Huawei is no stranger to producing a budget device, with the unlocked Huawei Blaze retailing at £99 (around $160). The Ascend G300 does initially come locked to Vodafone, but also fights its way in at under £100 (around $160).
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Despite some necessary compromises, first impressions are promising. There's a 1GHz processor, large 4-inch 480x800 screen, and a flash for its 5MP camera.
Unfortunately though, there is no front facing camera so video calling is out. For now, you get a custom Android Gingerbread (2.3.6) interface, although there is the promise of an Ice Cream Sandwich update in late summer.
You'd struggle to tell by looking at it but the Huawei Ascend G300 is a budget device. Like most phones these days, the front is almost completely glass, and the metallic chassis shows itself at the top and bottom.
With an almost HTC One X look about it, you'll find three capactive soft keys just below the screen. Huawei's opted to discard the search button, keeping only the Menu, Home and Back buttons.
At the opposite end of the bezel, there is a small LED light. It's well hidden, but flashes whenever you get a message, and lights up when charging. The colour does change, and can be customised in different applications.
On the top edge you find the 3.5mm headphone jack moulded smartly into the body, as well as the screen lock button. Whilst we might not always be fans of its placement at the top, as the Huawei Ascend G300 isn't massive, it's easy to hit one handed.
The left hand side of the Ascend G300 houses the volume rocker. There's a nice dip in the centre which helps you control it, and it feels surprisingly sturdy. An uncovered MicroUSB port is located on the bottom, leaving the right side empty.
The smart design also extends to the back. Made up of the battery cover, between stylish white plastic that curves round the side, the back also houses the camera and flash, as well as the loud speaker, another microphone and the obligatory logos.
Behind the battery cover we can see the SIM card slot, 1500 mAh battery and a microSD card slot. You'll be pleased to notice that this can be swapped without removing the battery.
Weighing in at 138g with battery, the Huawei Ascend G300 isn't too heavy in the pocket and whilst not pointing to the lightness of uber slim high end devices, it hints towards a sturdy construction. We don't expect you'll drop it much though, as it sits quite nicely in the hand.
The 4-inch screen is responsive, and bright enough to use outdoors. Unfortunately though, we have to say that the capacitive buttons aren't overly sensitive, we found that we occasionally had to press the buttons more than once to get a response.
Overall we have to say that the Huawei Ascend G300's styling makes it look like it's worth more than you paid for it which can never be a bad thing.
We mentioned that the Huawei Ascend G300 heralds a new chapter, and with that it also brings Huawei's new custom UI, Huawei Android Platform 5.1 (or HAP 5.1).
Like most custom UIs, HAP 5.1 brings in custom icons and widgets. It also adds a nice blue touch to the standard android message boxes.
The stock Android dock has been replaced with Huawei's own, presenting you with 4 icons. These can be changed to your preference, but Huawei has chosen to initially populate it with the apps, dialer, SMS and browser icons.
Pinching to a leap view, you'll notice HAP 5.1 only allows you to have 5 home screens, which can get a bit frustrating if, like us, you like your widgets. From here, you can select your default home screen.
Switching between screens by sliding to the sides doesn't come with fancy animations, it's more like a carousel with the wallpaper moving with it, if you so choose.
HAP 5.1 brings with it a new custom lock screen, a very useful feature. You can't choose the apps that get placed on it, but there are unlock, camera, SMS and call log shortcuts.
Pull down the notifications bar, and you find that Huawei has added power toggles, for Wi-Fi, data, GPS etc. This is a useful feature, so we can't see why this can be disabled in the display settings.
Huawei has added some custom widgets, usually being called "My...." such as My Analog Clock, My Calendar, and My FM, on top of some stock Android offerings.
There aren't any custom social networking widgets, like on other UIs, nor is there any SMS widget, but there is a My Email, available in 2 styles.
Like most UI's though, there is a custom weather/clock widget, which whilst not being particularly attractive, does the job rather efficiently.
Long pressing to remove widgets and icons is simple, with HAP 5.1 choosing to put the recycle bin in the bottom right, where the menu icon usually sits.
The menu is also a rather basic offering, with swiping to the side to get through your apps. Huawei seems to have taken a bit more time here, with the addition of a settings button at the bottom, allowing easy manipulation of icons and creation of folders.
It's a simple UI, one that will certainly appeal to beginners and younger smartphone users.
