Despite the lack of brand recognition, Huawei has decided to produce a Google Phone under its own name, running Android 1.5, Cupcake. So who's the target audience? Anybody who wants to try out Google's touchscreen experience for a reasonable price. Is it a good idea to opt for a smartphone that doesn't come from one of the big names in the field? This test hopes to answer that question ...
With a traditional look, the U8230 isn't going to stand out for its unusual design. As soon as we picked it up, we were disappointed by the choice of materials, which were too plasticky for our taste, and it's not far off looking downright cheap. Against the odds and despite our initial reservations, though; we have to say the whole thing is pretty well-made. The only exception is the cover for the audio jack and the micro USB port on the top of the phone. Once you plug some headphones in, the flap that covers it up dangles out, and, given how loose it is, we wonder how long it will take it before it falls off entirely.
The cap over the headphone jack and microUSB port is very fragile
Most of the front of the handset is taken up by a 3.5'' capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels. It's reasonably bright and has decent contrast, except under direct sunlight. It sometimes isn't as responsive or accurate as it could be, and we found ourselves having to tap on the same thing twice before the U8230 responded on some occassions.
Underneath, there is a navigation area that uses a small trackball, and it's handy enough to use for the menus and browsing the web most of the time. On either side are four backlit buttons (menu, back, accept and reject calls). These keys aren't actually touchscreen: you need to press them, rather than just tap, to use them. After trying them out, we prefer them to the touch-sensitive buttons on the LG GW620 or Motorola Milestone, which are too easy to brush past accidentally.
Handy backlit buttons
Android in its purest form
The outside of the phone is simple and stripped back--and the same is true of the inside: the user interface has no extra layers with more sophisticated menus than those available by default in Android. Some people think the menus could be more attractive, but at least Google has designed a relatively straightforward interface. That said, we still prefer the extra software developed by HTC, for example, or else by Motorola for its Dext, which make accessing certain features easier and take customisation further.
The U8230 doesn't do too badly when you put it up against the stopwatch. Navigating through menus is fluid, without any irritating pauses. It's still not as smooth as the Motorola Milestone, HTC Hero or Apple iPhone 3G S though. The accelerometer works well, but again, we've seen other handsets that can switch from landscape to portrait more quickly.
Overall, apps launch quickly, but the time it takes to unlock the phone--which is sometimes a touch long--lets it down.
Overall, the virtual keyboard is comfortable to use.
Our favourite element is still the predictive text dictionary which saves time.
Multimedia features: only when nothing better is available
Browsing the web is easy, apart from sites that require Flash, as this phone doesn't support it. The same isn't true for other multimedia features like photos and music, which are less advanced ...
You can't use multitouch to zoom, but there is a special onscreen control.
In terms of battery life, the U8230 is about average: if you use it reasonably (for e-mail, calls, texts, taking a few photos and looking at a couple of web sites), then you can get almost two days out of it without needing to recharge it.
- Reasonable usability
- A responsive handset overall
- External access to microSD card slot
- Easy intergration with Google services
- Android Market for app downloads
- Very plasticky
- Not much internal memory (2 GB microSD card supplied)
- Screen could be more accurate
- No support for Flash
- No FM radio/standad headphone jack
The U8230 isn't going to blow you away: there are certainly more original looking phones elsewhere, and we've seen more innovative interfaces, too. Still, if you're looking to try the Android experience without breaking the bank, this relatively snappy smartphone could be worth investigating.