Cheap really is a relative term. Back when GSM phones didn't do the internet, and Ericsson ruled the roost with phones like the T28, £200 was about the most money you could spend on a normal handset. We know, because around the millennium we did exactly that. It was a lot of money then, and all for a phone that basically made calls and text messages.
These days you can get a phone that's probably got more processing power and RAM than a 2000-era PC, and it could cost you a bit more than £100. So costs are on the way down, while potential and functionality continue to soar upwards.
The Huawei Ascend G330 is intended as a replacement for the G300. It bumps the spec substantially, and costs about the same as our old favourite the Ericsson T28.
While your £200 will get you more technology these days, it doesn't get you a more passionate design or a more exciting product. This isn't a phone you're going to take out of the box and spend 10 minutes looking at, nor is it going to attract envy from those around you.
What it is, is a functional black box that has a shiny surface on one side and a camera on the other. It's a phone. It looks like all modern phones, and it will glide under the radar. It feels solid enough, it does have a little of the flex you find in cheaper devices. The screen isn't quite so solid as a Samsung Galaxy S and the back has a little give in it too. It's a nice weight though, and the size and shape are perfect for holding and operating one-handed. And as most of us use our phones in one hand, this makes a lot of sense.
The top of the G330 has a headphone socket and power button. Volume controls are on the left of the phone, and the USB socket for charging is located on the bottom. Under the removable back cover, there's a "full-sized" SIM and a microSD card slot.
Basic Android experience
Forget Samsung's TouchWiz or HTC's Sense, there's no sophisticated overlay here to give you oodles of pleasant graphical enhancements. It's pretty much a barebones Android experience, with a very basic look to it. That's not a bad thing, because the basic Android look as actually very pleasant indeed.
The only significant modifications to the vanilla Android look are in the notification area, with the function toggles. These are of Huawei's own design, and they're okay, but not stunning. The lock screen also has a circular unlock tool, that enables you to quick launch into certain key areas, like the camera, phone or messaging.
And although Huawei doesn't generally mess about with Android, it does add some nice features in the form of apps. For example, it includes the "All Backup" app that we've previously been impressed by. Here you can make a back-up of the most important parts of your phone, text messages, contacts, system settings and pretty much everything else.
It's one of the most comprehensive backup solutions we've seen, and it's pre-installed, meaning you can use it from the first day your phone arrives. You can also set auto-backups, which is good for those of us who don't want to spend all day worrying about the safety of our data.
Huawei also explained to us that the phone comes with BBC iPlayer and an EA Games portal pre-installed. The idea here is to assure people that they're buying a phone which, while cheap, can do everything they need it to - and quite a lot that more-expensive handsets would boast. Neither of these apps is unique of course, so their value is quite minimal, but we get why they're included.
Huawei also bundles its own keyboard too. It's quite big, and dominates the screen. It's quite easy to type on though, which is useful. We've found it good enough to use on a day to day basis, but if you don't like it, then it's a trivial matter to hop into the Google Play store and get a replacement - Swiftkey, Swype and Go Keyboard.
Screen, sound and performance
For this kind of money, we don't expect the latest and greatest S-LCD screen, and the Huawei doesn't deliver one. What it does have is a functional and easy to see screen that will suit most users. For most phone features, this display is ideal, and works well. There's no blur when you scroll around, and text is crisp and easy to use.
When it comes to video, things are less impressive, but it's still perfectly serviceable. As the screen is quite modestly sized, it does mean that video doesn't have a huge impact. Watching iPlayer is a reasonable experience, but the video doesn't really inspire.
Sound though, is solid enough for the most part. In a room, on your own, and it's loud and clear enough to be workable. Audio through the headphones is solid. Thanks to the microSD card, there's plenty of scope to use this phone as a music device, despite it's meagre, built-in 4GB of RAM - only a fraction more than half of that is user-accessible too.
Performance from the 1GHz dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM is actually reasonable. The small amount of RAM is a bit of a worry, as this will massively affect the phone's performance when you're running a few apps at the same time. This is a phone spec that's around a year and a half to two years out of date, so while it's no disaster, it's not going to set the world alight either.
From a usability perspective though, we didn't really encounter any problems here either. The phone is fast enough to do it's job, and it's not frustrating to use. The touchscreen helps here, because it's got solid responsiveness, something that isn't always true of cheaper phones.
There's not much exciting to report here. Photos that you upload to Twitter and Facebook are fine. If you expect more, like the sort of images you'll be looking back on and enjoying in five years, then you'll need to look elsewhere.
As with most cameraphones, the flash is too bright for close-up work, and will just wash everything out. Turn it off, and you'll see that there is a lot of image noise, and pictures look quite soft. A bit more light and things cheer up, but this is still not a camera you're going to love using.
The supplied 1500mAh battery isn't the biggest we've seen, but with a phone like this, with a modest specification, you should see yourself getting through most of the day without any real problems. Watch a bit of video, and you'll see this suffer a bit, and the same with gaming.
As this handset is more than likely going to be bought by people who are new to smartphones, it's quite likely that the battery will suffice anyway, but having fewer push email addresses and updates from Twitter and Facebook will help too. We don't have any major concerns here anyway, which makes us happy.
For less than £200 - Huawei tells us it expects this phone to be around the same as the G300 in retail price, although we've only seen it for around £180 - you get an Android phone with a decent screen, a recent version of Android in Ice Cream Sandwich and performance good enough for most people.
This isn't the most powerful handset in the world, you're not going to find it as snappy and responsive as a high-end phone, but for the money it's got so much to offer. For those who don't really care about having the top-end handset, this offers everything you need, from iPlayer to games and through to syncing every email and social network you use.
We'd like to see it fall to the £110-£130 level before we'd declare it bargain of the decade, but we're quite confident it will fall in price soon. It might not be quite the steal the G300 was, but it's still a fine handset for a decent price. It's better in terms of specification than the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Ace II, so really there's no reason not to consider it, if you were looking at that phone.