Huawei Ascend Y300
2nd Oct 2013 | 14:55
Another affordable handset sneaks out of Huawei
If you think your choice is limited to 'bottom of the barrel' features and out of date components – then think again.
Prepare to be surprised by the Huawei Ascend Y300 which boasts features comparable with the flagship devices from the established big boys, but is also unsurprisingly similar to a lot of the low to mid end phones like the Sony Xperia Miro or the Samsung Galaxy Ace that just don't quite hit the mark.
You can pick up the Huawei Ascend Y300 on the high street for around £110 (on average) SIM free.
If you are prepared to sign up and restrict your device to one of the major mobile networks you can pick up the Huawei Ascend Y300 on a PAYG deal for as little as £70. Not bad when you consider the specs you'll receive with this device.
For your money the Huawei Ascend Y300 comes with: Android 4.1 (albeit with Huawei's Emotion User Interface 1.0), a 4.0-inch 800×480 screen, 5MP auto focus camera at the rear, 0.3MP front camera and a 1GHz dual-core processor.
There is also a microSD card slot which is capable of taking up to 32GB, if the relatively pathetic 2GB of internal space is not quite enough - and it probably won't be.
The rest of the features are relatively unsurprising for any modern smart phone, as the device also boasts; Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP, GPS/AGPS, a G-sensor, a proximity sensor for auto turn-off and a ambient light sensor for auto light adjusting, all of which is come to be expected with a smartphone.
The Huawei Ascend Y300 doesn't break into new territory in terms of its design. It has the sleep/wake/power button at the top on the left of the phone, which we thought could be slightly bigger as there is no need for it to be as thin as it is.
Next to it centred at the top is the headphone jack, and on the right hand side are the handsets volume controls, with a stock rocker switch providing the dual purpose of the controls.
The charging connection on the left hand side is exposed and unsurprisingly there is no physical home button, which follows the trend of the previous devices we have seen from the Chinese manufacturer such as the Huawei Ascend P6 and the Ascend P2.
Measuring in at 12.45cm× 6.38cm× 1.12cm the Ascend Y300 fits comfortably in the hand.
The outside case consists of a cheap plastic rubberised rear, formed into diagonal lines that we found sat well in the right hand, but didn't feel so secure in the left due to the angle of those aforementioned lines.
The Huawei Ascend Y300's takes a normal (larger sized) SIM card with no compatibility for a smaller microSIM.
We felt as if we were breaking the device when we when to insert the SIM card due to the way we were required to take off the back panel. It's a fingernail into the gap and a gentle yank to prise open the rear casing.
A big plus though is the Ascend Y300's replaceable 1730mAh battery, which Huawei says provides 320 hours on standby and 320 minutes of talk time - nice and easy to remember then.
Huawei has a reputation for not properly announcing its products, and in the past has often just made its devices available without the big hoo-ha that we have all come to expect when a handset is released from the likes of Apple and Samsung.
One of Huawei's flagship models the Ascend P1 arrived in stores and was available to consumers with a rather unimpressive bang. If that's what the company does wither their flagship models, don't expect the Ascend Y300 to be any different.
Maybe there is an advantage to this, all the money the company is saving in press launches and fancy elaborate adverts seems to be put back in the customers' pocket.
This tiny device is packing a powerful punch way above what you would expect for the cost, which was a pleasant surprise when reviewing the Ascend Y300.
The Huawei Ascend Y300 arrives with Google's Android 4.1 operating system on board, with no word if/when it will be upgradeable in the future.
On top of this is Huawei's own creation – the Emotion User Interface - which takes some getting used to but is over all is not too much of an awful addition.
Although we do have to admit, stock Android beats Emotions UI hands down. We say this because stock Android is on average less buggy, easier to use, and nicer to navigate.
Presumably Huawei finds the tiled homescreen feature essential, as it is the dominating feature of the homescreen, with the possibility of only limited customisation.
