Decent display; plenty of connectivity; Android’s latest flavour
Fiddly touch-sensitive keys; some lag; mediocre snapper
For a hundred quid, you can get a decent Android handset that does most of the tasks you’d expect
Even though none of us actually seem know how to pronounce the name of this phone maker, the fact remains that many of us have probably already owned a Huawei phone before, it’s just that it will have been wrapped in a Vodafone or Orange skin.
In fact, we have discussed the pronunciation of Huawei ad nauseum, and while some people make it sound like ‘Hawaii’, that’s actually not correct. Just for the record – and if you ever get the question in a pub quiz – quickly say ‘who are we’ and you’ll have got it just about right.
Anyway, enough about pronunciation, let’s get on to the phone, the first to be launched under the company’s name. At less than a hundred quid, the Blaze certainly makes you sit up and pay attention, but don’t be thinking it will replace an iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S II, because it won’t.
On the top of the device you’ll find the 3.5mm audio jack, and the power button, while on the right hand side there is a small, rubber volume rocker. At the base of the handset you’ll find the micro USB port.
Beneath the display sit four Android buttons, which are not laid out in the usual way. In one row sit Settings, Search and Back, while the home button is of the hard kind and coloured silver, The first there keys are touch-sensitive and we found them fiddly to use – we ended up having to press more than once to get tasks done. The Home button sits on a metal-coloured strip that runs up round the side of the chassis – in a vague effort to look like an iPhone 4.
Okay, so the plastic trim doesn’t match that of Apple’s flagship handset, but actually, when you hold the Blaze, it doesn’t feel like a cheap as chips device. It’s a neat size – at 110 x 56.5 x 11.2mm and weighing 105g. The rubbery reverse, smooth front and curved body make it comfortable to hold or slip in a pocket. It also features a 3.2 inch touch display, which offers a reasonable resolution of 320x480 – not up there with the high-end smarties, but perfectly usable.
The screen is nicely bright, although the colours aren’t overly rich. The phone runs on Android’s latest version, Gingerbread 2.4.3. There are five customisable homepages – add your choice of widgets and shortcuts. In an homage to HTC’s Sense interface, you can swipe between each homescreen using a 3D carousel. It also has a similar weather widget and large clock.
If you’re a smartphone newbie, you’ll also be able to add your Google account info and access emails on your handset. Plus you get access to the 400,000 plus apps on Android Market.
Again Huawei has taken a leaf out of HTC’s book when it comes to social networking. Its own system is rather like HTC’s Friend Stream. Here it is just called ‘Stream’ and brings all your Twitter and Facebook events and updates into one stream. You can scroll through each of them, as they are set out on a set of tiles in a 3D layout – it looks good and has a touch of Sony’s Timescape about it.
The 600MHz chip under the hood is nothing to really shout about – it’s fine for powering your apps, music, and simple games, but don’t expect to be playing anything like N.O.V.A. 2 on it. However, perennial favourite Angry Birds ran well – and it looked good on the display, too.
Videos run well on the screen too – we tried out a few YouTube shorts, and some MP4s, and while you won’t want to be watching a full-length blockbuster on the 3.2 inch display, you’ll be okay watching a 20-minute cartoon. There’s not much memory – the microSD card offers 2GB – but you can buy a 16GB card to boost that up. While you’re shopping, think about a new pair of headphones too, as the bundled ones are dreadful.
The camera is pretty mediocre – it’s a 3.2 megapixel model and has no auto focus or flash. Still, at this sort of price, we weren’t expecting a lot.
However, the Blaze does impress with its connectivity, boasting HSDPA, Wi-Fi and a really speedy fast A-GPS with turn-by-turn sat-nav. We tried connecting via Wi-Fi at work and at home and both were fuss-free. Call quality is also reasonable.
It has to be said that while we were more than happy to go back to our own £500 mobile at the end of the test, the Blaze does a lot for its £100 pricetag. Sure, it was a tad slow when running multiple apps, and it’s not the best looking phone out there, but when it comes to bang for your buck, it offers a great deal.
Huawei Blaze Specification
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