You may not have heard of Huawei, but it has already sold millions of Android phones. Not in Japan or Korea either - its phones have been very popular in the UK. However, up until now they have borne the branding of other companies. It made the T-Mobile Pulse and Vodafone Smart, but is finally going it alone with the Huawei Blaze. It's a budget Android smartphone aimed at the pre-pay crowd that matches the feature sets of some much more expensive phones.
Once upon a time, buying a budget smartphone was fraught with issues. They normally used unresponsive resistive touchscreens, were too slow to be much fun and occasionally even missed out key features like 3G. Phones like the Huawei Blaze prove those days are more-or-less over. It doesn't miss out anything essential, doesn't look too shabby and costs less than a hundred pounds on a pre-pay deal.
Its attempt at a premium look is all for show, though. A band of silver runs between the glossy black screen surround and soft-touch back - it desperately wants you to believe it's made of metal, but it is plastic. As far as metallic impersonations go, it's impressive, but its budget ways are there to see if you look hard enough. The screen frontage is also plastic, offering very little scratch resistance. Using a case or screen protector is strongly recommended.
Approach the Huawei Blaze with a slightly less critical eye and it’s a success without serious caveats. It's slim at 11mm thick, feels reassuringly dense - there are no superfluous millimetres here - and its soft-touch plastic back is very pleasant on your palm. The tri-tone design of the area below the screen highlights quite how large the area below the bottom of the screen is, but it isn't just dead space, being home to three touch sensitive nav buttons and bonafide old school clicky button, which acts as a Home key.
On-body connectivity is basic, limited to a microUSB slot and 3.5mm headphone jack, but this helps to keep the phone's edges relatively free of interruptions. The sides are particularly clear and empty, occupied solely by the obligatory volume rocker. To call the Blaze a beauty would be overstating it, but it's miles better looking than the comparably-priced Vodafone 845 - which was also made by Huawei, and had a face only a mother with little regard for the truth could say she loved.