For example, we could remove the picture album widget and replace it with the bigger music player, but what if we didn't want any of these options at all?
It all feels a little bit too forced, however we did use the quick call contact widget quite a lot when we tested this device and found that to be very useful.
Of course you can always easily delete this widget if you don't fancy looking at it every day.
We found the Emotion UI on the Ascend Y300 slow to load after exiting apps, and the device would often take several seconds (on occasions up to 10 seconds) to load the home interface, leaving you staring at a blank page.
The default set up with the phone needed to be changed instantly, we decided to remove the pages off empty space containing only four apps, and reshuffle the remaining items into some sort of relevant order, grouping relevant apps into folders.
The phone comes with 5 preinstalled themes, which were gladly appreciated whilst tinkering with the handset. The default theme in our opinion was borderline appalling and didn't feel 'grown up' in terms of icons design.
The device is aiming for a younger market, which is obvious from the instant viewing of a smiley faced messaging icon.
Thankfully themes are readily available to download and install from many websites online with a quick Google search. Although it's worth noting they needed to be downloaded to a computer and transferred to the phone before they could be installed.
The phone came with a few preinstalled apps from Google, including Gmail and YouTube to keep you connected and entertained.
Accessing the notifications area is as easy as swiping down from the top status bar, You will then be presented with a familiar screen of toggles for commonly used settings and notifications of recent activities.
Overall the experience of using the Huawei Ascend Y300 is slightly sluggish and we found the device to be slow and unresponsive at times, which we put down to the lack of processing power in the 1GHz dual-core chip and the hefty ever-present Emotion UI.
Contacts and calling
The contacts app on the Huawei Ascend Y300 is similar to almost all the smartphones we've tested. After opening the visually obvious contact app you will be presented by default with a list of all your best buds and two other main tabs across the top of the screen.
The other tabs are groups and favourites, with the former allowing you to bundle your contacts together, or find where you contacts came from. For example, we pulled a lot of our contacts from a Gmail account and this was clear to see in the groups tab. Meanwhile over in favourites you can allows you to quickly call people you contact most.
When pulling our contacts from Google we were pleasantly surprised to find contact images for a small percentage of contacts who presumably have a Google plus accounts with their image stored, providing a small but useful positive.
The contact page layout felt very familiar with available fields for just about every contact option required, including phone number, email, webpage etc, and was easy and intuitive to use.
It must be known that the Huawei Ascend Y300 does not provide native Facebook or Twitter integration. This means that the contacts used with these apps will not be as easily available as you Gmail contacts as the infrastructure isn't built in.
Making a call on the Huawei Ascend Y300 is easy peasy, there is nothing new to learn here and it's all very straight forward.
The obvious phone icon app opens the dial pad we are all accustomed to along with your recently called and received numbers all in one screen.
When you start to scroll through your recent contacts the dial pad disappears and the list becomes full screen, bringing the dial pad back is as easy as tapping the dial pad icon at the bottom of the screen.
When you start typing a number on the Huawei Y300 the recently called contacts disappear from above the dial pad, and instantly produce suggestions for the number you are inputting.
This is done in two ways, the software either suggests the number of a corresponding person, or it uses the letters associated with the number you are inputting, to suggest the name of matching contacts.
Its really easy to use and we had no problems locating contacts quickly.
Calls over the device were clear and loud, and turning on hands free didn't produce any problems for the receiver of the call. Overall the Ascend Y300 matches its competitors for voice quality.
With the Huawei Ascend Y300 you will be able to read and send messages in a variety of ways, and thanks to the Google Play store we had access to all the messaging apps we needed.
After downloading a few social messaging apps, such as Whatsapp, which alongside the pre downloaded Gmail app and standard the SMS app we were firing from all cylinders in terms of messaging our contacts.
Starting with the built in messaging app on the Huawei Ascend Y300, the first thing we instantly noticed was that the space bar is quite small. We found ourselves hitting the period button more than once per text message if we were trying to type quickly.
