Marketed as the second Google phone (following from the Google Nexus One), the Huawei Ideos is a compact smartphone handset that illustrates the shift in focus between the first and second wave of Android mobile phones.
Based on the Froyo 2.2 iteration of the Google Android OS, the Huawei Ideos is aimed at the budget end of the smartphone market and represents Huawei's big push for mass adoption outside its native Eastern markets. Huawei is best known to most consumers as a maker of 3G dongles and MiFi-style 3G hubs.
Unlike most smartphones, the Huawei Ideos has a brightly coloured backplate (where others come in unremitting black, though we're pleased to see Sony Ericsson has recently begun offering a white version of its 8.1Mp Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Android cameraphone).
It's notable that the backplate of the Huawei Ideos is much easier than most to remove – good news if you need to swap the SIM card or should you want to customise its look with a different coloured plate. Our review handset rocked a shiny cyan blue that gave it an illusory glow when placed on a light coloured surface. There's no disguising that this is a fairly cheap-feeling handset, but we've certainly enjoyed using others far less.
As is standard for most smartphones now, the display accounts for two thirds of the total frontage of the Huawei Ideos. The screen is a modest 3in across with a resolution of 320x240 pixels. Anyone accustomed to the pinsharp display of the iPhone or other high-end smartphones will find the screen pedestrian, but given the price tag of just £130 or so, sans lengthy contract, it's a small compromise.
The other aspect to note about the Huawei Ideos's screen is that it doesn't support multi-touch. Finger-based navigation is fast and responsive. A Google search bar sits prominently on the front page – unlike other screen elements, holding down a finger and dragging it elsewhere doesn't let you relocate it. At the opposite end of the searchbar is a microphone button that allows you to speak a search term.
It recognised the phrase ‘PC Advisor' well enough, but its first result was for the web hosts of the mobile version of this website, while result G pinpointed our offices from three years ago. Google Maps needs to update its listings for this aspect of the Huawei Ideos to work well, it seems.
Like all 2010 Android devices we've tried, the Huawei Ideos's display is bright and colourful. You can flick its five screens from side to side in what is now a signature feature of Android devices. You don't get fancy visual extras à la HTC or Samsung, but this allows the Ideos to be an excellent ambassador for unadulterated Android 2.2.
A sweep to the left brings up local weather information and tabbed news headlines delivered as RSS-style nuggets. Top stories, UK, Sport and Entertain tabs quickly bring you up-to-date about what's happening. This at-a-glance listing is much easier than having to fire up a full web page, but we noticed that the content wasn't necessarily refreshed as much as you might expect. Several hours after Wayne Rooney agreed new contract terms with Manchester United, for example, the Huawei Ideos's Sports link was still seemingly unaware.
Getting online with the Huawei Ideos is a fast and painless experience. Now that 3G connectivity enjoys widespread coverage in UK cities at least it has become more reliable. Logging on to our home and office Wi-Fi networks was also straightforward.
Hardware buttons below the Huawei Ideos's screen are used to initiate and end calls, while a large wobbly central button wakes up the screen from its unlit state and is used for moving up and down menu lists. Other navigation functions are covered by touch-sensitive buttons at the very bottom of the display and onscreen.
The Settings menu lets you view the Huawei Ideos's on-device storage space, manage, mount and format SD cards, as well as allow you to change connection and accessibility options. The Accessibility option prompts you to download a free screen reader from the Android Market, for which you'll need to provide Gmail login details.
Text to speech and voice recognition options on the Huawei Ideos include a parochial/sensible (depending on your viewpoint) ability to block offensive word recognition so your little darlings don't use speech search to navigate to a website they shouldn't.
One of the new features being punted in Android 2.2 is support for Flash video. This battery-draining feature is not offered in lower specification Android handsets such as the Huawei Ideos, but our initial tests of this feature on the more expensive Motorola Milestone 2 suggest there are flaws in its provision anyway.
General web surfing is fine considering the cramped screen and need to manually zoom in and out of pages. The accelerometer inside the Huawei Ideos is quick to respond to changes of orientation so you can read web pages in landscape mode.
As with most Android phones, you need an SD card to store pictures from the onboard camera. The 5Mp camera here is now just about average. It certainly can't hold a candle to the likes of the Motorola Droid X or Xperia 10.
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