The Huawei Blaze gives you full Android Market access - home to hundreds of thousands of apps, yet it's still not easy to find much app gold during a casual browse. It's still not a patch on the iPhone App Store. Of course, you can always get a few tips from our monthly best app round-ups.
Fresh out of the box, there's around 150MB of internal memory available to install apps onto, and Gingerbread lets you move apps to an SD card once they're installed too. Part of the Huawei custom user interface is a handful of bespoke apps, intended to stop you from having to leap into the Market as soon as you first power up.
Huawei embraces the Android geek with its built-in apps
Several are unusually useful too. AppInstaller offers an easy way to install APK files from an SD card, All Backup lets you save a backup of your phone data to an SD card, Smart Traffic Manager keeps an eye on your 3G usage, and can give you an alert when you hit a pre-determined amount - but perhaps the most important for most prospective buyers is Streams.
Streams aggregates updates from Facebook, Twitter and Flicker, and arranges them into a single stream. Functionality-wise it's fine, but rather devoid of visual flair. We found ourselves drawn back to the official Facebook and Twitter apps fairly quickly. The other apps show that Huawei has the Android geek in mind, however, and that's something we can appreciate.
The 600MHz processor is powerful enough for casual gaming fare, but it starts to struggle when faced with more demanding titles. In Polarbit's excellent Reckless Racing, the frame rate yo-yos all over the place - perfectly smooth at points, but punctuated with severe dips and pauses. However, at the price you won't get any more power, and - yes - Angry Birds runs just fine.
Thanks to the relatively high-res 320x480-pixel display, games look good too. Many big-name budget Androids, like the Samsung Galaxy Mini, HTC Wildfire and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini, have 240x320 pixel screens - half the number of pixels as the Blaze. A screen resolution traditionally used in mid-range Androids, this is one of the phone's most significant victories.
The screen quality is decent. It's a standard TFT panel, but viewing angles are good and there's enough brightness on tap to make it usable outside on a bright, sunny day. There's a light sensor on the front of the Blaze too, enabling automatic brightness - which cranks up the backlight when needed. Colours aren't hugely vivid, but it's only something most would notice in direct comparison with a higher-quality display. Given the £99 price, this is a very impressive screen.
It doesn't have good built-in video skills to make the most of it, though. The Blaze's codec compatibility begins and ends with what's built into Android as standard - MPEG4, H.263 and H.264. To get DivX and MKV files to play, you'll need to download a third-party app and use software decoding. The processor has enough power to trot out most SD content at full speed using an app like Rockplayer, but HD videos judder significantly. The 3.2in screen is a little small to watch anything longer than five minutes on for many anyway.
A rather nifty-looking music player comes pre-installed, but unfortunately the Blaze uses a troublesome 3.5mm headphone jack that doesn’t play ball with bog-standard earphones, causing audio channel issues. You can buy a converter to solve the problem, or make do with the bundled earphones. We wouldn't recommend the latter, because they're rubbish.