Another remarkably inexpensive smartphone from a manufacturer keen to make its name in the Android market, but is the Huawei Blaze as cheerful as it is cheap? Julian Prokaza goes hands-on to find out.
Huawei is a name perhaps more usually associated with 3G USB modems, but it also makes smartphones — albeit as an OEM for other companies. It has been quietly selling smartphones under its own name for a while though, and the U8510 IDEOS X3 Blaze is the latest.
The Huawei Blaze is certainly cheap, but this isn’t a particularly pejorative description, since it still has a commendable specification for the price.Huawei announced last year that it intends to be a top five mobile manufacturer in the US some time within the next three years and its strategy seems to be based on shipping more affordable smartphones, rather than costly premium models that compete with the iPhone and its ilk.
The comparatively small screen has a correspondingly low resolution, but we have no complaints about its quality — it’s bright and the small pixels keep things crisp, and is generally responsive beneath a fingertip (though more on this later). The screen is also dramatically better than the 320 x 240 one on the similarly specified (but considerably more expensive) Samsung Galaxy Pro.
Huawei has also done a much better job than Samsung at cramming the Android UI into so few pixels, and the five Home screens remain clear and navigable, even when filled with app icons and widgets. Web pages don’t suffer unduly either, since the Android Gingerbread browser does a good job of reformatting magnified columns of text to fit the screen width and, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Pro, the multi-touch display supports the usual double-tap and pinch zoom gestures.
The only real screen size-related grumble is that since the display is only 45mm wide, the Android on-screen Qwerty keyboard can be a little fiddly to use, but there is an option to switch to a taller version with larger keys. Otherwise, the Blaze can be used in landscape orientation to give a more comfortably sized keyboard for typing longer chunks of text and, of course, other third-party Android keyboards can always be installed.
As hinted at earlier, the Blaze’s 600MHz ARM11 processor isn’t always able to keep the Android UI moving fluidly beneath a fingertip, but it doesn’t seem particularly slow otherwise. The chip isn’t powerful enough to run Flash, but it has no difficulty in playing YouTube videos smoothly.
Sadly, the puny processor doesn’t result in remarkable battery life and the Blaze only lasted for six and a half hours in our video playback test (screen brightness set to 50%, all wireless off), while Huawei reckons the 1200mAh battery is good for four hours of talking and 300 hours of sitting in standby mode.
Operating system: Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 7227 ARM11 (600MHz)
Storage: 512MB ROM; 256MB RAM; microSDHC card slot (2GB supplied)
Screen: 3.2” (320 x 480) capacitive multi-touch
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, DLNA, microUSB; 3.5mm headphone socket
Other: Accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, digital compass, AGPS, FM tuner
Bands: Quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900Mhz); dual-band HSDPA (900/2100MHz)
Camera: 3.15MP rear with autofocus, VGA front
Battery: 1200mAh (up to 300 hours standby time; up to 4 hours talk time)
Size: 110 x 56.5 x 11.2mm