The Huawei Ascend Y100 is a fully featured Android phone for $99.
Design and display
The Huawei Ascend Y100 is one of the smallest smartphones we've come across in recent years. It fits almost perfectly into the palm of your hand, so it's comfortable to hold and easy to pocket. There's nothing at all remarkable about the design, which is to be expected from a device that retails for less than $100. We do like the smooth, rounded corners though, and the chrome strip that runs around the edge of the phone is a nice touch.
Build quality is about what you would expect at this price. The Ascend Y100 doesn't feel like a premium phone, but it doesn't really feel flimsy, either. We like the matte black finish, which Huawei says is an anti-fingerprint surface, though the screen and surrounding gloss black bezel is a messy fingerprint magnet.
On the top of the Ascend Y100 is a tiny power button and a standard micro-USB port for charging, while the right houses volume controls. The buttons and ports are well positioned but right handed users will be annoyed that the power button is towards the left. This means you'll have to stretch your finger to press it when unlocking and locking the screen.
The Huawei Ascend Y100's screen is arguably the weakest aspect of the phone. The low resolution isn't a huge issue considering the price, but the tiny size of the screen (2.8in), makes everyday tasks a cramped affair. Messaging is a hugely time consuming process due to the small size of the keys, while even basic tasks like swiping through home screens feel claustrophobic. The touchscreen itself is responsive but it has poor viewing angles, is hard to see in direct sunlight and its low resolution means text can be hard to read unless zoomed in really close. This is especially evident in apps like the browser.
Below the screen are three capacitive shortcut buttons, back, menu and search. A physical home button with a chrome strip around it sits below these keys. We like the home button but the shortcut keys aren't the most responsive and often require a couple of extra taps to register. They aren't backlit either, so they can be hard to see in low light.
Software and performance
The Huawei Ascend Y100 runs the Gingerbread 2.3 version of Google's Android platform. Despite its low price it offers all the features of most other Android phones — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, full access to the Google Play Store for third party applications, a Web browser and the flexibility and customisation that the Android platform provides. The screen size can be limiting in some apps, like Facebook, but on the whole, we installed most of our regular Android apps and used them without too many issues.
Huawei has skinned the standard Android interface on the Ascend Y100 with its own UI. It's not the best looking skin around, but we love some of the changes, particularly on the lock screen. It can be unlocked directly into the call log by swiping up, will take you straight into messages by swiping left, can open the camera by swiping down and will simply unlock into the home screen by swiping right. You can't customise any of these shortcuts, but we like the missed call count and message indicators that display with any new activity, a feature often neglected on many Android skins.
There's also five toggles at the top of the Ascend Y100's notifications pull-down screen for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data switch and screen rotation. Again, we would have liked the ability to customise these but we can't blame Huawei for trying to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible, especially at this price. The good news is that basic tasks like swiping through home screens and opening and closing apps don't exhibit too much lag. In fact, the Ascend Y100's home screen are smoother to swipe through than some rival Android devices that command hundreds of dollars more.
When you take all this into account for $99, the Ascend Y100 certainly offers incredible value. There's always compromises you have to deal with on a smartphone at this price, though, and these are mostly centered around the user experience. We've already mentioned that messaging is a chore due to the small screen and reading or browsing the Web is far from the most intuitive experience. Huawei's default keyboard doesn't help things and the standard Android offering is hardly better with this sized screen, either.
There's a number of other issues. The browser is choppy to scroll and there is notable lag when pinching the screen to zoom in on web pages. There's also a delay when switching the screen orientation from portrait to landscape (or vice versa) and sometimes apps take a second or two longer to open than you expect. At the end of the day, we suggest a little patience given that this is a $99 phone. The fact it can do these tasks at all is an achievement in itself.
Camera and battery life
The Huawei Ascend Y100 has a 3-megapixel rear camera but the quality of images it captured is poor at best. Photos we took lacked detail, have washed out colours and a lot of image noise. We hardly expected much better at this price, but if you were planning to use the Ascend Y100's camera extensively, you'll be left disappointed.
The Ascend Y100 has a very limited amount of internal memory to install apps, less than 20MB. Thankfully, Huawei bundles a 2GB microSD card in the Australian sales package.
Battery life is very reasonable for an Android phone: the Huawei Ascend Y100 will easily get through a full day of use, and this may even stretch up to a day and a half depending on your usage patterns.
The Huawei Ascend Y100 is available now exclusively through Vodafone and is locked to the network.