It's small and its interchangeable battery covers are garish, but it's really hard to tell that the Ideos is such a cheap phone. The Huawei Ideos is one of the company's first phones in Australia to be sold under its own name. Huawei products have been available down under for years — in fact, most of the re-badged USB modems available from telcos are Huawei modems. To introduce itself to market, Huawei (pronounced whar-way) is trying something drastic: it's selling full-featured smartphones for well under AU$200.
The Ideos packs a smallish 2.8-inch screen with a 240x320-pixel (QVGA) resolution. This might sound like a reason to run screaming in the opposite direction, but we've been happily surprised by how clear and colourful things look on this display. The touchscreen is also very usable. Huawei has opted for the more sensitive capacitive touch technology here and the results are a premium-feeling user experience.
Under a row of touch-sensitive navigation buttons we find call and start buttons and a huge, circular navigation pad. There's also a 3.5mm headphone socket for connecting your favourite headphones and a 3-megapixel camera lens on the back.
Just how much phone do you get for AU$160? You'd be surprised; as surprised, perhaps, as we were. Firstly, you get all of the standard smartphone connectivity hardware you'd expect to find in phones. There's HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, micro USB and a microSD card slot for expanding the memory. The 3G radios are compatible with the 900MHz and 2100MHz spectrums, so it's fine for the VHA and Optus networks, but it's not Next G compatible.
The Ideos runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo), which is big news in terms of features and performance. It comes preloaded with the standard Google apps like Maps and Gmail, plus tools like Facebook and Twitter pre-installed. There's also an FM radio to complement your own music playlists.
We also can't forget to mention that with Google Maps Navigation the Ideos becomes a fully-functional turn-by-turn navigation device. This isn't a feature exclusive to this handset, and there'll never be a car mount made specifically for the Ideos, but for AU$160 this is a pretty good deal.
As you'd expect there are a few limitations to a phone at this price, and considering it does the basics so well, these shortfalls are worth pointing out. The Ideos makes use of a 528MHz processor and 256MB RAM, which is roughly half the power of phones like HTC's Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S. This hardware is more than sufficient for basic everyday tasks, but advanced, graphic-intensive tasks will grind the poor Ideos into the realm of the unusable.
We ran a few common tests with the Ideos, installing both Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds to see if it could cope with some of the Android Market's most popular titles and found that both were unplayable. We also pushed the media player in this phone with a 720p video file, and while it would launch, the speed of playback was unwatchable. It's hard to see these problems as considerable drawbacks in such a cheap phone, but we can see how its target teen market could be disappointed to know that their shiny new smartphone won't be capable of playing the latest mobile games.
The 3-megapixel camera will also disappoint anyone hoping to capture life's impromptu moments. This camera is absolutely bare-bones, there's no flash, no auto-focus and limited user controls. The only upside as far as we can see is that the photo preview is very accurate — that is, through the viewfinder you can see exactly how terrible your photo will turn out before you press the shutter.
The Ideos is a rare beast; a budget phone that comes packed with the same features you'd expect in a phone for at least twice as much money. This money is saved in the quality of the screen and the power of the hardware, but for people who just want to add web browsing, social networking and email to their standard phone use, you won't know the difference. The basic user experience is of a high quality, and the phone itself feels nice to use. The Huawei Ideos definitely sets a new standard in what we can expect from a phone in this price category.