version of Android.

The Bad

Its screen has a very low resolution, Huawei's custom Android skin is clunky and awkward to use, the camera is poor, the HDR mode simply doesn't work, it only has 4GB of built-in storage and the underpowered processor sometimes results in sluggish navigation.

The Bottom Line

Even with its affordable price, the Huawei Ascend Y550 offers little to get excited about. If you're after a budget Android phone, you'd be wise to look elsewhere.

The Huawei Ascend Y550 is a budget Android phone that packs 4G LTE and while that might seem great, it's important to know that there is a big trade off for it. Its 4.5-inch screen has a low 854x480-pixel resolution, an unimpressive 1.2GHz processor and a 5-megapixel camera. It's not exactly what you'd call exciting.

Still, you can pick it up SIM-free in the UK for only £100 on Amazon. That converts to around $159 based on a direct price conversion. Huawei is yet to announce wider availability or prices for the phone.

Design and display

Huawei has evidently not lavished any money on a fancy design here. Its plain grey, plastic body is thoroughly uninspiring. With such a cheap price, you really can't expect luxurious metal or glass.

The grey plastic curves around the back, which at least feels fairly comfortable to hold. It seems sturdy and shouldn't show up too many bumps and scuffs -- although it's something of a finger grease magnet. With a 4.5-inch screen, it's easier to hold than the 5-inch giants you see nowadays. I could just about stretch my thumb over to use it one-handed, although you'll want to use two to type anything more than a quick sentence.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The back panel is removable, giving access to the microSD card and SIM-card slots. You'll definitely want to buy a microSD card with the phone as it only comes with a paltry 4GB of built-in storage. Once you've downloaded your essential social networking apps, you won't have much room left for anything else. Make sure to keep your music, photos and videos saved on the external card to maximise the internal space for apps.

The 4.5-inch display has an 854x480-pixel resolution, which is at the bottom end of what I'd expect to see on any smartphone's screen, even one this cheap. The low resolution does mean that text and icons have a definite fuzziness to them, which is disappointing to see.

If you only use your phone for calls, texts and the odd bit of Facebooking, you may not find its lack of pixels too annoying. If you plan on reading articles on Web pages, watching a lot of video or browsing recent photo uploads on Flickr, then it's well worth going for a phone with a higher resolution display. The screen does at least have decent colours and viewing angles aren't bad, but it's not particularly bright, which makes it very reflective and difficult to use under vivid lights.

Android software, processor and battery performance

You'll find Android 4.4. KitKat on the Y550, which is the most recent version of KitKat available -- impressive on a budget phone, which often use older versions of Android. Huawei has pasted its Emotion UI skin over the top of Android, making a bunch of visual changes. Most notably, it removes the app tray, forcing you to keep all your apps and widgets scattered across the multiple homescreens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I'm not personally keen on this change as it makes it difficult to keep your homescreens neat and organised. If you're more used to the iPhone -- which also doesn't have an app tray -- you might feel a little more at home. It's not helped by the fairly large amount of pre-installed apps. You'll see icons for a system update, voice dialler, remote camera, log tool, phone manager, app installer and backup.

It immediately makes the interface look cluttered, before you've even downloaded your first app. Backup and system update tools can be found in the settings menu anyway so I don't know why these need to take up space on your homescreen, particularly as you can't get rid of them. Most bizarre is an app icon called Screen Lock, which, as the name suggests, just turns off the screen. Why you'd need a dedicated app for that, rather than just the button on the side of the phone is a mystery only Huawei can answer.

Emotion UI does let you apply a range of themes to customise the look and feel of the interface and there's a simplified homescreen too that shows the essential functions as large tiles, making it easier for smartphone newbies to get to grips with -- although finding the simplified homescreen in the first place proved a little challenging.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A 1.2GHz quad-core processor provides the phone's power. For the most part, it's sufficient to cope with everyday tasks like tweeting, Instagramming or watching a spot of Netflix. Navigating the interface can often be slightly stuttery however, and I found when entering text, it would sometimes freeze up for a moment, which can become frustrating.

The phone runs on a 2,000mAh battery, which is pretty generous, given the undemanding low-res screen and low-powered processor. After 2 hours of video streaming at max screen brightness, the battery level had dropped from full to 64 percent, which is distinctly average. You could probably get a day of use out of it, but you'll need to keep the screen brightness down.


Around the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel camera, which is about all you can expect on a budget phone. As with the rest of the phone's features, it doesn't impress at all.

Huawei Ascend Y550 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

On this shot of St Paul's Cathedral, there's a decent overall exposure, but a general lack of clarity in the intricate building work.

Huawei Ascend Y550 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This building facade is clearly visible, but it hasn't exposed at all well for the whole scene, resulting in the bottom right being underexposed.

Huawei Ascend Y550 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Similarly, the phone was unable to keep the bright sky under control here. There is an HDR mode, which you'd normally use to help balance areas of brightness and darkness. On the Y550 however, it simply didn't work, instead just resulting in a completely white picture, with no visible details whatsoever. Sure, this might be a software bug that can be fixed with an update, but it highlights that there's been an overall lack of quality control on this phone.

Huawei Ascend Y550 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In the lower-light of the CNET office, the camera struggled, resulting in a lot of image noise.

Huawei Ascend Y550 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The panorama mode works sufficiently well. It has smooth stitching between images, although there's again an overall lack of detail.

The Y550's camera really isn't anything special and won't be useful for anything more than the odd snap of you balancing something adorable on your dog's face. If you hope to use your phone to capture pictures of your holidays to share on Facebook, it's worth finding a phone with a better camera.


Even with its low price, the Huawei Ascend Y550 leaves a lot to be desired. With its low resolution screen and underpowered processor, even getting on with the everyday basics can be a chore. The camera isn't worth bothering with -- and the HDR mode doesn't even work.

Sure, it has 4G LTE, but that doesn't do much to make up for its shortcomings. Even at this cheap price, your money is better spent elsewhere.


Huawei Ascend Y550

Score Breakdown

Design 4Features 4Performance 3