A review of the low-cost Huawei IDEOS Android from Safaricom

Back in September 2010 I did a blog post here about the global launch of the low-cost Huawei IDEOS smartphone. At the time, the main thing was that it was just being launched but there was already speculation that it would retail in Kenya for as little as Kes. 8,000.00. This was a major milestone at the time and the interest that the blog post drew was immense. In a nutshell, everyone was excited about the propsect of  a truly affordable and cutting edge Android smartphone finding its way to Kenya.

Fast forward to January 2011 and the IDEOS was officially launched in Kenya by Safaricom. The most amazing thing was that the price as launched was Kes. 8,500.00 – only Kes. 500.00 more than what had been widely reported in September 2010. At the same time, apart of launching massive full page ads in the media, Safaricom has thrown in Kes. 1,000.00 of free airtime and 600 MB of data. It goes without saying that this smartphone is selling like hot cakes!

So, here’s the thing. For all the bright and shiny ads, as well as hype around the IDEOS is it worth buying? Yes. Its cheap, dirt cheap for a decent Android handset. However, if you have had a chance like I have to use a high end Android smartphone for several months, you would realize that all Androids are not equal. No, for the most part, the IDEOS lives up to hype with its broad range of features and functionality in a nice small package.  But it will never be a Kes. 45,000.00 Android handset.

Apart from the IDEOS being the least expensive Android smartphone in Kenya, its much much better than many of the feature handsets that are still selling for more in the Kenyan marketplace. True, it will take time for the market to catch on but if global trends are anything to go buy the IDEOS is going to be the first of  wave of inexpensive Android handsets coming to Africa this year. One brand that has dominated the African market including Kenya for years is Nokia and I am sure that the IDEOS has them working overtime.

So, rather than get into all the techie jargon of the pros and cons of buying an IDEOS smartphone, I would like to just say what I see as the things that matter for the average user in Kenya. I certainly see the IDEOS being the first smartphone that many mobile subscribers in Kenya will own and experience. For many of them, it will be like a whole new mobile world that has opened up when they get it. So, here we go:


  • Price is low. Very low for a smartphone.
  • Has 3G, WIFI and Bluetooth network connectivity, meaning you can get online fast and wide.
  • Can work as a WIFI hotspot for other devices – you can share your internet connection (ideal for a small office/home office).
  • It comes with GPS and has a full touch screen (wow, in such a small package).
  • Can take reasonably good pictures with its 3 megapixel camera.
  • Allows you to access the full range of applications in the Google Android Market.
  • It runs Android 2.2, also known as Froyo which is one of the newest versions available out there.
  • Build quality for the price is remarkably good.


  • Limited storage space – you have to buy an extra Micro SD card to really store data. You will need to but one as on-board memory is small.
  • The screen resolution is not high meaning its not quite as sharp as the new AMOLED screens out there on higher end Android smartphones.
  • The screen size is also fairly small making it hard to navigate for those with larger fingers (like me?) on the touch screen.
  • The processor on the IDEOS is not a very high specification meaning the speed with which it works makes it somewhat slower than what one would be used to on a higher end Android smartphone.

I can’t really say more than the above but on the overall the IDEOS is a good buy. However, just pay attention to the fact its an entry-level but well featured device that is just right for the mass market in Africa. I think the IDEOS will be known in a few years as the mobile device that ushered in the Android wave into Kenya.

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  1. January 28, 2011 at 11:13 am — Reply

    At it’s price, most of the ‘cons’ you have enumerated will not be used against it because most users will be coming from just the normal phones with GPRS or EDGE and few with 3G. So for most users, its heaven in mobile world and Xmas couldn’t have come earlier. For me, touchscreen doesn’t give me a surge of adrenaline like the QWERTY but, having looked at it and seen the available apps, its a sure good phone and if the sales at Safaricom are anything to go by, it will be a market star.

  2. Jaffar Mohamed
    January 28, 2011 at 11:21 am — Reply

    As you put it, the IDEOS will make significant impact in Kenya. It will introduce a paradigm shift in our understanding about what a cellphone can achieve. A few years back a good phone in Kenya was one with an FM Radio, camera and Mp3 ringtones. By introducing Apps, the Android OS, and other features, the mobile phone experience is going to change significantly. On a lighter note, a friend got the IDEOS few days ago and he is completely amazed. He says a Symbian phone is like a toy, only good when you value themes and the scam apps from getjar!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Moses Kemibaro, Ishuah Kariuki. Ishuah Kariuki said: RT @moseskemibaro: New Blog Post: A review of the low-cost Huawei IDEOS Android from Safaricom @ http://bit.ly/dGhbvI […]

  4. Abdullahi
    January 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm — Reply

    hi moses.great review.avid follower of ur blogs n they offer great guides.just pointing out that got the ideos phone , n its all that n a lot more.i think its true strength lies in the app market.truly diverse n customizable. only downside is the screen size as u said.hard to type n the default keyboard.but this can be solved by keyboard downloads from the market.another downside is the restricted access and poor task switching leaving apps running on the background greatly affecting the battery and overloading the processor.only way is to flash the phone n customize the rom.a great rom that bypassses manufacturers crap n givess super user root access is like cynanogem.apart from that u hv a deal thats unbeatable.wonderful open source.keep up ur blog n hope u cud do an article on best data options for home users in the kenyan market.cheers.

