The way I read it, 2Degrees’ main target market is the younger pre-pay user. They’re not (yet) looking for corporate accounts or sophisticated high-end smartphone users. In this sense, the IDEOS U8150 is a great fit as their first smartphone: capable, not going to stun the geeks, but priced well for the market.
At $379 outright, you can’t expect the U8150 to compete with the iPhone 4 or top-end android phones, but it performs admirably. I think this is largely down to the unmodified Android 2.2 version that Huawei have loaded on the phone. Even with a 528MHz CPU, the U8150 performs almost snappily. In fact in places it out-performs a full-price Android smartphone running 2.1 with layers of OEM cruft.
It still has that classic Android UI lag, with the screen running a few milliseconds behind your thumb. But the thing is, I’m ok with that for the price. When I pay near-on $1000 for a phone, I want it to feel like an iPhone or Windows Phone under my thumb. But for $379? I’ll accept feature-phone performance and smartphone features.
Features? We got Features!
Another huge plus of vanilla Android 2.2 “with Google” is you’re guaranteed to get all the things you’d expect from Android. Apps, maps, email, contact sync, navigation, active wallpaper. It’s all right there out of the box. Which is frankly amazing for the price. This phone even does some stuff that the iPhone 4 can’t do: it has WiFi tethering and FM Radio.
I like Huawei’s approach with this device. Step away from the forking customisations that HTC, Sony, Samsung, and others seem so enamored by, and just run the device the way Google planned. And Huawei are no slouches either: apparently their network gear is behind the networks that serve more than a billion humans.
So what are you compromising by not spending $500 more? Two key things: screen size and upgrades. The screen is tiny, and the on-screen keyboard is just adequate at the size. If you txt and email a lot, play with one first to make sure you’re comfortable.
The lack of upgrades will be a concern for the geek-set: Huawei have categorically stated that this phone won’t be getting Android 3.0. I don’t know if that also means no other 2.x versions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve dropped the facility for upgrades altogether. Again: no real drama for the target market, because 2.2 doesn’t lack features (like 1.x) or performance (like 2.1).
Vodafone tried to pull one over 2Degrees by dropping their 845 Android phone to $199. Thing is, the 845 is really at the level of a throwaway phone, or perhaps just barely valid as an emergency backup for smartphone users. A resistive touch screen and Android 2.1 on slow hardware is just a recipe for pain and anguish. Comparing the devices side-by-side, you can see a couple of other places the 845 falls short: no FM radio, no 802.11n (but it does have a headphone plug too).
Do yourself a favour and stretch to the IDEOS if you’re looking for a cheap Android phone.
I can’t believe how good the kids have it these days. When I was a young scallywag I had to pair a Nokia phone with an iPaq (that’s a Q there, not a D) over infrared.
- Did I mention the price?
- Vanilla Android 2.2
- Capacitive touch screen
- Coloured backs for cool kids
- Screen size and resolution (ok for price though)
- No upgrades to Android 3