Was it really back in April last year that I reviewed the Huawei Ascend G300? In the time since, I've seen plenty of phones, but the Ascend G300 has often popped up as an example of what manufacturers can do well on a budget. As a 7/10 handset, it wasn't a star, but it was a solid performer whose cost-cutting was done with an eye on providing a good end user experience.
So, nearly a year later, Huawei has followed up with the Ascend G330. The name suggests this phone isn't a huge leap forwards from its predecessor, and indeed its price would indicate that too. It isn't widely available SIM-free as I write, but TalkTalk currently has it for free on a £10 per month, 24-month contract.
One of the things Huawei did well with the G300 was equip it with a large, relatively high resolution screen. Last year a 4in 800 x 480 pixel screen was a definite plus in a £100 handset. The screen dimensions and resolution have not changed this time around.
The physical design of the Huawei Ascend G330 is unrefined. It isn't terrible, but nor is it particularly inspiring. That's a shame as the Huawei G300 was very neatly designed for a budget handset with a look that was a lot nicer than the plain rectangular slab we have here.
Sure, the rubberised backplate is handy as it increases 'grippyness'. And the curvature of the backplate and main chassis along the long edges delivers the optical illusion that the phone tapers to a thinner profile from its centre to its top and bottom edges. But that's all it is - an illusion. I ought to temper that by noting the very slightly tapered bottom front lip, but that is hardly notable enough to warrant being called a design feature.
The good news is that the micro USB connector is on the bottom edge, headset slot on the top – with the on/off switch. The bad news is that the microSD card slot is under the backplate and, woe is me, you have to remove the battery to hotswap it. Now, I know not everyone likes to hotswap, but if you do, it'll be a pain.
The handset is pretty sturdy. I had to apply a lot of pressure to flex the chassis in my hands, and it ought to be solid enough to survive the rough and tumble that most users are likely to apply to it.
I mentioned the three touch buttons under the screen. These take the usual Home, Back and Menu configurations. A long press on the back button lets you fiddle with the number of home screens on offer, taking the total number available down to three or up to seven. It's a rather nice feature, as you can work the handset home screens to precisely accommodate the number of widgets you need.
Huawei's lock screen lets you drag a centre lock icon to four corners to either open the handset to the home screen or access your camera, messaging or call log. And if you hold down the home button while on the lock screen, you can activate a torch app that uses the back facing camera light. The default date and time display at the top of the lock screen can be scrolled to reveal music playback controls too.
The handset supports DTS surround sound. Maximum volume from the internal speaker is reasonably high, and while there is inevitable distortion with the volume pumped up, I have heard a lot worse. It's certainly liveable with.
A front camera is far from ubiquitous in budget handsets, but there's one here, and that's a nice touch. The main camera, with its 5-megapixel lens, is average in performance. Features are thin on the ground, but the range of filters includes a posterise mode that can be fun to play with.
Huawei has pre-installed Android 4.0, putting the Ascend G330 slightly behind the times but not dreadfully so. And to compensate there are several apps included. Admittedly the BBC iPlayer isn't exactly a coup as you can get that readily from Google Play, but the DLNA client might be a nice plus for some, and All Backup can help with peace of mind by backing up your crucial SMS, contact and other data. There's also a file manager, FM radio, the Flashslight app I mentioned earlier and a little note taker app.
There's also a gaming extra in the shape of EA Games' Sims Freeplay, which you get to via a screen that offers free trials of other games. I call that kind of thing bloatware, but you may take a different view.
Whatever your view, the 2.5GB of available user memory is not going to last very long if you are a keen downloader of apps and you'll be looking to up the storage with a microSD card quickly.
Huawei has gone for a dual-core 1 GHz processor in the Ascend G330 (the G300 had a single-core 1GHz processor). A corner has been cut in giving it just 512MB of RAM to manoeuvre in, and you may find power-hungry apps are a little laggy as a result. Still, I have to say that people who go for budget handsets like this generally don't expect top end specifications and the configuration here is acceptable.
What every user expects, rightly or wrongly, is good battery life, and here it's the old story, I am afraid. The 1500mAh battery isn't really up to providing top notch support for the dual-core processor. Certainly if you are a fan of music on the commute you are likely to need to find mains power during the day. A power-saving mode can be called up if battery life is a problem but you can't customise what it does. You'll have to live with the full set of dialled down screen brightness and 15 second timeout, and turned off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, haptic feedback and animation.
The Huawei Ascend G330 is serviceable but not great. Huawei could have done something mind-blowing with this handset, pushing the budget sector to new heights by upping just one feature – generous internal memory or a slightly larger screen for example. As it is, the admittedly more expensive Nexus 4 still looks like the one to save up for.
Manufacturer and model
Huawei Ascend G330
1.0GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8225 Snapdragon
4GB (2.5GB user accessible)
microSD (up to 32GB)
4.0in, 800 x 480 pixels
640 x 480
122.5 x 62.6 x 11.2 mm