Overall the keyboard was just too small and really lacked any ease of use. The keys with dual-purpose sound good on paper, but in reality slow down the speed of writing a message, as you have to stop, pause and hold a key for a few seconds to active the dual functionality.
The large keyboard icon across the top allows for the selection of the input method, it takes up a lot of space on the keyboard is annoyingly positioned.
The slightest brush against this icon opens a menu for different European languages input languages. On average, a person will not need to change their input language very often and we thought it was just a frustrating and awkward place to put this button.
The Y300 supports spell check powered by Google, but it does not provide auto correct. It will point out basic errors with a red line, but it will not correct something as basic as 'can.we' where the period was obviously inputted by accident instead of a space between the words.
There is a default email account on the Huawei Ascend Y300, but we did not use it that often as it was not the best interface to deal with and experience.
We ended up using the Gmail account because of its ease of use, and navigation.
The Gmail client was what you would expect on the android device. It was quick to load and simple along with intuitive to use, there were no problems here when viewing and replying to the emails in our inbox.
Our experience of the default internet client on the Y300 set off on the wrong foot. The top bar for inputting websites also doubles up as a search bar.
What is so frustrating you may ask? Well to access the space bar, you have to activate the second page on the keyboard.
This makes it quite difficult when you want to search the internet quickly, as the '.com' button dominates the area you would expect the space bar to be.
Apart from that the default browser built into the Y300 is solid. Over Wi-Fi b/g/n it is capable of loading pages as quickly as the competition, and we didn't encounter any problems whilst using the device day to day, apart from a signal issue which we will cover in the connectivity part of this review.
When using the Y300 over 3G it was what we expected, fast enough for the average user but not capable of the superfast speeds associated with 4G, which this device is not compatible with.
The 800 x 480 resolution screen was good enough, text appeared clear and crisp and but users who are accustomed to apples retina screen which features in the iPhone 5 will notice the difference between the screen quality of the two devices.
On any web page you are viewing scroll up slightly to reveal the app's tool bar with the input box for websites and searches along with an icon to show all the open pages in the web browser.
There is another button on the other side of the search bar, which gives detailed information about the page you are viewing.
If you're looking for a device that supports flash then you're out of luck with the Ascend Y300. Google has phased out the use of the dying format on its platform and devices.
If you desire a slightly improved browsing experience, we would recommend using the chrome app from Google and if you have used chrome on a handset device you will know what to expect.
The camera on the Huawei Ascend Y300 is pretty good and impressed us during our review period. The new device from Huawei supports a 5MP camera at the back and a 0.3MP front facing snapper.
For a device that costs this little we were shocked to see the clean albeit slightly fuzzy images produced from a 'budget' camera.
Open up the built in camera app and you are presented with a very iOS looking set up, with the polished chrome looking icons, accompanied by the silver switch to flip between sill pictures and video.
The camera works best in clear daylight where the subject you are shooting is well lit, as the device struggled slightly in low light conditions.
The colour reproduction in the photos we took were bright and clear. The photos were nice to look at however they are a little noisy and dark.
The digital zoom worked well, but again there was noisy all over the picture from the software.
If you are holding the phone vertically you will see a downwards pointing arrow at the top – swipe down and you will be presented with all the options you can tinker with before taking a photo.
Needless to say the notification menu is disabled when in the camera mode so you only see what you are expecting to when you swipe down to access the menu.
Automatic mode works well for a wide variety of situations but if you want to go more in depth you can change the settings for the scene mode, ISO, exposure, picture quality and picture size.
You can also toggle GPS tags, a visual grid for framing, and the timer on or off. Additionally to all the above you have the option to specifically choose the desired white balance for your shot.
There are also a handful of filters which can add some arty effects to your pictures, although it must be stated these are not the trendy Instagram type of filters more like the retro mono and sepia effects that you may have encountered at some point on the first digital point and shoot cameras.