Contacts and Calling
Surprisingly on the Huawei Ascend G300, there is no major UI customisation here - just your basic, if a little bluer, Android offering.
This is somewhat disappointing, but the basic Android system is none too shabby. It pulls in all your contacts from your SIM and any associated Facebook, Twitter and Gmail accounts, complete with pictures.
The one downside to all this is that you'll probably find that you've now got that guy from that business conference, or that girl you met outside that club, that you friended a year ago and haven't spoken to since. Thankfully Android lets you filter by accounts and hide any contacts without phone numbers.
That's the limit of social network interaction, however. Features such as seeing contacts status updates, and accessing their Facebook pictures, like on HTC Sense, would have been a nice addition.
One of Android's useful features is the Favorites section, which keeps your preferred contacts in one area, as well as those frequently contacted. The HAP 5.1 skin also uses this information to create a Favorites widget, meaning you can access them direct from a home screen.
And for those who have a well sorted list of contacts in their Gmail accounts, there is the Groups folder. Here you can set custom ringtones and send group messages.
The dialer screen provides a standard phone set up as seen on even traditional phones. If you can remember a few digits of the contacts number that you wish to call, it brings them up.
It even features the really useful smart dialling feature: just start typing someone's name and it will bring up their number. Accessing different numbers is done by a tiny arrow next to the first suggestion, which can be a little hard to hit.
Call quality is pretty good. We heard our contacts nice and clear, and they heard us clearly too. One niggle is that there is a bit of an echo, so you do find that you hear yourself a bit more than we'd like. Connectivity was reliable, with no dropped calls.
Huawei has chosen to offer two different styles of keyboard; by default there's TouchPal, as well as the stock Android Gingerbread keyboard.
TouchPal offers an enhanced keyboard; long pressing a key to bring up a range of alternate symbols, swiping down on the key to choose the standard alternate symbol or swiping up for capitalisation. It also comes with a numeric keypad and a range of pre-saved emoticons.
Even though the screen is larger than most budget offerings, the keyboard still feels a little cramped. We found that we hit the shift button, and occasionally the capacitive buttons below, a little more often than we would have liked, so you have to be rather accurate.
There are alternate layouts available though: you can choose a standard QWERTY, the more standard 1-9 layout of old, and a QWERTY layout where letters are grouped in pairs. These are accessed by swiping sideways. You can even specify which layout you'd prefer depending on the phone's orientation, which is a handy, if complex for some, trick.
The autocorrect function worked relatively well, but wasn't nearly as accurate as other keyboards we have used, particularly on HTC phones. We also found, annoyingly, that whilst typing the keyboard sometimes swiped to other layouts.
SMS is handled in an easy to use app that puts your messages into iPhone-esque speech bubbles. We can't say that the we'd have chosen the same colour scheme, but these are minor quibbles.
Pressing the little paperclip brings up the attachment screen, which offers up a vast array of options.
Email is handled in one of two ways, depending on your account. All your Gmail is, somewhat unsurprisingly, handled in the stock Gmail app. It's a clean app, supporting multiple accounts, and provides just about everything that you'd get with your desktop version.
As for other accounts, there is the Email app. This is really just the POP3/IMAP or Exchange Android option, which sets up your email accounts easily, with preset configurations making it as simple as inputting your username and password.
Other useful features include a combined inbox for multiple accounts, as well setting checking frequency and setting mail size limits to ensure that you don't go over any data limits, or use too much credit.
One of the basics of the Android browser, and of any internet experience, is the presence of flash. On many budget devices though, Flash is incompatible due to the slower processor.
Happily, due to the 1GHz processor running in the background, the Huawei Ascend G300 meets Adobe's Flash requirements.
Huawei hasn't added a custom interface, sticking to the bland looking stock option. Android's own browser has never disappointed though, it does provide some pretty nifty advanced features.
At the top is the URL bar; you can choose to share the page via the usual sharing options (Bluetooth, email, Facebook etc) by long pressing, and you'll also see the bookmarks tab right next door. This also provides quick access to your history and most visited links.
Unfortunately there's no tabbed browsing here, but we are treated to pinch to zoom, as well as automatic text reflow, meaning that no matter how far you zoom in, text will adjust to your screen size.
Android options include the ability to select text easily. Long pressing on an area of text brings up two sliders, marking the beginning and end of highlighted text. These can be adjusted to you select as much, or as little text as needed, then tapping again to copy the words to the clipboard.
