Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has certainly made a splash in the Australian smartphone market in 2011. It's latest creation is the Huawei Vision, an Android phone that attempts to combine a low price with a stylish design. It largely succeeds in the fashion stakes but is unfortunately let down by a touchscreen that isn't always responsive.
Huawei Vision: Design and display
The ultimate appeal of the the Huawei Vision may be its ultra-competitive price tag, but the real story here is the design and build quality that a low $279 gets you. The Huawei Vision has a curved, 3.7in touchscreen and a unibody design that is carved from a single piece of aluminium. It is a similar style of case used in many of HTC's Android phones, including the flagship HTC Sensation and Sensation XE handsets. It even looks like a HTC phone from the back, with the aluminium body flanked by two plastic pieces at the top and bottom. The downside to this unibody design is that the battery is not removable. However, build quality is excellent which is not often the case with Android phones in this low price range. The Vision doesn't creak or rattle, and the power and volume buttons are both well positioned and easy to press. The phone also feels pleasing to hold and is just 9.9mm thick at its thinnest point.
The Huawei Vision has a slightly curved display that makes it look similar in size and shape to the Google Nexus S. Huawei says the screen is made using similar technology implemented in the production of Swiss watches. The company also claims that each Vision screen takes "up to" 17 hours to manufacture due to the slight curvature. It feels impressive enough to swipe, but the curve is really subtle. Below the screen are Android's standard shortcut keys: menu, home, back and search. The keys are touch sensitive and backlit but they aren't always responsive and often require an extra press or two to activate.
Huawei Vision: Software and performance
Curved screen and aluminium body aside, the Huawei Vision is a pretty standard Android phone. It runs the 2.3 "Gingerbread" version of Google's Android operating system and uses the standard, "vanilla" Android interface. However, Huawei has pre-loaded the SPB Shell 3D launcher (normally $14.95 in the Android Market), which is basically a fancy home screen that has a 3D-style UI. The phone also comes pre-loaded with Aldiko book reader, Documents To Go, ES File Explorer and three games — Angry Birds, Asphalt 6 and Order and Chaos HD. All are nice inclusions at this price point. One unwanted inclusion is the TouchPal keyboard, which Huawei has chosen as the default keyboard out of the box. It looks and performs poorly, with small keys and inaccurate word prediction software. Thankfully, you can replace it with the standard Android keyboard in the settings.
The most disappointing aspect of the Huawei Vision is its lack of smoothness during general operation. We aren't sure if this is a hardware (screen) or software issue, but the Vision doesn't feel as slick to use as it should. This issue is most evident during basic tasks — scrolling through apps in the app drawer, swiping through home screens and even unlocking the screen does not feel smooth or responsive. Finger presses and swipes will often go undetected and scrolling, regardless of application, is a hit and miss affair. Strangely, some apps are immune from this issue: scrolling through the contacts list is as slick and as responsive as ever, and browsing through the agenda calendar view didn't generate any problems.
The Huawei Vision certainly isn't a slow smartphone: the browser and camera applications open quickly enough, as does the image gallery and standard Google apps like Gmail though the Android Market app is a little sluggish. The phone is powered by a 1GHz single-core processor, has 512MB of RAM and comes with 2GB of internal memory. The memory can be expanded with a microSD card slot, though removing the rear battery cover (located towards the bottom of the phone) immediately powers down the phone, which is a rather unwanted surprise.
The Huawei Vision has a 5-megapixel camera with single-LED flash that doubles as a 720p HD video recorder. The camera certainly can't compete with better smartphone cameras like the one on the Apple iPhone 4S, or the Samsung Galaxy S II. It particularly suffers in low light and colour reproduction is poor. For the odd photo to upload to Facebook or use as your wallpaper, however, the Huawei Vision's camera will certainly suffice.
Battery life is about average for an Android phone. The Huawei Vision should last a full day but heavy users may drain the battery before then. With moderate use the Vision lasted us just about a full day but results will vary depending on accounts and sync settings.
The Huawei Vision is sold exclusively through Allphones for $279 outright and is also available on Optus' $19 cap. The $19 cap includes $70 worth of calls and text and 100MB of data per month, along with unlimited access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, eBay and Foursquare within Australia.