The Huawei Ascend Y550 is one of the cheapest 4G phone in the world right now. For £70 on a pay-as-you-go deal, you get a 4G handset complete with the latest generation of 64-bit chipset, while undercutting the competition from the bigger names.
As with other cheap 4G phones, the question is whether the sacrifices elsewhere are justified by the inclusion of faster mobile Internet. The answer? Not quite, but this is one of the better ultra-affordable 4G phones, offering a less compromised experience than the Alcatel OneTouch S3.
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The Huawei Ascend Y550 is a pretty anonymous-looking phone. It’s a slightly dumpy, fairly heavy block of curved, lightly metallic plastic. However, it does look and feel more streamlined than last year’s Huawei G-series phones.
Rather than having a pull-off plastic backplate that just covers the battery, here the back part winds around to the screen surround, giving something approaching the style of a unibody phone. It won’t impress onlookers with its style, but it feels a little more solid than, say, the Sony Xperia E1.
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A relatively seam-fee design gives the Huawei Ascend Y550 fairly good ergonomics too, for a slightly chubby, slightly heavy phone. Want the specifics? It’s 9.5 mm thick and weighs 153g. That's as heavy as some of 2014's flagship phones.
The Huawei Ascend Y550 uses physical soft keys, rather than building them into the software and taking up part of the screen. They don’t light up for easier use in the dark, but this is common among cheaper phones.
A hardware cut that's more an issue, albeit a predictable one, is the 4GB of internal storage. While we’ve happily used an 8GB phone like the Moto G for months without complaint, 4GB is far more restrictive. It leaves you with insufficient space to install some data-hungry games as soon as you bite into the storage left after the preinstalled apps and system software has nibbled away at the 4GB you’ll see on the Huawei Ascend Y550’s spec list. In this case that storage is 1.1GB.
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Underneath the plastic back cover, which you can simply prise off with a fingernail, is a microSD card that’ll do the trick for music or video files. However, it won’t erase the issues keen mobile gamers will have installing some titles.
Getting a bit more internal storage is one of the most convincing reasons to consider upgrading to a slightly more expensive phone, like the Moto G for example.
Huawei Y550: not a work of art
The other big reason to upgrade is screen quality. Not every cheap phone has a remedial screen, but the Huawei Ascend Y550 is definitely in the class with the lower-performing kids.
It has a 4.5-inch screen with an 800 x 480-pixel display. It’s not pixel-rich enough to avoid looking obviously pixellated.
The Huawei Ascend Y550’s limited resolution is fairly obvious whatever you’re doing, but is particularly clear when you’re browsing the web, with any small text becoming quite scrappy-looking.
We will say that among the display dunces, it is far from the worst. The Huawei Ascend Y550 has an IPS display with reasonable colour reproduction and passable contrast. It is better either than the Sony Xperia E1 or Nokia Lumia 530 screens – a couple of bigger-name alternatives.
If it wasn’t for the resolution, it’d be fairly good. Its tone is perfectly pleasant and aside from some loss of brightness viewing angles are good. Compromise? Yes. Catastrophe? No.
The Huawei Ascend Y550 also has an auto brightness setting, which uses a light sensor on the front to judge exactly how intense the backlight needs to be. This is occasionally left out of cheaper phones, and not having an Auto mode gets annoying – it means you have to manually ramp up the brightness when you do outdoors in the day time.
Top brightness isn’t stellar, but enough to keep the display visible on a bright, sunny day. The screen is pretty reflective, though.