  5. January 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm — Reply

    i did happen to get the gadget the other day hurriedly having in mind that the promotion period is coming an end most probably next week.
    sincerely,its cool,its faster,its smarter especially in the areas of WIFI,downloading,and sharing from phone and other interactive sites.
    am getting new techniques in using it everyday,i love it

  6. Dan Buria
    January 28, 2011 at 1:07 pm — Reply

    Nice coverage of the device. I think we’ve come to that point where Nokia is no longer defacto. Look at the devices samsung are churning out every day. While their pet names kinda cloud things up a bit, they have already unsettled the high sitting makes such as Nokia.

  7. January 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    Ahh, been waiting for a Kenyan review on the Ideos, so thx Moses!

    Ok, the CPU may be weak and the camera fixed focus, but the screen, screen size and missing (but extendable?) storage aren’t any negative details in my books. Especially the AMOLED + Kenyan sunshine = not too good, so this (normal) LCD solution may be better?

    Else I fully agree with you, and the best part is: this phone is REALLY cheap. I am longing to buy one but imagine it costs 180 EUR in Germany (8.500/= = ~ 85 EUR, ama?), so I will need to send s/o to EAK for the purchase of this goodie 🙂

  8. January 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    I would have happily paid 1000/- more for an upgraded model with higher capacity SD card + keyboard!!!

  9. m water
    January 29, 2011 at 3:03 am — Reply

    thanks. what’s your take on the Huawei VF 845?

  10. calvin
    January 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm — Reply

    can it edit ms office documents?

  11. January 31, 2011 at 3:45 am — Reply

    The question is not really whether you will buy the IDEOS (of course you will), but which one you will buy. This thing comes in different colors, so you will have to decide on the color. The phone comes in four different colors: black, blue, purple and yellow. The science of color psychology may help us in deciding which color of IDEOS to buy: http://rafiki-kenya.blogspot.com/2011/01/ideos-has-landed.html

  12. January 31, 2011 at 5:42 am — Reply

    thanks for the review. i agree at this price the pros beat the cons hands down. is it compatible with mpesa and other sim-based services though?

  13. January 31, 2011 at 9:31 am — Reply

    I think the IDEOS phone is a good bargain. For sh.8500 and it’s features i think it’s worth owning one if you can’t part with more money for a different android brand rather than buy a nokia phone for the same price.

  14. February 2, 2011 at 11:03 am — Reply

    Got myself Huawei VF 845. This phones will eat your credit even when you are not browsing.

    The catch with this phones is, to work fully with the Apps they need permanent connection to the internet. The Apps will continue accessing internet remotely even when you are not logged into the internet.

    A friend who works at Safaricom informed me customers who didn’t know how this phones work, called customer care complaining of unexplained reducing credit.

    I have unlimited internet at office and home so I don’t use mine to access internet. But Love the phone to bits. With a phone that reads your SMS for you, it is easy to get LAID, Am serious!

  15. Simon
    February 4, 2011 at 6:07 am — Reply

    OK, I’ve been using the phone now for a few days. I must say I love it. They keyboard is a bit small and I have fat fingers, but you soon get used to it. Two BIG downsides that you should know about.

    If you are a heavy user… and I am… the battery life is dreadful.

    If you are a customer using KCB Connect the phone does not work… and neither Safaricom or KCB seem the slighted bit bothered about getting it working.

    Just 2 negatives.

    Hope they can bring out a longer life battery.

  16. February 4, 2011 at 7:18 am — Reply

    A brilliant android device. Found if fascinating, a fluid youtube app, facebook and twitter for android aren’t bad either.

    I, however would have paid more for a keyboard. The touch input utility was quite a strain.

  17. jwaltern
    February 8, 2011 at 5:00 am — Reply

    oooooh,atlast,a very pocket friendly smart phone,am just satisfied with what we have gotten for now,i have tried java phones like sciphone i68 4g and nokias too,but this one gives them an overtime.One can comfortably download pdfs very fast in accessing youtube videos,so enjoyable,imagine you dont have to download to play a video…talk of skyfire browser with it’s flash player..simply down-loadable software to the ideos…it’s price is what beats all….any other phone with this capability must be above twice as much in pricing….go for it.

  18. Wenceslao Rosali
    February 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm — Reply

    I agree with jwaltern and enjoyed my new ideos so much. But how come now it says Web page not available? Anybody please enlighten me?


    • jwaltern
      February 17, 2011 at 4:35 am — Reply

      Go back to the settings and enable the data,make sure it indicates a right ticked in green.after usage go back and disable the data, otherwise it will still be consuming your data buddle.hope you got helped out.

  19. sheesha
    February 12, 2011 at 8:47 am — Reply

    I love my new Ideos..It indeed is value for money!I did not consider it earlier because of unknown name…But since I have got it now I am proud owner of it!

