2012 is the smartphone era - it seems almost impossible to find a traditional mobile phone in stores today. Mobile phones will soon become the modern dinosaurs; something that leaves only the slightest of trails to show they once walked the Earth, recreated and imagined only by an artist’s mind. Of course, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s foreseeable – especially with smartphones so cheap and affordable for all corners of the world.
However, the trouble with affordable smartphones is they leave much to be desired when compared to the premium alternatives. Many of us are not willing to pay the high amount for the latest Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, let alone actually afford it. Over the past year, there has been an influx of budget smartphones that don’t deserve the smartphone tag. Most are slow, unresponsive and physically cheap. Slapping Android onto a device does not necessary make it a usable smartphone. We have to choose between cheap and usable; we simply can’t have both – up until now, it seems. The Huawei Ascend G300 certainly looks like a killer on paper. Impressive specs with an even more impressive price tag, the £100 smartphone just might have what it takes to change the game. Does it live up to its hype?
As with most technology products these days, the box itself is tiny. There’s just enough air for the phone to breathe. Included is a charger, USB cable, headset, battery and a very vague user manual – you won’t be seeing any thrills here folks. There’s also a warranty slip, which provides 24 months cover for the phone, 6 months for the battery and charger and 3 months for the other accessories. Interestingly enough, we purchased the phone direct from Vodafone, however there was no SIM card included with the phone, but yet the phone itself is still locked to Vodafone. Perhaps the factory forgot to pop a SIM card in for our unit. Who knows?
There’s a good reason why the G300 is creating such a buzz. For £100, Huawei have really packed the G300 with some impressive hardware. Inside, there’s a Cortex-A5 clocked at 1 GHz, complemented by an Adreno 200 graphics chip. Together, they both power a smooth Android Gingerbead performance, which will become even more buttery with the official Ice Cream Sandwich update, expected to arrive later this year. There’s 512 MB of RAM, which is more than adequate for a good multitasking experience.
For all your apps, photos, music and videos, there’s 4 GB of on board storage. If you plan on using the G300 as a full multimedia device, Huawei have you covered – there’s an additional microSD slot that can support cards up to 32 GB.
There’s a 5 MP camera on the back with an LED flash, but unfortunately there is no front facing camera, so all you Skype lovers and video callers may be disappointed.
To keep the phone up and running, the G300 is powered by a 1500mAh battery, which promises up to 320 minutes talk time and 320 hours on standby. We’ll cover battery life in full further down the page.
Of course, there are all the usual features, such as GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G and more. Nothing is left out with the G300.
When we first picked up the G300, we were honestly impressed with the feel and build quality. The entire phone feels sturdy and tough, and should prove useful against scratches and accidental drops. However, we did notice a slight issue with both lower sides of the phone. They slightly push in when you apply a little bit of force, and make a low, crackling sound. We couldn’t find any reason why this problem is isolated just to the bottom of the side panels, as the entire phone is made of the same plastic and there aren’t any gaps both internally and externally. It’s unlikely to cause any problems or be of concern, but it is noticeable and does exist. As we said, this problem is only isolated to the bottom side of the phone.
The G300 weighs in at 140 g, which is not light, but not heavy either. However, because of the fairly large form factor and surface area, the G300 does actually feel like a lighter device in your hands. Measurements are 122.5 mm in length, 63 mm in width and 10.5 mm in depth (thickness). Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S2, the G300 is only a few mm shy in both length and width, but a fraction more in depth.
The front of the phone is covered in black, featuring a large, 4 inch IPS display, with 3 capacitive buttons at the bottom for Menu, Home and Return. The buttons are evenly spaced, so those of you with fat fingers need not worry! At the top, there’s a Huawei text logo and an ear speaker for voice calls. The silver plastic around the sides just about sneaks in through the front four edges. On the left side of the phone, there’s the volume rocker, which is very sturdy and firm to press. The right side only features a small slit for taking off the back cover.
On the top of the phone, there’s a headphone jack positioned towards the left, with an oddly positioned power button between the middle and right of the top. This is probably due to the motherboard design, rather than an intentional physical design. At the bottom of the phone, there’s a micro USB port in the middle for charging and connecting to your PC. There’s also a slight hole on the right for the microphone.