It should be noted that unlike Huawei's sister device the Ascend P2, the option for HDR images is not included on the Ascend Y300.
The camera also sports a panorama feature that worked really well. Don't expect anything ground-breaking in terms of quality, but it will produce an decent picture non the less.
The camera faired less favourably in low light, really struggling to find detail, and blurring pictures even with a relatively steady hand.
The flash was also worrying as the Ascend Y300 was unable to take even half decent photos unless the subject was really close and still.
One thing to note would be the physical noise produced from the camera when focusing and taking pictures. At first we were worried the phone might be malfunctioning, but the clicking noise seems just be the camera physically moving components to produce the image.
The video app on the Huawei Ascend Y300 is what you would expect on a low to med range handset.
The 5MP camera performed well in the camera department, but won't be getting full marks for it video capabilities.
There is not an option to change the frame rate, and the video slightly jutters upon playback. However, it must be noted that the audio reproduction on this device is actually very good.
The video also refocuses whilst recording without any prompt to do so. In the short example the Y300 refocuses five times, although this might be due to the panning motion of the footage.
Needless to say this was still something we didn't require, and we couldn't stop the Ascend Y300 from doing it, which was frustrating.
The flash works well when recording if the subject is close to the handset. If that's not the case, the single LED located next to the lens struggled to illuminate when testing.
Also you have to decide if the flash is required before shooting, as there is not option to change this setting whilst recording.
There is an option to change the video size before recording between VGA (640x480) and MMS (176x144) depending on your requirements.
If you have tunes to listen to then the Huawei Ascend Y300 should be able to cater for all your needs.
The Y300 comes bundled with a selection of software for you to play back your tracks we a dedicated Music app alongside the Play Music app from Google.
Whilst testing the device we turned on Bluetooth and sent several MP3s to the microSD card on the device. If you wanted to copy over more than a handful of tracks we would suggest a physical connection via USB for speed and ease.
Then it was just a case of opening either the default Music app or the Play Music app to access the files we sent over.
Both apps coped very well, handling all the formats we chucked at them including MP3, ACC, and WMA, but each were useful for there own reason. The default app strengths were down to the built in integration within the device.
Music played from here can be controlled in the lock screen or the music player tile via the home widget. Whilst in the app there is an arrow under the artwork on the 'Now Playing' screen. This, when tapped on, will show you the lyrics to the song if they were bundled into the audio file.
There is also the option to share the file, or set it as your ringtone – if the song is good enough! The option to shuffle your tracks or view your complete list or music is only a tap away on this screen.
In our opinion the Play Music app was smoother to use, easier to navigate and had benefits from 'Listen Now' which makes it easier to figure out what to play next.
On top of all of this the app from Google will allow you to access any of the 20,000 songs your allowed to upload to the companies cloud for free. There is also an 'Instant Mixes' option that will continue to play music forever, choosing songs based on the data embedded in you favourite tracks.
Quite simply both apps make it easy to listen to the music you want with playlists, and filters for artists, genres and albums.
For video on the Huawei Ascend Y300 you only have one option by default installed on the device, the 'Gallery' app.
The Gallery app is the same one you use to view your photos and leaves little to be desired in terms of organisation and structure.
It's simple to use and rather similar to YouTube in terms of video control. A single play button and video time line means it can be hard to move forward of backwards to a specific part of the video, but if you want to keep it simple this app will do the job.
The app only seems to support the MP4 file format when streaming or when the file is played directly from the device, so you'll be limited by the file formats you will be able to playback.
Surprisingly the Play Movies app from Google, which is pre installed on the device does not have the option to open any of the files already stored on the handset, but does provide a gateway to purchase films from the company's Play Store.
Huawei have included an FM Radio on the Ascend Y300. In a world that's moving digital the inclusion of this analogue technology almost seems retro, but nether the less it does the job.
You need to plug in a pair of headphone to act as an antenna, but once up and running will have the option to save up to 40 radio stations in your favourites list.
