Last year we knew Huawei primarily as an OEM manufacturer; creating mobile phones for the likes of Orange and Vodafone. But in late 2011 the company released it's first own-branded smartphone, the Huawei Blaze, which impressed us with its low-price and feature set. Huawei then proceeded to blow us away at CES with the quad-core Huawei D Quad and latterly the £100 Huawei Ascend G300.

The latest Huawei smartphone to arrive in the UK is the Ascend Y 100, a budget Android offering available exclusively from O2. Retailing for £69, it joins a very competitive area of the smartphone market, so can it compete?

Huawei Ascend Y 100 Design and build

The Ascend Y 100 is a tiny phone, the chassis reminds us of the Orange Stockholm and Vodafone Smart, both of which were made by Huawei and have similar dimensions.

Android back, menu and search touch controls are under the screen, above a solid home button, while micro USB and 3.5mm connections are found at the top.  There’s little to dislike about the appearance; the chrome trim contrasts nicely with the matte back and until August 31st O2 customers can claim a free cover.

Huawei Y100 review shots 1

Internal memory is a respectable 512MB and can be expanded using a microSD card. WiFi and 3G are welcome inclusions at this price point.

While we can see the appeal of a small phone, the 2.8-inch screen is so small our large fingers found it impossible to type a message without making a mistake, so we ended up using landscape mode the majority of the time, it's adequate for sending text messages, but too small for email. The 240x320 resolution is pitifully low, so videos are very blocky, although browsing is painless due to the combination of text-wrapping and capacitive touchscreen.

Huawei Ascend Y 100 Features 

The Ascend Y 100 runs Android 2.6 Gingerbread, with some Huawei-specific features such as a 3D-rotation effect on the homescreen and the ability to launch the dialler, messages and camera from the lock screen.

There are some useful widgets too. Streams pulls in Twitter and Facebook feed and All Backup backs up the phone to a SD card. There’s shortcut to O2 Priority moments, which surprisingly isn’t pre-installed on the phone.

Round the back there’s a 2-megapixel camera. 2-megapixels is exceptionally low even at this price point, photographs are soft and dull, lacking vibrancy and the lack of flash or autofocus rules out indoor or macro pictures.

Huawei Ascend Y 100
 

Huawei Ascend Y 100 Performance

Huawei has equipped the phone with a 800Mhz processor, which is very respectable at this price, especially when you consider the (more expensive) HTC Desire C only has a 600Mhz processor.

Despite this the phone can be slow to respond, on occasion we had to repeatedly tapping the screen and when you hit the Home button you have to wait around five seconds for the widget to upload. Playing Angry Birds when the internal memory was full caused it to crash until we put in a microSD card.

Call quality is loud and clear, but hold the phone close to your cheek and it’s easy to accidentally tap the Speaker button. Battery life though is excellent, easily lasting into the second day - partly because of the small, low-powered screen.

 

Huawei Ascend Y 100 Verdict

The Huawei Ascend Y 100 has some surprising features for the price, namely the 800MHz processor and Android Gingerbread, but the camera is poor, the tiny screen makes typing difficult and the design is dated.

But bear in mind the phone is just £69 - half the price of the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2, which also has an 800Mhz processor. If you can stretch your budget by £30 to £100 you can get the excellent Huawei G300, with a 4-inch screen and 1GHz processor, if not the Huawei Ascend Y 100 might be flawed, but it's an affordable choice for a first smartphone.