It’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.