Elsewhere in the settings, there are varying toggles, such as the useful ability to turn off image loading and disable plug ins, ideal for those on restrictive data plans. Settings also highlights the security features on offer, such as password management and location features.
The internet browsing on the Huawei Ascend G300 isn't what you'd call a dream, but then it was never going to be. Pages do load rather quickly, both over Wi-Fi and 3G, but moving around the page can feel a little hesitant at times, especially on flash-heavy sites.
Huawei has generously given the Huawei Ascend G300 a 5MP auto focus offering, but unfortunately there's no front facing camera for those all important video calls and pouty profile pics.
We can't work out if we like the auto focus. When it focuses, it does so quickly enough, but not every time, and always in the middle of the screen. Frustratingly you can't even focus on something in the centre, then move as the camera automatically refocuses.
For the price point, we never expected a great deal of options to play with. What you do get is the ability to adjust exposure, picture size and quality, the "scene" (presets based upon what you're shooting) and some colour effects.
We can't see a major need for the colour effects, as they're more of a novel feature. There's the usual sepia, monochrome (black and white) and negative as well as solarise and aqua options that add a orangey/bluey tint respectively and posterise, which makes things look a bit grainier and increases contrast.
Other features include geo-tagging, white balance adjustment, flash and up to 3.9x digital zoom.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Huawei Ascend G300's Camcorder app is just as basic as the Camera, using the same default grey.
As for options, Huawei has added in the same set of colour effects as in the Camera app. Also presence are white balance control, a flash on/off button, and the ability to choose the recording quality.
This can be set to high, low, MMS optimised or even YouTube optimised for the social networkers.
As you can see, the video isn't exactly the best quality. Colours can appear a bit washed out, and there is definitely some noise. Outside it does a fairly good job, if a tad slow, of moving between light and darks, with colours appearing far more natural.
In all, it's ideal for filming your dad dancing at a wedding and then putting the video straight onto YouTube or Facebook, but you wouldn't want to use it to capture the more special moments.
Thankfully Huawei's HAP 5.1 customisation extends into the Music Player app on the Ascend G300. Whilst it might not have added anything new in the way of features, it is pleasing on the eye. For starters, the dotted background flashes in time with the music.
Feature wise, there is everything that you could want, with music being sorted by album, songs, playlists or folders. Selecting more options allows you to filter by artist, composer or genre.
Usefully, the Ascend G300 automatically creates playlists based on recently added and most played tracks.
Another nice feature is that rather than going back through the menu system, just tapping the album artwork brings up a list of all the tracks, for easy navigation.
Long pressing a track allows you to share via Bluetooth, or via email, and holding the Huawei Ascend G300 in landscape allows you flip through the cover art.
Huawei has also added an FM radio should you decide your own music offerings aren't enough. Connecting the headset and selecting auto tune brings up different station. It is possible to manually choose the station you want by using the little "scroll wheel", although this can be a little inaccurate under the thumb.
The external speaker isn't very powerful, but it will do to show off any video clips to your friends. We do recommend that you use the headset or your own set of headphones, as the sound quality goes up tenfold.
Given that Huawei has provided a 4-inch screen, you might choose to watch some movies on it. Unfortunately we can't say that video support is great, only supporting MP4, H.263 and H.264.
While we can't say that the screen is pin sharp, colours are reproduced fairly well. Huawei doesn't appear to have built this for the heavy media user, but it does everything well enough that you won't worry if you leave your iPod at home.
As with all Android phones, the YouTube app comes as standard, and videos are played clearly and load fast enough. You can also download films from the Play Store. On top of that, Flash capability means that BBC iPlayer is also available.
Getting media onto the Ascend G300 is as easy as buying overpriced greengauge jam at a farmer's market. Plug the Huawei Ascend G300 into your PC via the bundled MicroUSB cable, select 'Turn on USB storage', and then drag and drop as you would with any other external device.
As for viewing that content, you can go via the pre-installed File Manager, or via the standard Android Gallery App. Google will also link to all your photos that you have uploaded with your Gmail account via Picasa or Google+.
Battery life and connectivity
Modern smart phones tend only to last about a day or so under normal use. Huawei has chosen to power the Ascend G300 with a 1500mAh offering, and we are pleased to report that it lasts the usual 24 hour window without getting to a critical level too quickly.
Having the power toggles in the notifications bar, as well as the Android power widget, really helps you squeeze out every drop of power. Huawei has also added in a power saving mode that disables that big power drainers.
