The Huawei Y 100 uses Google’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread software, with a few Huawei tweaks applied to give the phone its own character. Gingerbread is not the latest version of the Google OS, lacking the interface tweaks and a handful of periphery features you’ll find in version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.
Huawei tries to make up for some of these with its custom UI, but the basics of Android remain untouched. You have five home screens as standard, an icon-based shortcut dock that holds up to four apps or phone features, and the full apps menu.
The custom UI fiddles with how these look and feel a bit. For example, when you flick between home screens, their contents fold away in 3D as if on the side of a rotating cube. The apps menu is similarly over-animated, pages over-shooting as they’re turned before clunking back into place. These animations don’t seem to slow the phone down, but can look a little juvenile, especially on a small screen.
Much more substantial is the way the Huawei Y 100 alters the Android lock screen. You drag a lock symbol to unlock, with four zones taking you to a quartet of phone functions – text messaging, phone calls, the camera and the standard home screen. The last is deliberately made to use the gesture most natural to right-handed people – the right thumb swipe.
Huawei says the interface is all about ease of use and accessibility, but the over-simplification has some annoying side-effects. It makes changing wallpapers more difficult, for one. Where you can normally hold the finger down on the home screen to bring up the wallpaper option, here you have to delve into the gallery, select a picture, bring up its sub menu, select another menu then hit “Set as Wallpaper”. As something almost every buyer’s sure to do, this seems a bit of a mistake.
The small screen of the Huawei Y 100 doesn’t do the phone any usability favours, either. The capacitive touchscreen is highly responsive, but the screen area is simply a bit too small to make typing accurate and fast. You’ll get better with practice, but it’s not as comfortable to use as the 3.2in screen of the Huawei Blaze or the 3.5in screen of the Orange San Francisco 2 – phones that don’t cost much more.
The Huawei Y 100 has a 2.8in 240 x 320 pixel display. This is the same resolution and size and some of the earliest budget Android phones, such as 2009’s HTC Tattoo. If the phone has a single weak link, this is it.
Single pixels are visible in normal operation, making text look a bit blocky, and overall display quality is below average. Colour look washed out, there’s copious contrast shift if you tilt the phone towards you – next to several other sub-£100 Android phones, it is thoroughly shown up. The one positive thing to say about it is that maximum brightness is pretty good, which will come in handy on sunny days.
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To try and combat the fiddly feel of a 2.8in screen, the Y 100 employs the Touchpal keyboard rather than the standard Android one. It’s fairly successful too, especially if you choose the “Larger Keyboard” option, which makes the keyboard take up an almost-comical 70 per cent of the screen.
If it’s still too small, a T9 keypad and two-letters-per-key keyboard are also available. After a few days of typing away, we started getting used to using the smaller screen, but the sense you’re being compromised by the 2.8in display never quite goes away.
Apps and Games
As an O2 exclusive in the UK, the Huawei Y 100 comes with a few O2-flavoured shortcuts on its app page. Oddly enough, O2 Priority Moments, O2 Space and O2 Priority Moments aren’t pre-installed apps, but links to Google Play where you can download the apps. Thoughtfully, this means they won’t take up the scarce internal memory if you don’t want them.
Huawei extras are also mercifully minimal. All Backup lets you backup all your settings, call logs SMS messages, contacts and more to a microSD card, and Streams is an inoffensive social networking app that sews together updates from Twitter and Facebook into a single stream.
The Huawei Y 100 also has full access to the Google Play app store. However, with games in particular, the small, low-resolution screen seriously hampers what’s available for the device. It’ll play the Angry Birds games just fine, but less well-known or more graphically demanding titles often leave out support for 240 x 320 pixel phones these days.
It’s a pity, because the 800MHz CPU, Adreno GPU combo gives the phone better gaming performance than many budget Android devices. All the tested games that worked played smoothly. Of course, the limited pixel count of a 240 x 320 pixel screen doesn’t make graphics look too slick. Angry Birds Space looks distinctly blocky on this phone.