The back of the phone features a silver plastic cover, which can be removed to insert your SIM card, microSD and battery. At the top of the back, there’s a speaker, camera, LED flash and another small microphone. In the middle, there’s a discrete, vertical Google logo, with a Huawei logo just below it.
As with most smartphones, the front of the phone will be a fingerprint magnet, however this shouldn’t distract you too much as the display is fairly vivid and bright. The rest of the phone is covered in an alternate mix between smooth plastic along the sides, and rough coated plastic along the back, which feels like steel.
Huawei have not changed Google’s original Android code when it comes to the first boot setup. The wizard is pretty straight forward and takes you through the basics, such as setting the language, time, date and Wi-Fi connection. You can also sign in to your Google account, and there’s an option to register just in case you don’t have one. Either way, we highly recommend you use an account with your phone in order to take advantage of Google’s full range of services. For those of you that don’t know, you can use your YouTube login details as a Google account.
After the setup wizard, you are taken straight to the home screen. Huawei have introduced a whole new skin to the Android Gingerbread operating system. Although the new skin has clearly been introduced to give the phone as unique look, the actual usability of Android has not changed at all. Sure, the launcher, icons and drawer all look different, but it seems Huawei have been smart enough to keep the core functionality of Android as Google intended.
At the bottom of the launcher, there are four shortcuts from left to right – app drawer, phone, contacts and internet. You can remove the shortcuts by dragging the icons to the home screen, and drag new ones in. You can also rearrange them. Unfortunately, you cannot change the actual look of the icon, but I’d imagine there aren’t many times when you actually need to do so. Of course, you can download a different launcher from the Play Store that provides extra customizability and a new look if you aren’t satisfied with Huawei’s launcher or skin.
Unlike stock Android Gingerbread, Huawei have added extra functionality to the app drawer, so you can rearrange the icons to your liking. It’s rare to see extra features added by the manufacturer that are actually useful and not just unnecessary bloatware. They’ve also changed the app drawer’s scrolling direction from vertical to horizontal.
Huawei have set 7 home screens by default, which you can scroll between by swiping horizontally. Scrolling s smooth and fluid, and there’s also a nice box animation. Funnily enough, you cannot add or remove home screens, which is unfortunate for me since I usually prefer a maximum of 3. It seems such as a basic feature that Huawei have missed.
As with all Android phones, you can add widgets and icons to the home screens. By default, Huawei have placed several of their own widgets, such as weather, music and a switch panel. Luckily, Huawei have not removed Google’s own widgets, which can be added from the widget menu. You can add new widgets by holding your finger down on the home screen for a second and selecting “Add widget”, and you can remove widgets by holding onto them and dragging them to the trash can in the lower left hand corner of the screen.
If you purchase the G300 direct from Vodafone, there will be a few additional Vodafone branded apps installed. Vodafone AppSelect is a small, alternative to the Google Play Store. There aren’t as many apps, but Vodafone promises to differentiate itself from the Play Store by filtering low quality and outdated apps, and providing relevant categories and suggestions based on your usage. There’s also an integrated carrier billing system, which allows you to purchase apps using your Pay as you go credit or add to your pay monthly bill if you are on contract. Of course, you can choose not to use Vodafone AppSelect and use the Play Store instead – which you probably will due to the larger choice.
Music Shop is Vodafone’s alternative to iTunes. There’s a good range of tracks and albums available to purchase and download straight from your phone. The database on offer isn’t quite as large as iTunes or Amazon, however you will find nearly all of the chart topping artists and songs. Tracks are a little more expensive than iTunes and Amazon, however there are various monthly subscriptions available:
With subscriptions, there are no restrictions – you can choose any track from the store, download multiple times and cancel at any time. You can also browse and purchase from your computer through vodafonemusic.com.
There are a few other smaller apps, such as Discover (basically a summary of all the Vodafone services), HelpLogin (allows trained employees to connect to your phone and solve any problems you may have) and MyWeb (news, sports, etc). Vodafone have also preinstalled a few third party apps, such as Facebook, Google+, Maps, Navigation and many more. However, these apps aren’t exclusive to the G300 and can be downloaded on every other Android phone out there. Unfortunately, these preinstalled apps cannot be uninstalled since they are hard coded into the operating system. If you don’t want them, your only choice is to simply ignore them.