The IDEOS is an interesting little smartphone. It is small format, it runs Android 2.2 right out of the box and it comes from Huawei – a company which produces a fair bit of mobile kit for the UK market including broadband and Wi-Fi dongles, as well as phones, but whose kit is usually re-badged by others.
That’s all good as background info, but what really matters is how well Android 2.2 has been implanted in this phone and whether, at £199 SIM free, it represents good value for money.
That £199 is what the handset will currently cost you at www.clove.co.uk. Now, at launch, Huawei was talking about a price of around £99 to £129, and the difference between that plan and the reality is somewhat stark. At the anticipated price the IDEOS is pitched against the very lowest cost Android handsets, but at the actual price we expect rather more of it in performance terms.
Sadly for Huawei, if the IDEOS did actually cost £99 or even £129 we’d have thought more highly of it.
Still, let’s start with a few positives. The build quality is good. The IDEOS feels tough in the hand and there’s a superb and very distinctive brightly coloured backplate to help it stand out in a crowd. Our review sample was bright blue, but you can go for purple or yellow too.
Music playback through the loudspeaker is superb and that goes for both your own tunes and the FM radio. You’ll need to put a headset into the 3.5mm slot to use the radio, as is usually the case with mobiles, and here we hit a snag. The headset Huawei provides is dire. Still, you can up the output quality easily enough with your own favourite earphones.
Getting music onto the handset, incidentally, might be tedious for some people. If you are one of those users who likes to swap microSD cards in and out of their phone, then you’ll be frustrated here because you have to remove the battery to get to the microSD card slot – and there was us thinking that little design horror had all but gone away!
One of the most sought after things that Android 2.2 promises is Flash support. Streaming video from web sites is a key lure. But don’t think that if you buy the Huawei IDEOS you’ll get that feature. The 528MHz Qualcomm processor can’t handle it, so the feature is disabled. That’ll be a real blow to many people, and probably much more of a surprise than the fact that the 3.2 megapixel camera is pretty lacklustre too.
The camera has no flash, and photos are mediocre at best. It is OK for a quick snap, but indoors in particular it suffers badly in low light conditions. Video can be captured at maximum resolution of 352 x 288 pixels and that, too, is nothing to write home about.
We aren’t sure why so much of the front fascia is given over to a button bank along the bottom edge. Call and End buttons and a large navigation pad aren’t really needed on an Android handset. The former two are covered off nicely in the dialer screen, and the latter one is catered for by the touch screen itself.
We could easily live with these buttons being present and taking up so much space if it were not for the fact that the touch buttons under the screen that cater for Back, Menu, Home and Search functions are relatively tiny. Remove the physical buttons, or at least make them smaller, and the touch buttons could have had a lot more room.
The touch screen has its good and bad points. It is capacitive and nicely responsive to finger presses and sweeps. Android has not been skinned and we found it easy to get through the five home screens, pepper them with widgets and shortcuts, run apps, and get around within apps. With a few notable exceptions.
Text entry is one of the exceptions. The screen is small at just 2.8-inches across diagonal corners. That means it is a fiddle to hit the Qwerty keyboard accurately when the screen is in portrait mode, though it is easier in landscape mode. Smaller child-sized hands ought to fair better than ours, though our mitts are pretty dainty!
The other main thing that suffers due to screen size is web browsing. We always hold forth that a screen smaller than 3 inches is not really adequate for mobile web browsing. The low resolution of 320 x 240 pixels doesn’t do the Huawei IDEOS any favours in that department either. You simply can’t see enough of most web pages at any one time.
To add insult to what is a pretty predictable injury the Huawei IDEOS doesn’t have multitouch. That means no pinch to zoom. So, when web browsing, you are left with the standard Android double tap to zoom convention, and the small zoom touch buttons. These work, but they’re no substitute for good pinch to zoom.
Overall, then, we came away from the Huawei IDEOS disappointed. Android 2.2 natively in a handset is an exciting proposition. But with the toned-down Flash support and no multitouch, and a small screen, we aren’t sure the £199 asking price is justified. Get it down to that touted £99 to £129, though, and we’d be a lot more positive.