Huawei Ascend Y530, First Take: Entry-level smartphone with 'simple' Android UI option

Summary: This affordable smartphone includes a Simple Android Interface, but it's only skin-deep, and to access it you need to be able to navigate the standard UI.

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It isn't easy being an Android smartphone maker these days. Your flagship handsets are scrutinised for cutting-edge features, yet they're criticised if these features seem to be unnecessary, or are unnecessarily complicated.

Ever faster multicore processors are sometimes deemed by reviewers to be faster than needed, with the trade-off between power consumption and responsiveness often cited. Higher-resolution screens can be dismissed, as there comes a point where pixel count goes beyond being a factor in smooth text and graphics rendition. What's a manufacturer to do in the face of such criticism?

The 145g Ascend Y530 is a 4.5-inch (480 by 854 pixels) Android 4.3 smartphone powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8210 SoC with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage (1.8GB available), expandable via a MicroSD card slot. It has 802.11b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and HSPA (but not LTE) connectivity. There are front (0.3Mpixel) and rear (5Mpixel) cameras, and the 1,750mAh battery is rated for 8h GSM talk, 590h on standby and 6h wi-fi browsing. Image: Huawei

One area where Android handset makers can make a mark — for better or worse — is in user interface design. Huawei's latest attempt to make Android more user-friendly is an option on its new entry-level smartphone, the Ascend Y530.

With a list price of £149.95 (inc. VAT) SIM-free (now available from Argos at £119.99 inc. VAT), the Ascend Y530 will appeal to first-time Android users, who Huawei suspects may be put off by the complexity of the standard Android user interface. So, alongside Huawei's standard skin for Android 4.3, the company offers what it calls a Simple Android Interface (SAI) on the Ascend Y530.

Huawei's Simple Android Interface (SAI) offers three customisable large-icon screens, inlcuding a button to return to the standard Home screen. Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The multi-screened standard Android skin is easily swapped with a much simpler trio of screens offering large shortcut icons. You can personalise many of these icons to link to a frequently used app, or your most contacted friends or colleagues.

It is not a bad idea in itself, but it does fall down in some key respects.

The default UI is the standard Huawei-skinned version of Android. To access the SAI you have to go into Settings — and in so doing you'll prove that you can navigate the standard UI.

Some, but not all, of the SAI's large icons can be replaced with your choices. Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The large icons on the SAI can't all be customised. You don't have the option to remove the weather app, phone, messaging, people or camera links from the first screen, or the calendar from the second screen. You can, however, remove the link that takes you back to the standard view from the third home screen, and the link to settings. Do this and you can still get to settings and the standard UI via the notifications area, but you'll need to know that's possible. Most likely, by the time you've found all this out, you'll be expert enough not to require the SAI any more.

If you tap one of the SAI options, you go into a fully-fledged Android app rather than a 'simple' version, so you'll have to make the best of getting to grips with it.

These may sound like churlish criticisms of an attempt to make Android accessible to novice users. They're not meant to be. However, it's difficult to see how the act of making large icons is enough on its own to constitute a 'simple' user interface.

Similar large-icon-based screens are employed as an alternative to the more complex Android UI for in-car use, and there I can fully see the point. I can also see a place for a simplified user interface for the visually impaired.

But for such users Huawei's current offering doesn't go far enough. One icon tap and you're into standard Android apps with their small text, icons and menu options. Until Android itself gets a 'simple' UI option, efforts like Huawei's on the Ascend Y530 can only ever be skin deep.

Read more on Android


Packaged Quantity 1
Integrated Components 2nd camera, FM radio, GLONASS receiver, GPS receiver, Wi-Fi hotspot, digital camera, digital player, voice recorder
Width 2.64 in
Depth 0.37 in
Height 5.22 in
Weight 5.11 oz
Body Color White
SAR Value 0.93 W/kg (body) / 0.45 W/kg (head)
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900/2100
Mobile Broadband Generation 3G
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)
User Interface HUAWEI Emotion UI
Input Device(s) Multi-touch
Messaging & Internet
Cellular Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Instant Messaging Services Yes
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSUPA
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11b/g/n
Communication Features Internet browser, mobile Email client
Phone Features
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert
Sensors G-sensor, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Personal Information Management alarm clock, calculator, calendar, reminder, synchronization with PC
Media Player
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC, AAC +, AMR, MIDI, MP3, OGG, WAV, eAAC+
Supported Digital Video Standards 3GP, H.263, H.264, MPEG-4
Clock Speed 1.2 GHz
Processor Core Qty Dual-core, dual-core, Dual Core, Dual core
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 203
RAM 512 MB
Bult-in Memory 4 GB
User Memory 4 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC - up to 32 GB
Digital Camera
Sensor Resolution 5 pixels
Still Image Resolutions 2592 x 1944
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Video Recorder Resolutions 1280 x 720 (720p)
Features video recording
Navigation System
Navigation A-GPS/GLONASS receiver
Navigation Software & Services Google Maps
Technology TFT
Diagonal Size 4.5 in
Display Resolution 480 x 854 pixels
Technology lithium ion
Capacity 1750 mAh

Topics: Android, Reviews, Smartphones

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