We found that even though we were in central London the chance of picking up a strong signal was slightly hit or miss.
There's also a dedicated icon to switch between headphones and loudspeaker, depending on whether you want to listen privately or out loud.
The Huawei Ascend Y300 makes viewing images on the device very straightforward, and very basic. Navigate yourself to the gallery app and you'll be presented with a familiar layout if you have ever used a smartphone before.
Photos and images are separated into albums by default, but you can change the filter to organise them by location or time. The albums have a tiny number in the bottom left hand corner to indicate how many images are contained in the album.
Once opened, its a case of scrolling through the images until you find what you are looking for, which we found can be quite a task if you have a lot of pictures. If you just want to sit back and watch, there is a slideshow feature.
When looking at an image, tapping the menu button brings up a list of options. From this list, you are able to choose from; rotation, crop and edit.
When editing a picture you can fiddle with the settings for contrast and brightness. Also included is a handy 'Auto-fix' option, along with filters, effects and red eye reduction.
It's all very basic, which is good if you want to quickly edit a picture relatively hassle free. Every now and again you may require something more advanced. If so, there are hundreds if not thousands of options from the Google Play Store.
Battery life and connectivity
The battery life on the Ascend Y300 was better than the old iPhone 4 we've been using, but that shouldn't surprise anyone as this device is not two years old.
Huawei states the Ascend Y300 provides 320 hours on standby and 320 minutes of talk time. In our opinion this sounds rather ambitious.
We didn't come near those times when reviewing the Y300 but it will last a solid 12 hours with moderate use. Either way you will have to charge the device every evening because the battery will not last two days.
Unlike the smartphones released by Apple, the option to change the Y300's battery is possible on this handset. Swapping the battery over on a long trip is not a problem if you happen to be carrying around a fully charged spare.
Although, unless your glued to you phone all day playing games or watching films, you should get 12-14 hours battery life without too much of a problem.
There is a battery management app built into the setting panel so you can monitor your usage. If you find your batteries decreasing quicker than a bucket with a hole in it, you can pop over there to find out what's causing the issue, and fix it.
There is also a power saving mode in the settings, which is designed for use when you are seriously low on juice. Enabling this option will turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, cut down animations and vibrations, turn down the screens brightness and cause it to time out after 15secs. It will also reduce background data on the device.
All of these settings could be changed manually, but it's convenient to have the option cut down your power consumption at the tap of a single button.
As soon as you take the Hauwei Ascend Y3300 out of the box you will be able to connect in a variety of different ways.
The cellular connection is 3G and Wi-Fi b/g/n comes as standard. On top of this the Ascend Y300 also supports Bluetooth 2.1 and GPRS.
It must be noted there are no NFC capabilities bundled with the Y300, nor is it compatible with 4G. These technologies are relatively new, and although it would have been nice for them to be included on the device, you wont lose too much sleep without them.
We did encounter a problem with the Wi-Fi signal strength, when the Ascend Y300 is held in two hands. For example, we were watching a film on the device holding it landscape and our hands blocked the Wi-Fi signal, cutting the connection from 100%, down to just under 50%.
This was quite concerning as we were only 20ft from our Wi-Fi router and could foresee problems relating to this when in everyday use.
The microUSB connection n the side of the device doubles up as a charger and data transfer method. We placed a 8GB microSD card in the device and found this connection the quickest to transfer data to the device.
If storage space is a problem, it needn't be. The Ascend Y300 can take up to 32GB on a microSD card and if one fills up with data, it's easy to swap it out for replacement with more available space.
There is also a DLAN app installed by default on the device, which allows for wireless streaming of media from once device to another. Photos and movies can be streamed to compatible devices for your viewing pleasure.
Maps and apps
The extremely popular Google maps app is included on the Huawei Ascend Y300 out of the box, and worked as expected.
