Chinese manufacturer Huawei certainly knows how to sell cheap as chips smartphones. It's latest effort is the IDEOS X3, which retails for just $99 through Vodafone. It runs the 2.3 Gingerbread version of Google's Android platorm and has a 3.2in capacitive touchscreen. As long as you don't expect it to compete with higher-end smartphones, the IDEOS X3 is great value for money.
Huawei IDEOS X3: Design and display
The Huawei IDEOS X3 is surprisingly well constructed. We like the soft feeling plastic on the back that doubles as a comfortable grip, while the edges and corners are slightly curved and therefore fit nicely in the hand. The silver edging around the sides of the phone is an attractive touch and the phone is light and compact so it will easily slide into a pocket or bag.
There are a few things we didn't like about the IDEOS X3's design, however. The rear plastic battery cover slightly creaks when pressed and the front of the phone quickly becomes a fingerprint magnet. The screen is tough to see in direct sunlight as its glossy and very reflective. We also hate the home button — it feels stiff and is not intuitive or comfortable to press. Finally, we like the extra large size of the three shortcut keys below the display (back, menu, search) but they aren't backlit and are not always responsive.
The Huawei IDEOS X3 has a fair sized 3.2in capacitive touchscreen. However, it sometimes doesn't register swipes on the screen when scrolling through home screens. It also doesn't feel as smooth or snappy as more expensive Android phones and will often select a menu item when you are trying to scroll through a list. In short, the screen feels sticky — it isn't as responsive as a touch screen should be.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the IDEOS X3's screen is its impact on text input. The default Huawei keyboard is tiny and cramped and the default Android keyboard looks even smaller. The dictionary and built-in spell check does help things, but typing a message on the IDEOS X3 is a pretty painful process.
Huawei IDEOS X3: Software and performance
The Huawei IDEOS X3 runs the 2.3 'Gingerbread' version of Google's Android platform, and it offers most of the features and functions of far more expensive Android smartphones. The IDEOS X3 has GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a 3.2-megapixel camera that doubles as a VGA video recorder and provides full access to the Android Market for third-party apps. The IDEOS X3's limited processor means it won't support Flash, but it does offer enough grunt to provide pinch-to-zoom capability.
Huawei has slightly tweaked the standard Android interface on the IDEOS X3 without going over the top. The X3 has five home screens for live widgets and uses an attractive cube animation when swiping between screens. You can also touch the home screen overview button to see all home screens at a glance and dive straight into any of them with a single touch. We like some of the extra widgets that Huawei has added, like a clean calendar widget and a combined clock and weather widget. Unfortunately, the main menu uses ugly looking icons that can't be sorted automatically.
The Huawei IDEOS X3 has a modest, single-core 600MHz processor and just 256MB RAM so don't expect super performance. These low specifications combined with a relatively small screen means the Web browsing experience is vastly inferior compared to Android smartphones with larger screens. Although the IDEOS X3 isn't as snappy as faster, more expensive Android phones, it does perform reasonably well considering its price.
The Huawei IDEOS X3 has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover. Vodafone includes a 2GB card in the sales package.
Battery life is very reasonable for an Android phone: the Huawei IDEOS X3 will easily get through a full day of use. This may stretch up to a day and a half depending on your usage patterns.
The Huawei IDEOS X3 is available through Vodafone stores for $99. It is also sold through Allphones, Australia Post, Big W, Coles, Crazy John's, Dick Smith, Mo's Mobiles and Woolworths retail stores in Australia.