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What we like
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The worldwide budget smartphone market is extremely competitive, with a slew of solid mid-range and entry-level smartphones from various OEMs making their way to consumers. Not a lot of these devices see an official release in the US unfortunately, often due to their lack of full support for US network carriers, along with the availability of high-end smartphones at subsidized rates, albeit with contractual commitments.
Only recently have a few devices in the sub-$200 category, off-contract, been making their way to US, but there is still a significant gap in this segment, a void that Huawei is trying to fill with their latest budget-friendly offering. One of the big selling points of this device is its support for 4G LTE on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, but what else does it bring to the table? We find out, in this in-depth Huawei Snapto review!
When it comes to the design, Huawei takes a fairly simplistic approach with the Snapto. The device is made entirely of plastic, with the back featuring a textured leather finish, allowing for a feel in the hand beyond what you’d expect from a smartphone at this price point. The tapered edges of the removable back cover transition into a smooth matte plastic along the sides, and a glossy plastic wraps around the edges of the display. Opening the back cover gives you access to the microSD card slot and SIM card slot, but the battery is not replaceable.
Going around the device, the power button and volume rocker are both on the right side, and while responsive, they don’t come with a very satisfying tactile feel to them. The headphone jack and microUSB port are placed at the top and bottom respectively. The back houses the 5 MP camera at the top left corner, just above the LED flash, as well as the single speaker unit found towards the right at the bottom, with the Huawei branding featured at the center.
The company logo returns up front below the display as well, and the bezels around the display aren’t particularly thin, especially surprising given the use of on-screen navigation keys. The Snapto is also on the thicker side of things, with a thickness of 8.4 mm, and is also heavier than its all-plastic build would suggest, weighing in at 150 grams.
Overall, the design of the Snapto is quite underwhelming, and it feels like Huawei has instead chosen to focus on the internals of the device. That is of course not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something more aesthetically pleasing, there are significantly better options out there in this segment.
The Huawei Snapto comes with a 5-inch TFT display with a 720 resolution, with a resulting pixel density of 294 ppi. The display proves to be somewhat of a let down, with a lack of contrast, and poor viewing angles. Once you hit 45 degrees, there is a significant drop in brightness and quality, and sunlight readability is also not very good. The display is also kind of a fingerprint magnet, and despite my best efforts to keep it free from smudges, it still managed to collect fingerprints.
Performance & Hardware
Under the hood, the Huawei Snapto packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, backed by the Adreno 305 GPU and 1 GB of RAM. This was the processing package that powered a lot of the mid-range devices in 2014 and was quite impressive, which is unfortunately not the case this time around. The Snapto feels quite sluggish when it comes to everyday performance, and while usable, is slow to the point where the slowness is not only noticeable, but also, at times, frustrating.
For example, the pre-installed Google Keyboard rarely kept up with what was being typed when sending text messages, and going back to the homescreen from an app sometimes resulted in a 2 or 3 second delay before all the application icons re-appeared. Multi-tasking wasn’t particularly smooth either, with their being a noticeable slowdown when opening more than a couple of apps. The Adreno 305 GPU handled gaming decently well, however, graphic intensive games like Asphalt 8 had lower frame rates, and the occasional stutter.
The Snapto comes with a standard suite of sensors and connectivity options, including 4G LTE support, that allows for high-speed internet access on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and their respective MVNOs. 8 GB of on-board storage is available, further expandable via microSD card by up to 32 GB. The single speaker unit at the back actually sounds surprisingly good, and gets fairly loud without the distortion that is sometimes seen with other similar budget-friendly devices. As is the case with any device with a speaker in this position, the sound gets muffled when the phone is placed on a flat surface.
The Snapto packs a non-removable 2,200 mAh battery that provides surprisingly impressive battery life. The device comfortably lasted a full day of use, and then some, with just under 5 and a half hours of screen-on time, which is just fantastic. There is also a power saving mode baked in, with options including normal, smart, and endurance, to get even more juice out of the device. Battery life is certainly one of the highlights of the Huawei Snapto.
The Huawei Snapto comes with a 5 MP rear camera with a LED flash, along with a 2 MP front-facing camera. The camera application is fairly easy to use, with a few different shooting modes to choose from, along with the ability to manually adjust certain settings such as white balance and ISO.
Unfortunately, the camera proves to be an extremely poor performer, with the pictures taken consistently out of focus and lacking in sharpness. The camera does come with a useful feature that allows you to take a shot by pressing the volume down key twice, but that is the only good thing about the camera experience this device provides.
The Huawei Snapto runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Huawei’s Emotion UI 2.3 on top. It’s not too far a departure from the traditional Android experience, but Huawei did make a few notable changes. For starters, an app drawer isn’t available, which can take some getting used to, and will require users to depend on folders to keep things organized. The available icon pack takes on a square motif with rounded corners, and the notification shade also comes with an expandable quick settings menu, which is certainly useful.
The Google keyboard is available as the default, but we’ve already mentioned the issues with it in terms of performance. The Recent Apps screen retains stock elements, although Huawei has added individual close buttons, and a one touch clean button. The lock screen gives users the ability to directly open the dialer, the messaging app, or the camera, and once in the homescreen, a simple swipe up will give you access to essential tools like the calendar, calculator, flashlight, and clock. I did really enjoy the ability to change each volume profile by pressing the setting button after pressing a volume button, a feature I wish every Android device had.
There are a few pre-installed apps that come with the device, but it isn’t too bad, and at least there isn’t any carrier bloatware you have to worry about. There is also a simple mode, if you prefer to have a cleaner looking launcher. You also have the ability to disable apps from running when the screen is off, which is a contributor to the impressive battery life of the device. Finally, there is a notification manager that allows you to set from a single location which apps can send you notifications.
On the downside, I wasn’t very happy with the default notification sound, or should I say music. Whenever I received a notification from apps like Snapchat or Gmail, the phone would play a song which is kind of excessive, especially if you receive notifications frequently. Luckily, this is something that can be changed in the Settings.
|Display||5-inch TFT display|
720p, 294 ppi
1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Adreno 305 GPU
5 MP rear camera with LED flash
2 MP front-facing camera
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, USB 2.0
8 GB, expandable up to 32 GB
Android 4.4.4 Kitkat
144.5 x 72.4 x 8.4 mm
The Huawei Snapto is available for $179.99 with color options including black and white. The main competition for the device are the identically priced and specced Moto G (2014), as well as the slightly more expensive, but arguably more powerful, Asus Zenfone 2.
So, there you have it for a closer look at the Huawei Snapto! While the Snapto does have some strong selling points like LTE support, a good sounding speaker, and incredible battery life, I don’t think that this is a good choice for the average user. Buying a budget phone officially with LTE support in the US is great, but you really have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to give up a lot of what makes a smartphone good, with the display, performance, and camera, all points of contention. As mentioned, the competition in this space is heating up, and there are certainly more compelling options at this price point out there.