Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 review

Every other passing day, there’s a new budget smartphone entering the Kenyan market looking to impress. Of course, being the price-sensitive market that we are, most such devices tend to focus on just one thing: the price. Most times, there’s usually not much to talk about beyond the price.

Sure, the price gets you past the door but it is the value the device gets you that gets you hooked. Else, if you have a choice, you’ll be bolting out at the earliest opportunity. Like we did with the Huawei IDEOS and its successor many years ago.

So, the question at the back of my head as I interacted with the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 for almost 2 months has been whether Huawei’s cheapest smartphone to make it to the Kenyan market (yet) this year had more going for it besides its already attractive sub-Kshs 10,000 pricing.

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The Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 is a blend of some of the features that make its sibling, the Huawei Y7 Prime 2018 and the Huawei Y6 2018, either interesting propositions or at par with the latest from the likes of Tecno and Infinix who completely command the local smartphone market. The former is already available in the country while the latter is yet to make its official debut. Huawei manages to do that (blending the feature set of the two in the Y5 Prime) while keeping its size on the low side and cutting down on a lot of the features like the augmented reality tricks in the Y7’s camera and the fingerprint sensor.

The design of the device is good, I have nothing to pick on. The rounded corners make handling very easy and, since Huawei does not include a case in the device’s box, which is just as basic as the Y7 Prime 2018’s, you’ll have no trouble using it anywhere. The device’s back is not a fingerprint magnet thanks to its all-round plastic design and all the necessary buttons are easily accessible.

One of the most notable omissions that one will notice immediately is that there’s no speaker of any sort that is visible on the device. Not on the bottom (there’s only a single microphone there – and the only one visible to the naked eye on the entire device), not on the back. So, where does the sound come from?

The earpiece also doubles up as the speaker. While that is not a unique thing – device makers have been doing this for a while now – it’s just that whatever we’re used to seeing with regards to this is usually for achieving some sort of dual-speaker arrangement. As is the case on the Nokia 6.

The device’s display is just fine. Fine is relative. It’s comparable to the Y7 Prime’s.

What’s not relative, though, is the onboard storage.

For its price, 16GB internal storage is a very good deal. If this was 2016, the default storage configuration would be just 8GB, you know, enough for WhatsApp and nothing else. But it’s not and, while I appreciate the effort, there’s only so much left after taking care of the system and the gazillion apps (bloatware) that Huawei pre-installs.

For instance, I was recently forced to delete my local WhatsApp folder and several other apps I use all the time in order to create space for a software update I was supposed to download and install on the device. Yes, things were that bad. But guess what? I would’ve never needed to do that had Huawei not decided that I deserved game titles like  Asphalt Nitro, Assassin’s Creed Unity: Arno’s Chronicles, Dragon Mania, Kingdoms, Lords Mobile, Puzzle Pets and Spider-Man: Ultimate Power. Some of these games occupy as much as 300 megabytes of valuable storage. You even wonder whether they’re targeting my 12-year-old primary school-going brother, who’s far from being able to afford a basic meal, let alone an entry-level smartphone, or someone who will want to get things done but doesn’t either have the money or want to spend a lot on a phone to just be able to casually text, make and receive calls, get online, etc.

And this madness doesn’t end there. There are other unnecessary apps pre-installed on the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018. Like Booking.com’s app which can’t be uninstalled, thatsbooks (what the hell is this?), Wego Flights & Hotels…

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While the device’s performance has gotten so much better since I installed the update it recently received, the entire time I was testing the Y5 Prime was dogged by me having to exercise the little patience I have and stopping myself from pulling the dreadlocks I don’t have on my head. That’s because the device was incredibly slow for just about anything. Trying to open the Twitter app, for instance, takes such a long time you can make out the genetic composition of the Twitter bird by the time the blue splash screen exits to make way for your timeline. Get Twitter Lite if you’re going to get this phone.

