Phone review : Huawei GR3

Huawei GR3 ReviewIt’s been a while since I bought my last phone, the Huawei Y300 which I reviewed about 2 years ago (read my review here) and I was so impressed with it that I decided to replace it this year with another Huawei. The Y300 was actually still performing well, the only negative was the lack of space to install apps, however I accidentally dropped it into a sink and even though I fished it quickly out and put it into a bowl of rice for a few days, the damage was done and it now randomly restarts itself.

Like many older people, I was finding the 4 inch screen size a little small and hard to read and I wanted to have 4G capability, more memory (RAM) and storage so I could continue to review new apps for this site. I had a budget of under A$300 and narrowed the phones to the Motorola Moto G 3rd generation, the Kogan Agora 4G+ and the Huawei GR3. In the end, I wasn’t ready to trust the Kogan brand (the Agora is made by Benq I believe and I have had bad experiences with that PC monitor brand in the past) and the Motorola can’t connect to the Telstra Regional 3G frequency which is what is used where we live, so the Huawei won out in the end. The Chinese smartphone maker is now the third largest in the world and they have many models available in Australia. I seriously considered the P8 Lite which is the cheaper brother to their flagship P8 model, but the reviews were not that great. I looked at the Y635, Y550 and the G620s but none had the combination of features I wanted that the recently released GR3 model has – storage, speed, screen size and 4G.

So, what do I like about it? Mostly everything so far. The GR3 has a nice 5 inch HD 720p display, good button placement (power and volume on the right hand side which is becoming a common layout), fantastic 13 megapixel rear camera with full HD video recording and 5 megapixel front camera which is much better for Skype than the VGA camera on the Y300. It has aluminium unibody construction, is only 7.3mm thick and feels very sturdy in comparison with many larger screen smartphones. The first impression is a well made, strong but elegant phone. People often mistake it for an iPhone at first glance.

The 2Gb of installed RAM means that apps open quickly and run very smoothly and the 16Gb ROM (storage for apps etc) means I can install a lot more apps to test now. The GR3 has an ‘Octa core’ CPU or processor – yes, that’s right eight cores –  and the result is smooth performance with all apps I have tried so far. I don’t expect it to be a speed demon in graphic-intensive games, but as I don’t play those it doesn’t bother me at all.

Of course, the smartphone has GPS which finds a fix very quickly plus it also has dual SIM capability so if you want to add a second SIM card (it takes Micro and Nano SIMs) from another carrier to get the best combination of calls and texts. Bear in mind that the second SIM slot doubles as an SD card slot so you can only use one or the other. With 16Gb storage (not all is available of course), I haven’t needed to make use of an external SD card as yet.

The GR3 runs Android Lollipop, which I was a little concerned with initially after my previous experience with upgrading my elderly Nexus 7 tablet (which recently I dropped face down in the caravan and is now no more), but this had more to do with the tablet I was trying to run it on – it was just too old to cope with that version. The Huawei runs it well with no issues at all, however the Huawei Emotion UI launcher which it comes with leaves a bit to be desired. This is the default launcher that ‘dresses up’ Android on most of the Huawei smartphones. I usually install the Google Now Launcher on my phones and tablets and initially used that but have finally settled on the excellent Nova Launcher and this has made the phone even better.

Huawei include a customised version of Swype for the onscreen keyboard for the phone and after using it for a couple of weeks I find it as good as Google Keyboard, so I’ll probably continue using it. Battery life so far seems fine, I am getting a full day on a single charge with the odd call, plenty of internet browsing and txting and this model has various power saving modes including an ‘Ultra’ mode that just retains call and messaging to save power when the battery is running low which is clever.

The one concession I had to make was to buy a phone without a user replaceable battery. I have always preferred to be able to swap one out when the original finally dies as most phone batteries last 2-3 years tops and I do like to get as much life out of my devices as I can, but not many manufacturers are using them now. A quick phone call to Huawei support verified that they can replace the battery if it is required.

The phone came in under budget and cost me $280 including free postage from an eBay store that I have used before as they only sell Australian models – unlike many ‘Aussie’ stores that bring in stock from China or Hong Kong If you have a problem under warranty with those sellers they mention in the fine print that they will send your device overseas for repair. I see that JB Hi-Fi have it for a slightly higher price currently also.


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About the Author : Andy describes himself as "an older geek" and has been assisting seniors with understanding technology for many years. He is involved with his local seniors computer club and believes that seniors appreciate assistance from those of a similar age group.

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Thanks, Andy

22 Comments on Phone review : Huawei GR3

andy said : administrator Report 2 weeks ago

Thanks for the feedback Juliana. If you go to the homepage and scroll down to the bottom you will see a post I wrote about setting up a hotspot. That should answer all your questions! Cheers, Andy

Juliana said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

Your comment was so helpful.thanx to you I bought Huawey GR3, and I'm very happy with it. Before I used iPhone, and a Personal hotspot on somehow on on my new phone I can't install personal hotspot. I would like ask you if you can help me how to install personal hotspot on my new phone thank you so much. Juliana

Lynne said : Guest Report 6 months ago

Hello Andy. I bought the GR3 thinking it would be easy to operate. So far, I've only managed to turn it on and off! Apart from the choice of language, there have been no icons on screen and I have no idea how to enter a password. Can you please talk me through the basics of the phone? The only service centre is in Sydney and I'm nowhere near there. Your advice would be much appreciated by a fellow older person! Thanks Lynne

andy said : administrator Report 7 months ago

Hi Danni, I have found the Huawei speaker level is a little low - for example in the car it just isn't loud enough in a call to hear the caller well. The best solution would be to use a small bluetooth speaker that amplifies calls and the system audio in general. I wrote a review of one a few years back, just search for that to give you an idea. Andy

Danni said : Guest Report 7 months ago

I have just bought the Huawei GR3 a week ago. Due to the fact that I wear hearing aids I need to use the loud speaker but found that the loud speaker was not working on calls (actually you could not hear any calls with or without the loudspeaker) until I was told to clear the cache by the Huawei online chat.It has improved but I would like it to be louder. I am wondering if you might know of a way to increase the volume. Thank you for your detailed review. Thank you Danni

Brian Dean said : Guest Report 7 months ago

Thanks Andy, I'll be looking for your post...

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