It has been a while since I've reviewed a handset from Huawei. Back last summer the Ascend P6 and Ascend P2 both impressed – the latter just a bit more than the former. The new Huawei Ascend Y530 isn't in their league, though; it's a budget handset, coming in at £150 SIM-free.
That is a very appealing price for a phone with a 4.5in screen and Huawei drops in a "dual interface" concept, with a secondary simple Android interface designed to help first time users get into the whole Android thing.
The trouble for Huawei is that one of the top handsets of 2013 was the Motorola Moto G, which I can see online as I write this review for £144 SIM-free. So this might be a bumpy review for the Y530 as comparisons will inevitably have to be made along the way.
Before you even switch it on the Huawei Ascend Y530 has an air of the budget handset about it. The chassis is a bit chunky by today's standards – while it is under 10mm thick at 9.3mm, it still feels bulky. Still, it is worth noting that the Motorola Moto G is thicker at 11.6mm. You'll notice right away that the screen has a fairly thick bezel on its long edges, and there's plenty of top and bottom bezel too. At the bottom the Android shortcut softkeys sit outside the screen area – which is not always the case. This means you get the full screen area for apps, but of course the buttons need to be accommodated too.
The back has an ever so slightly mottled design which helps with grippiness, and the backplate runs round into the long edges of the phone. This is a plus in that it helps the handset feel more robust, but the join where back meets front is clearly visible and won't be to every taste. I do like the grey sections on the top and bottom edges – they save the handset from being an entirely boring black colour, and show that Huawei has put some effort into design.
Buttons and connectors are positioned well. MicroUSB is on the bottom edge, headset slot on the top. The power and volume rocker are on the left edge. There's a tiny status light top left of the screen, which isn't something you see on every budget handset. It gives off a nice green glow when the battery is full, and it's red when it is charging.
The 4.5in screen looks sharp and bright, but it is does have a downside in that its resolution is quite low. 854 x 480 pixels makes for 218 ppi and that's just not enough to give you brilliantly sharp text. This is an area where the Motorola Moto G wins, I am afraid. Its 4.5in screen has a more impressive 1,280 x 720 pixels on offer.
Android 4.3 is skinned with Huawei's standard overlay, which I quite like. It has a sharp, clear look, and a nice weather app. The user interface includes Huawei's usual trick of dispensing with the app drawer and instead putting all apps on a home screen. I wasn't a fan of this approach at first, but the more I see it in practice, the more I like it.
The standout feature of the Huawei Ascend Y530, though, is the "Simple" user interface. This uses giant icons across three screens and you can customise it, adding the apps you use the most and the people you contact often. It is described as a user interface for people new to Android, and it certainly does reduce the clutter and detail.
Even in standard user interface view Huawei helps out in terms of making things that bit easier for you. For example in Settings you can see either a "general" list of options or "all," with the former being those Huawei thinks you are likely to use most often.
The specifications are, obviously enough, very much in budget phone territory. The 5-megapixel main camera and VGA front camera are nothing special. Quick snapshots are okay but there's nothing to shout about on the camera front. There's a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor which certainly won't win any speed records. It could have done better if it was supported by more than just 512MB of RAM.
For a newcomer to Android who hasn't experienced ultra-fast handsets, this might not be a problem. Everything seems to work as it should and the waits are by no means interminable. But then up pops the gremlin of the Motorola Moto G, with its quad-core Snapdragon 400 chipset and 1GB of RAM. It's a faster beast for a shade less money.
Where Huawei scores over Motorola is in the provision of memory. There's just 4GB internally, which is reduced to 1.86GB by the various bits and bobs Huawei has pre-installed. This compares with 8GB internally on the Moto G, but Huawei includes a microSD card slot which Moto does not, so you can expand the memory capacity considerably.
Music fans will want to take advantage of microSD as storage for their tunes – but this might not be a handset to choose if you want to rely on a phone as your portable player. There's an FM radio which is a nice plus, but the sound quality of the built-in speaker is not great, and the provided headphones don't add a great deal of oomph. Battery life might let you down too. The 1,700mAh battery will get a light user through a day, but if you like an hour or so of music in the morning, and then perhaps another hour in the afternoon, you might need to seek out the mains during the day.
There are some plus points here. I am coming round to liking Huawei's idea of putting apps on a home screen and not bothering with the app drawer. The general user interface is appealing and I can see how the "lite" version will have appeal, too. Build quality is also good, but the screen resolution is low, battery life disappointing, and processor middling. Compare the last three features to the similarly priced Motorola Moto G and despite the G's lack of external memory support, it looks the better budget bet.
Manufacturer and Model
Huawei Ascend Y530
1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200
4.5in, 854 x 480 pixels, 218ppi
67 x 9.3 x 132.5mm (WxDxH)