Don’t get me started on the camera. Launching the camera app the old school way i.e. going to your home screen and opening it up, will have you missing any crucial moments you would want to document digitally. This is not out of the ordinary, though. I approach devices like the Y5 Prime 2018 expecting this kind of performance issues. Thankfully, the tried and tested shortcut of using the volume down button to take quick snaps without having to unlock the device, works.

Definitely, by this point you already know better than to rely on the Y5 Prime 2018 for anything intensive. It’s, at best, a basic phone that adds a few handy features here and there and you shouldn’t demand more from it. The lag is frustrating and, you will agree with me after giving it a try, the device could really benefit a lot from Android Go’s optimizations. Even though Android Go is still a work in progress and it’s kind of whack at the moment, Google promises that it’s going to get a little better when it gets its next update by the turn of the year. I wish the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 was part of that programme just like the Y3 2018 is.

While the camera app is frustrated by the device’s overall lacklustre performance, judged on its own, it manages to hold up just fine and produce some good results – even at night/low-light scenarios.

The Huawei Y5 Prime 2018’s sealed battery unit is one to be envious of if you own a budget smartphone that doesn’t come from Tecno’s L-series. It’s good. It will last an entire day and even give you a whole night as a grace period just in case you forget to plug it in before switching off the lights, like I always do. I was impressed. All the while, the phone won’t heat up or anything of the sort. It’s quite a bummer that there is no fast-charging of any sort but then again, look at its price tag.

Throughout the review period, I’ve had to use the phone like it’s still 2014 i.e. with no easier way of unlocking it. That’s because while the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor. It’s supposed to have some other feature that makes the lack of a fingerprint scanner not quite a big deal: face unlock. Just as was the case with the Y7 Prime 2018 that Huawei provided to me for review purposes, the Y5 Prime 2018 came with pre-production software which required a further future update before I could be at par in terms of experience as every other user. That took time and it meant having to make do without the face unlock feature. However, the feature did arrive in a recent update and things have been a breeze ever since.

While it’s present and works just fine, the face unlock feature on the Y5 Prime 2018 is rather slow and, since Huawei doesn’t do any of the tricks that Tecno and Infinix do, it hardly works in low light conditions.

Other things I like about the device are the flexibility it offers users by allowing them to use two SIMs as well as a microSD. There’s also 4G LTE even though those fast network speeds are watered down by its overall sluggishness.

The good

  • Good design – small, compact
  • Long battery life
  • 4G LTE

The bad

  • Lots of pre-loaded apps (bloat) that take up precious space
  • Not the best performance.

The lowdown

While the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 manages to impress and even deliver above and beyond my expectations, it’s not without fault. There’s the issue with storage that I have already highlighted as well as the performance issues.

I am inclined to look beyond the performance issues because I haven’t used any sub-Kshs 10,000 smartphone that gets performance right. Heck, even some that cost a little more are not immune to this.

While I am not being apologetic for Huawei’s shortcomings, it’s always good to know that at that price, things will always be choppy if you have used better devices or have an experience with devices with more/better resources and just about right if you’re just joining the smartphone world. It’s tricky.

The camera is so-so but it gets the job done and, as long as the plan is to share the snaps captured on social media, they’ll be just fine with a little more concentration on your part (no shaky hands) and adequate lighting. The battery life is very good and the device’s overall design, rounded corners and compactness, do a hell of a job hiding that 1440 x 720 pixel-display. Throw in the face unlock that the Nokia 2 and Nokia 2.1 lack and you have a complete package that is hard not to recommend at its Kshs 9,999 price.

In fact, the only device, based on my experience using it, that stands a chance of edging out the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 at that price, is the Xiaomi Redmi 5A. Unfortunately, the Xiaomi is a yesteryear device and it lacks an 18:9 aspect ratio display, face unlock and it’s battery lasts just as long as it takes chicken to mate. So, unless, the IR blaster it packs, a rarity in the entire smartphone industry these days and not just entry-level smartphones, is a must have feature, Huawei’s gadget is the one to go with.

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Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com