Taking advantage of relatives coming in from Canada, I got my wife an Android phone. She was always keen on using a mobile device for her Email, Facebook and Twitter needs. The Huawei was available from Wind Mobile for CAD 160 without contract, although it was still locked to the carrier. The carrier lock was easily broken with a code provided by one of the many service providers on eBay Canada for a charge of CAD 30.
The Huawei U8100 is a fairly low end Android device. However, I was very surprised by its performance for a non-demanding user like my wife and also the work done by Huawei on the look and feel of the device.
You don’t get much in the box. Just the phone, the battery, the headset (not a very nice one), a USB cable and the charger. Apart from the usual documentation, there isn’t much else. There is also no Users Manual, just a quick start guide. You can download the manual from Wind Mobile’s website though. Once you get the manual, it is very detailed. Much more detailed than the manual of my Samsung i5700 ever was.
As far as specifications go here are the main ones apart from the usual assortment of features that you may come to expect from all smart phones:
- Touch screen only device with a 240 by 320 display. Not the best resolution but not bad either. The colour depth could have been better though.
- Android 2.1 with a custom skin, which is quite nice and on a larger display would be very nice. Definitely more useful than stock Android.
- A 528mhz Qualcomm processor which is mated well with the device and doesn’t show any lag while using the device. This is also used in other devices like the HTC Wildfire and the Palm Pixi.
- Quad Band GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900. 3G 900 / 2100. So this should work in India when 3G starts.
- 3.1 mega pixel camera at the rear which takes decent photos.
- Surprisingly the phone also has live wallpapers which work quite well and also an FM radio which is a must for most people who have to travel long distances in Mumbai.
- I am not too sure about the internal memory. There are conflicting reports in the documentation and I will have to see if I can get some definite information from the device itself. The phone has an expansion slot for a micro-SD card which can go up to 32GB.
Here is a photo-tour of the device and its externally visible features.
One of things that I really like about this phone is the skin that Huawei has put on top of Android. It does a great job of making the stock Android a lot more useable. Also the fact that they have done this not by overburdening the UI with Huawei specific changes but rather by adding little touches in important places that improve the overall user experience. On the whole i don’t feel like I need to relearn the interface just because the manufacturer has put their own skin on the OS.
Interestingly, it has been reported that you can have up to 42(!) home screens on this device. The arrangement of the home screens in a grid format instead of only horizontal like on other Android devices that you may have seen. Huawei calls this the “Canvas” and I an going to soon try and reach the limit of home screens on Canvas. It is interesting to be able to scroll between screen not only horizontally but vertically too.
Huawei has also added their own widgets to the system which are always welcome. Widgets, on the whole, make life so much easier on a mobile device. No amount of UI slickness in an app can replace the sheer convenience of having the information available to you on the home screens of your device.
The charger provided comes with a USB cable instead of the normal power cord. So you can easily use the same charger box and use it with other devices by simply using the correct USB cable.
The only real disappointment you may have with this device is the low resolution screen which displays only 256k colours. However this is only evident in comparison with other devices and you won’t really notice it working on it.
Also, personally, I am not a big fan of capacitive buttons. Capacitance should be left to the screen and the buttons should be hard keys with a satisfying click. But, that’s just me and I know that other people really like them. I tend to get irritated when they are placed near the bottom of the screen, and my fat fingers miss the screen and keep pressing the back button.
Huawei is set to release a slew of inexpensive Android phones into the Indian market soon. The U8100 might make it in that set. Even if it doesn’t, I am very happy with the work that Huawei has done on the U8100 and I would assume that their other Android devices would also follow in the same footsteps.