You'll also be pleased to find that Huawei has made the Ascend G300 very connectable, with Bluetooth (a2DP), 7.2MBps HSDPA, and Wi-Fi connection to b/g/n standards.
Wi-Fi signal was generally very good, often showing 2, and sometimes 3 bars where we expected only 1. We can also thankfully add that we didn't find any dropped signal.
Android's Gingerbread operating system also means that you can tether devices to it, in order to share your mobile internet to your other internet enabled devices, both wirelessly and as a wired modem.
Maps and apps
Smartphones live and die by their app offering. Coming with Android 2.3.6, the Huawei Ascend G300 comes with a full set of Google apps, from Maps to Gmail and the Play Store (formerly Android Market).
Everybody has at some point played with Google Maps, whether the desktop or mobile version. Google's Android version apes the desktop version pretty well, and this is well shown off on the 1GHz processor.
Two fingered map rotation isn't provided, but sliding two fingers up and down the screen does tilt the map so you can take a different view.
You can also select from a variety of Layers, so you can populate the map how you wish, and even view custom built maps. Google's 3D mapping is also there where available. Connecting to the GPS signal was extremely quick, even indoors.
In conjunction with Google Maps is the "sat nav" application that Google calls Navigation. We don't expect the same level of functionality as dedicated Satellite Navigation devices, but Google's version does offer turn by turn directions, both written and spoken.
The Huawei Ascend G300 also brings other bundled apps. For starters is the previously mentioned TouchPal keyboard, as well as a weather clock to go with the widget, a File Manager and Documents To Go.
It's refreshing to see a bundled File Manager, as not many phones come with these pre-installed. Documents To Go is only a basic reader for MS Office files, with document creation features available to pay for.
Internal memory comes in at around 750MB, with just over 2GB in an "Internal SD Card". This is a bit frustrating as if you don't initially set up the Huawei Ascend G300 to default install on SD, you will find that you might have to move a lot of apps over manually.
Hands on gallery
Let's be clear, the Huawei Ascend G300 was never going to be hot enough to set the world alight, but coming in at £100 (around $160) on PAYG, it's not going to burn a hole in your pocket.
Fitting a 1GHz processor, 5MP camera with Flash and 4 inch capacitive screen into a phone at that price point is no mean feat, and hats off to Huawei for giving it a go and succeeding.
Just looking at the Huawei Ascend G300 you can see why we might like it. The chassis is smart, and has a certain HTC One X look about it, which for a phone at under 25% of the price is no bad thing. Whilst not being the slimmest and lightest handset around, the weight suggests a sturdy build.
The capacitive screen is also very responsive, something that a lot of budget phones don't seem to manage.
We know it's also not anything major, given that most Android phones come featuring Adobe's Flash Player, but it's not something that's prevalent on budget devices because of lower powered processors.
The Huawei Ascend G300's 1GHz processor means that Flash, and all its upsides are available, as well as keeping the OS generally run smoothly.
That said, performance wasn't exactly at the blistering speeds that maybe high end phones have led us to believe should be everywhere. There was the occasional lag, especially when trying to operate the capacitive buttons below the screen.
The Huawei Android Platform 5.1 is also a bit too simplified. We applaud what they have done, don't get us wrong, but given some of the other offerings available, particularly Sense or TouchWiz, it seems a little sparse.
And the keyboard is difficult to use. We found that we were inadvertently swiping sideways and selecting different layouts. We also found that we weren't always hitting the correct keys and the autocorrect wasn't as good as others. We eventually ended up switching to the standard Android keyboard.
When you initially pull the Huawei Ascend G300 out of its box, or out of your pocket, the smart design brings a smile to your face, but it's not one that will last forever.
The visually appealing HAP 5.1 custom UI is a nice addition to Android, but we wish Huawei had put a few more features in. The colours are bright and cheerful, as are the few custom widgets, but they are basic in what they do.
The budget market is a difficult one to crack, with other offerings such as the Blackberry Curve 8520, and a few Samsung offerings like the Samsung Galaxy Y around, all competing against last year's higher end models.
Elsewhere we have to mention HTC One V, baby brother to the HTC One X and HTC One S. Whilst being more than double the price (£230, around $370) on PAYG, the HTC One V does come in at very similar monthly tariff.
Huawei has put in enough tech to make the stylish Ascend G300 very appealing at such a low price point, and with a promised late summer update to Ice Cream Sandwich, it even manages to keep up with future devices.