While Google continues to work on the next big Android update, 3.0 (aka Gingerbread), everyone else is still playing catch-up to 2.2, or FroYo.
To date, Samsung is in the process of adding 2.2 to Galaxy S owners, while Motorola is hoping to have 2.2 on the original Milestone by Christmas. HTC has already rolled out 2.2 on some Desire handsets (most of the delays are down to individual network operators), but a lot of handsets will never go beyond 2.1.
The thing is, Android 2.2 has a number of new features, not least better app performance, so if you’re buying a phone now, it’s something to consider. At the entry level market, where the sub-£130 IDEOS sits (and, it’s very likely to be available for £100 or less), it is the only model to come with FroYo out of the box.
The IDEOS, which stands for ‘Intelligent Design Evolution Operating System’ in case you’re interested, is by Huawei, a company you’re unlikely to have heard of unless you’ve owned a mobile broadband dongle (Huawei make most of them) or Three’s MiFi portable hotspot.
Because of this, Huawei was conscious of the fact that nobody in the UK would likely know who they were. As a result, besides the name on the box, the only thing on the phone is the IDEOS name and a ‘with Google’ logo, showing that the phone hasn’t been modified from the standard Android ‘reference’ design.
The battery cover can be changed for different colours, but only one comes in the box (blue). It seems unlikely that you’ll see many people stocking covers for this, so for all intents and purposes we won’t draw much attention to that aspect of the phone.
Android 2.2 offers a number of new features, from the automatic updating of app updates, being able to install compatible apps on the memory card to free up system storage space, new widgets and support for multiple GMail accounts, along with improved viewing options (for the first time, you can change the font size) and more notification settings.
Because this phone ships without any customisation, there are also virtually no preloaded apps installed. One exception is Twidroyd, a Twitter client. Other apps, including the official Twitter app, can be downloaded, along with anything else, from Android Market. The advantage of having no preinstalled apps is that there’s no storage space consumed by apps you may not want, and cannot remove without rooting the phone.
The other new feature is the portable Wi-Fi hotspot feature, that allows you to share mobile broadband with up to eight devices. By contrast, its MiFi product only allows up to five devices at once. The phone supports HSDPA for 3G data speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, and also supports Wireless-N, or 802.11n, Wi-Fi. Although this wireless speed won’t make any difference to your data throughput, it does mean you can hook up to any devices set to operate on 802.11n only.
The screen is a QVGA-resolution affair, which is capacitive, and measures 2.8-inches in size. Unfortunately, you don’t get support for multi-touch, and when you enable the automatic brightness setting it is still far too dull. Huawei has probably tried too hard to maximise battery life, and you’ll end up tempted to set the brightness manually, which will improve things immensely but will certainly impact on standby times.
When we reviewed the Sony Ericsson X10 mini and mini pro, we did note that some apps weren’t available. Although some were hidden merely because of the use of Android 1.6, the other reason was the screen size. By Christmas, there will be a huge number of phones with a 240×320 pixel display and it should mean all developers will support this resolution.
If you think the screen resolution is too low, then you do have a point. With the smaller size of the X10 mini models, it was more acceptable, especially as it allowed the phones to be so small. The IDEOS isn’t that small. For its screen size, it would have been nicer to have a 320×480 pixel resolution.
But, this might be getting a little too picky considering you can still get a lot of information on a QVGA screen, and this phone is also a lot cheaper than a Desire, Galaxy S or Milestone. The larger size also makes it possible to use an on-screen QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode, just.
Only web browsing is really impacted by the lack of definition, as a zoomed out web page is simply impossible to read. However, not everyone wants or needs the full web on their phone. Thankfully, more and more sites are offering up mobile sites. Although Android 2.2 makes Adobe Flash 10.1 support an option, the IDEOS doesn’t yet offer it. It probably wouldn’t be a particularly pleasant experience anyway.
The bigger disappointment is the camera, which is just 3-megapixels and without autofocus or a flash. The camera interface has been made to mimic that of thes iPhone. As a result, the viewfinder is reduced to fit inside a small window on the already low-resolution display. It has a really low frame rate and struggles to adjust the exposure settings automatically, so you’ll feel like you’re just pressing the on-screen shutter icon (or the D-pad button) and praying it will take a good picture.
Switch to video mode and the quality doesn’t get any better. With so many apps that allow, and encourage, you to share your photos with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa and so on, the camera is the definite weak link on this phone.
For everything else, the phone is easy to use thanks to the dedicated call/end keys and a simply navigation pad, along with four touch-sensitive shortcut keys that includes a dedicated search button (something that was sorely missed on the Sony Ericsson Xperia models). Once you’ve got it synced with your Gmail account and your contacts are being backed up, you’ll be every bit as able to appreciate the benefits of Android as someone with a much more expensive model.
The battery performs well too, if you keep the screen brightness down, and it’s pretty quick in normal use (it has a 600MHz processor), slowing down only when Google is pushing new email, contacts or appointments to the phone. Given that this can slow down even high-end phones with Snapdragon processors, you can’t really fault a phone that offers a great deal of bang for your buck.
As the first affordable Android phone to come with the latest Android operating system, the IDEOS starts off on a good footing, but does trip up a bit with the low quality camera and a low-resolution display that will affect the web browsing experience. But, the lack of preinstalled apps to waste memory makes this the perfect phone for you to customise to suit your own needs. With good battery life, decent ergonomics and a good overall performance, it should more than make up for the extra bit of effort required to get it up and running.
An extremely affordable Android 2.2 phone, with the additional benefit of acting as a wireless hotspot for other devices you own.
With the larger sized display, a higher resolution would have been appreciated here. The camera is also poor.
Ratings (out of 5)
|Size/Weight||54x113x14mm / 105g|
|OS||Android OS 2.2|
|Bands||2G / 3G with HSDPA 7.2Mbps|
|Screen||2.8inch / 240×320 pixels / 262,144 colours|
|Camera||3.15MP / 2048×1536 pixels|
|Video||Record / Playback|
|Audio||Music player / Stereo Bluetooth / 3.5mm jack|
|Memory||167MB internal / up to 32GB MicroSDHC card|
|Other||Android Market, Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot|