Huawei used to hide its name behind handsets it made for network operators, and those handsets were often at the lower end of the market. However, since coming into the limelight Huawei has developed a rounded product range. Last week, for example, I looked at the Ascend Mate – either an enormous phone or a tiny phone-capable tablet depending on your point of view. This week I’m sticking with Huawei but going to the other end of the spectrum. The Y300 is a super-low-cost Android handset. Carphone Warehouse has it for a mere £69.95 (including a £10 top up) on PAYG, and for £130 Sim-free.
Surely for that money this handset must be compromised. Does it suffer from poor build quality? A naff screen? An old Android version? Iffy processor? There are some ultra-low cost phones that simply do Android a disservice by existing – but the good news is that the Huawei Ascend Y300 is not one of them.
Admittedly, the build is nothing to write home about. This is a chunky handset – it measures 11.2mm thick and is certainly noticeable in the pocket. There’s a lot of bezel around the top and bottom of the screen, making this is a relatively tall smartphone at 124.5mm.
The 5in display toting Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t much taller at 136.6mm, and indeed the Y300’s 4in screen does look a little lost in its surroundings. The bottom bezel houses Android touch buttons so at least that area doesn’t feel like dead space. The phone knows when these need to be backlit, incidentally, and leaves the light off when it is not required. Above the screen you’ll find the front camera lens and a very discrete alert light that blinks green to do its job.
The handset chassis is made from plastic, of course, and I was able to bow it slightly in my hands, but it is tough enough to survive everyday buffeting. There’s a gentle texturing to the backplate and the camera sits in a large slightly convex circular frame, adding a little design flair to the phone’s appearance.
The microUSB connector is a bit awkwardly placed on the top left edge of the chassis, and the main power switch is on the top along with the headset connector. There’s a volume rocker on the right and the bottom edge is clear. In short, for a handset at its price, the Huawei Ascend Y300 is good enough on the design front, albeit with nothing to surprise or delight.
By contrast, the 4in screen is a pleasant surprise. Okay, 800 x 480 pixels is nothing to write home about, and viewing angles aren’t great. But if you compare it to the similarly priced LG Optimus L3 II you’ll be very pleased indeed with those specifications. The L3 II’s screen measures 3.2in and offers a woeful 320 x 240 pixels. At least Huawei realises that the screen is one of the most important aspects of any handset, and has done what it can to offer something usable here.
Huawei has gone to town in terms of the screen and widgets. You can have up to nine home screens, and out of the box the main home screen is peppered with widgets. You might wonder why on Earth you would need nine home screens – so let me explain…
Huawei has done something really, really odd when it comes to app management. Just as with the Ascend Mate it has decided we don’t really need an apps area. Instead, every app you download is dropped into one of the home screens. You can rearrange the apps and group them into folders, and I suspect some people will find this arrangement works well for them. But I’m not sure there’s a truly logical reason for dispensing with the apps area.
Huawei has played a little fast and loose with the internal storage. It quotes 4GB but there’s just 1GB for applications and a further 1GB for data. That’s not a lot of storage, and if you are big on apps – or you like big apps including serious games – then you might not feel this phone is suitable. Huawei would have done well to leave you to decide how to use the total of 2.1GB of storage rather than apportioning just half of it for apps.
There are potential issues for general everyday use too. The 1GHz dual-core processor is supported by just 512MB of RAM. Huawei has opted for Android 4.1, which gives a smoother ride under constrained specifications than Android 4.0. If you don’t pepper the Ascend Y300’s screens with widgets which constantly run off and fetch data, and you don’t want to play fast and furious games, then you’ll be okay. But if you go ahead and do those things, then you might find this processor and RAM combination simply isn’t up to supporting your needs without some stumbles and stutters.
Battery life was reasonably good. You’ll need to steer clear of those power hungry, data hungry widgets to get through a day without charging mid-afternoon, but it is hard to criticise a handset at this price for battery life which can extend to a full day if you’re careful.
The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a nice little phone. If you are looking for a bargain and have been considering LG’s L3 II then look instead at this phone which offers more capability for a similar price. Just don’t expect a lot of on board storage or a handset that nips along whatever you throw at it.
Manufacturer and Model
Huawei Ascend Y300
GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSPA 850/900/1900/2100
4in, 800 x 480 pixels
124.5 x 63.8 x 11.2mm