The low-end Android handset segment is beginning to get a little crowded recently – we got the Micromax Andro A60, Intex’s previously announced Rs. 5,500 Android handset which was supposed to release this month (whatever happened to that?) and a few others. The Huawei U8150 IDEOS is a strange one, however. It’s not as cheap as the aforementioned handsets, instead looking to offer a more value-for-money option.

The big question is whether the IDEOS manages to bridge the gap between the Micromaxes and Intexes, and the Galaxy 3s and Optimus Ones. Let’s take a closer look to find out.

Form Factor and Design
The candybar IDEOS, with its funkily coloured back panels, is like a middle-aged man trying to dress youthfully. The piece we got sent had the Aqua Blue back panel, which is not a colour I particularly hate, so it’s one I’m rather sympathetic to even if I wouldn’t recommend dressing like that. Apart from the Blue, the IDEOS also comes with Purple and Yellow back panels. Uhh… yeah. Anyway, what’s interesting is that the phone carries no Huawei branding at all, instead boasting a Google logo on the back panel, right below the camera.

Back to back

Back to back

There’s a circular navpad below the 2.8-inch QVGA (240 x 320) capacitive touchscreen and the touch-sensitive keys and on its sides are the call take and end keys. All of these light up when the phone is active, so you don’t have to spend much time memorizing their positions before you get used to them. There’s a micro-USB port at the bottom, volume keys are on the left, and the 3.5mm headset jack is on the top-right of the device.

The phone feels quite well-built and doesn’t feel cheap at all, apart from the bundled handsfree, that is. It just feels cheap, poorly designed and even looks like a horrible performer. More on that later, and onto the few problems the device has. While the circular navpad in itself isn’t a bad idea, it would’ve been nice if it was an optical trackpad instead – like the HTC Wildfire’s. As it is, the inner circle serves as nothing but a clicker, and that just seems like a bit of a waste to me. The microSD card slot is under the back panel, which isn’t much of a problem, but it’s also under the battery – which means no hotswap. The power button on the top-left of the phone is way too small, which is a real headscrather. Locating the button when you’ve gotten used to it is not an issue and the button itself functions well, but there’s a bunch of wasted space around there that could’ve been used to provide a bigger button and more convenience for the user.

Haha err...

Haha err…

And of course, the screen resolution is a downer. While I understand the need to keep the costs as low as possible, in my humble opinion 240×320 is too low. The screen just looks extremely blurry, which brings the overall experience down a notch.

Features and Performance
The IDEOS is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225 chipset that originally runs at 528MHz clock speed. Huawei have overclocked it to 600MHz though, in an effort to make the phone a smoother device for the operating system it’s running – Android 2.2 Froyo, and it’s a stock version, too. It lacks multi-touch capabilities though, just like the Andro A60. Apart from this, the phone is boosted by an Adreno 200 GPU.

The UI is a bit sluggish in spurts, though. While it’s smooth enough in parts, you’ll notice those small little frame drops when scrolling through your menu, which will put you off. It certainly put me off, as did the load times when multi-tasking. It’s clear FroYo is slightly too much for the processor to handle – only slightly though, and the improvements 2.2 itself brings to the table makes Huawei’s decision a wise one.

Bright IDEOS?

Bright IDEOS?

Input options are a bit limited out of the box, with only the QWERTY virtual keyboard as an option. Installing Swype is an option, but the vanilla release doesn’t support QVGA screens, so you’ll have to get your hands on a modified release.
As a multimedia phone, the IDEOS is a bust. The bundled handsfree lived up to expectations admirably by performing extremely poorly. It just sounds terrible overall, even more so when listening to FM Radio, and replacing it with my trusted NuForce NE7-Ms did improve audio quality a bit, but not by a lot, which is ample evidence for a DAC that’s not up to the mark as well. It does, however, scrape through as barely acceptable when paired with some decent earphones. The speakers are on the back of the device as well, which results in some rather muffled audio.

Video format support includes H263, H264 and MPEG4 in the MP4 containers. But the phone just isn’t a good one to watch videos on, what with the tiny 2.8-inch screen and the QVGA resolution to top it off. It does support 16:9 resolutions of upto 640×360, and the quality is alright even if the video ends up getting vertically letterboxed thanks to the native 4:3 aspect ratio. Still, being able to play 640×480 4:3 videos in full-screen is not bad, but it’s not much good either.

Check out all the facets of the IDEOS

Check out all the facets of the IDEOS

This is where the IDEOS really shines. A myriad of connectivity options are included, which is everything you could expect from a phone in this range and much, much more. There’s Wi-Fi, 3G, HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP support and GPS with A-GPS. EDGE and GPRS are also included, and work without a hassle.

Misc. Features
The Social Networking sphere is well covered, too. Gtalk, Gmail, Facebook and Twitter apps are pre-loaded, as are other standard Android apps like YouTube, Google Maps, Latitude etc.

There aren’t any extras that Huawei have thrown onto the device. But being a stock OS, the IDEOS has access to virtually every app on the Android Market, which is all you need really.

I wouldn’t call it a disappoint per se because I saw it coming, but Adobe Flash is conspicuous in its absence. The IDEOS’ hardware just isn’t powerful enough to handle Flash, so if you’re one that relies on it for a lot of what you do, prepare for some difficulties.

Where do I even begin with this one? It’s a 3.2 megapixel camera, and the cost-cutting measures are clear as day when you look at this aspect of the phone. The camera app includes Zoom and White Balance options, but all that is for naught because the image produced by the camera is tosh.

Click for a closer look

Click for a closer look

The colours look all washed out and even worse is the fact that the images look like they’ve been watercoloured. Yeah sure, I’ll admit to having some fun on Photoshop with the so-called Artistic brushes every once in a while, but I really don’t want the actual images to look like that.

Even as a 3 megapixel camera in this low a price range, this one ranks below adequate.

The Huawei IDEOS’ battery is, again, below average. On a full charge with low to medium usage, the 1200mAh battery limps to a day and a half, and if you’re a heavy user with your social networking and what not, expect the requirement to charge your phone every day pop up.

Ze Line at ze Bottom
As a phone, the Huawei IDEOS is well below average. But if you factor in the price, which is an excellent Rs. 8,499, the device transforms into one that’s packed to the brim with value for money. The tradeoff Huawei has made in terms of media, screen and camera for Stock Froyo and excellent connectivity options in order to keep costs low is one that plenty of people would make, even if not everyone would.

The IDEOS is a rather decent entry-level Android phone, and one that is capable of enticing those who didn’t really want to take the plunge with the Andro A60 or the others. It’s due some competition though, what with the Samsung Galaxy Pop expected to release officially for around Rs. 8,999. So if you’re still unsure about this phone, I’d suggest you wait for our review of the Galaxy Pop.

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