It was slow to load and wouldn't show the direction we were facing, but apart from that it held its ground against competitors like Apple maps on iOS.
It was easy to search and find several routes to a desired location, and the app supports directions by foot, car, bike and public transport.
Tapping the icon in the bottom left corner turns a 2D map into a 3D scenario with points of interest and buildings rendered in 3D in major cities round the world.
Using the Ascend Y300 for turn-by-turn directions was not helped by the fact the device would not display the direction we were facing.
Hop over to location services in settings to enable or disable a variety of techniques used to pinpoint your location. We would advise you beware of Quick GPS, as it uses data to find your location and you could potentially get stung with a large bill if you leave this selected and maps running in the background.
Opening up the menu in Google maps and you will be presented with options such as Traffic, Public Transport information and Satellite imagery.
All of these options can all be overlaid on top of the map you are currently viewing. It was helpful and a convenient option to have, but we found it just slowed down the phone and made it sluggish when enabled.
Out of the box the Android 4.1 running Huawei Ascend Y300 comes with a lot of pre installed apps, some more useful than others.
There's every thing you would expect, like clock (which doubles as an alarm), calculator and calendar.
From Google, you will find its search app, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Play Books, Play Magazines, Play Movies and Play Music, plus a couple more.
Some may well be used more than others, but if you've got the space on the Y300 there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps to discover in the Google Play store.
Huawei offers some useful, but hardly ever used apps on the Ascend Y300 like the flashlight and sound recorder for those emergency situations.
Organising your apps could not be easier. Hold down on an icon until the screen shrinks, then drag and drop the app where you please. If you find yourself with too many pages of apps, or you just want to tidy tings up, you can also create folders.
Just follow the same process but this time place the app on top of an app you want it to be grouped with, and voila, a new folder has been created and is waiting to be renamed.
Hands on gallery
The Huawei Ascend Y300 places itself in the low-end price bracket, and the performance it delivers correlates with that.
Its 4-inch display is crisp bright and clear and its built in features are comparable with similarly priced phones, while the 5MP camera is a pleasant surprise on paper.
Huawei have built a solid touch screen device for around £100 with is perfect for people on a tight budget that want the same features as many of its competitors.
The camera in the Ascend Y300 isn't going to blow you away, although it does the job and includes editing features that don't come as standard on competitors.
Storage space is removable and upgradeable so all your content can travel with you and you're not restricted by the limits of the Y300's built in capacity.
The screen is bright and balanced, with no bias towards red or blue, however the pixel density might not be enough for users accustomed to higher resolution displays.
The keyboard on the Ascend Y300 is borderline shocking, and it seems like absolutely no thought has been put into the design and placement of certain buttons and keys.
This travels right through the device from messaging to Internet exploring. An unfortunate oversight from the Chinese company, although other options are available to fix this problem with a bit of tinkering.
The Emotion UI built on top of Android 4.1 leaves much to be desired. It loaded slowly, was a bit of an eye sore and didn't have any real benefits in our eyes.
The design of the interface left the phone feeling like it wasn't built for adults, as the overall themes were too childish.
The battery life could also be improved, although it was not too much of a disappointment when compared to the other issues with the device.
The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a fairly solid device, and for the price it's hard to complain about the niggling problems we faced.
It's obviously not the company's flagship device, but it is still full of features. It does have a solid build, even though it feels cheap with it plastic casing, and the rear cover of the device needs to be literally prised open to access the innards.
It doesn't weigh too much and it would be hard to call it an eyesore, even though in our opinion it could do with slimming down slightly.
The Ascend Y300 is also lacking in new technology with the exclusion of NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and 4G, but in comparison this device four years ago would have been called top of the range.
The handset from Huawei is slightly stuck in the past, its feature packed internals are dated and nowhere near ground breaking.
If you are willing to compromise and want to keep some money in your pocket, and fancy embracing a device that has not been produced by the established big boys in the industry, then the Huawei Ascend Y300 could be for you.