  20. caprica
    February 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    Does it have a service that is deducting money automatically from my balance…i think the updates being sent to my phone are then reason for my balance’s disappearance. how can I disable such?

    • jwaltern
      February 17, 2011 at 4:28 am — Reply

      Just go settings after you are through with internet activities,chose wireless & networks,then scroll down to mobile networks,touch on the Data enabled and it will be off.
      when you need get back to internet go back there an enable the Data enabled.op you are enjoying as i am.

  21. caprica
    February 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm — Reply

    How do i synch with PC? the Ideos comes with no CD for PC suite..i hope some idiot did not remove it…;)

  22. Kmberi
    March 1, 2011 at 12:10 am — Reply

    Any sign of the cheap Chinese android tablets in Nairobi yet?

  23. Charles
    March 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm — Reply

    I live in Ghana, heard about the Wonderful ideos from Kenya so i imported one. But now i can’t get it to work with MTN here 🙁
    I’m constantly gettin a “com.android.phone quit unexpectedly” error. Can any of u guys help me out? Thanks.

  24. shikoh
    March 6, 2011 at 4:34 am — Reply

    Well i got my ideos and i like it enough though i dream of owning a HTC android phone onde day but where can i get mpesa on the ideos?is it supported coz if its not that wud be a drawback being so accustomed to transacting on mpesa lately

    • Whitney
      March 16, 2011 at 3:16 am — Reply

      Go to applications, select sim toolkit and you will find mpesa

  25. Simon
    March 21, 2011 at 9:06 am — Reply

    I have fallen out of love with my Ideos.
    The battery is just shocking… they told me to disable the automatic updates. That’s the reason I bought the phone in the first place.

    My Girlfriends phone, the screen went funny…. they told us we had got water in it and it’s out of warranty. It’s not BEEN NEAR WATER

    I am thinking of getting it checked independently.

    Now the designated service and parts place have not got the spares to repair. Therefore we’re left with a useless piece of…. phone.

    I am fortunate enough to have had a long term invoice paid to me, so I’m going for a Motorola. Will avoid Huaweiwehihawahai in the future.

    It turns out it was not the phone I had fallen in love with, but Android (I have had Nokia phones for about 22 years)

  26. Kelvin
    April 8, 2011 at 4:26 am — Reply

    When is the deadline?or is it nt at offer price.?

  27. Mike
    April 18, 2011 at 10:06 am — Reply

    I love my Ideos and its so cheap for its features. I have been trying to Google for a software that will allow me to use it via my PC (PC Suite?) not only for storing files but for other features like using it as a modem. I also tried to download the 2go.im but the model is not recognized. Glad if somebody could assist

  28. April 20, 2011 at 10:40 am — Reply

    @Moses – very nice article! On the storage con you mentioned, 1GB is actually more than plenty for many data needs, so long as you’re not talking music, videos and large pictures :). The one gripe I have with Android is lack of a simple way to backup the data and apps off the phone to a PC.

    @Mike – Working with the PC is built in so no need for a separate CD. Just connect it to the PC via USB (using the same cable that connects to the charger) and it shall install the required software. It operates in several modes and the ones relevant to your question are:

    1. USB Storage mode – after connecting to the PC, the USB Mass Storage app appears and you can tap on ‘Turn on USB Storage’ to allow you to access the files on the Ideos from your PC just like you would a flash drive. When you’re done moving files on or off it, tap on ‘Turn off USB Storage’

    2. Tethered mode (use as a modem) – From the home screen, tap Menu > Settings > Wireless & Networks > Tethering & portable hotspot > USB tethering. That’s it! you’ve turned the Ideos into a modem and it’s already being used by the PC if you had any applications requiring internet access.

  29. Nathan
    May 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm — Reply

    Hello I’m from Pakistan.Huawei Ideos is a great value for money esp.for those who want feature rich phone at low price.but there is one demerit,ideos has no flash with its kamera,also casing is of no good value.well at such price they’re inevitable evils:-D

  30. Kain
    May 11, 2011 at 3:24 am — Reply

    So when this the offer ending?

  31. Oscar
    May 25, 2011 at 4:24 am — Reply

    Kindly help, how can i fix my Ideos screen that cracked from falling,i need original screen and quality repair, even though its working properly. In Nairobi Kenya.

  32. bwana mrefu
    May 28, 2011 at 4:00 am — Reply

    Please help. I bought my new Ideos last week in Nairobi and I love it. My problem is now I am in Tanzania and I can’t get data via Vodacom to work even though I have the ‘Data Enabled’ option checked. Wifi works great and I can make phone calls and send and receive sms. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks

  33. victor miyoyo
    June 12, 2011 at 4:54 am — Reply

    just download this software called juice defender and ooops! there you go..you get total control over your data rates, and networks..no more deduction of balance unless you allow it to do so.. then only allow those programs you want to access internet,. in this case lets say opera mini will do..

  34. Hassan M
    June 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm — Reply

    I bought the IDEOS on offer early this year and also managed somehow to install Skype on it – that was before Microsoft took over. It is a very good bragain. It would be interesting to know if Skype can still be downloaded on this Adroid IDEOS phone post MicroSoft take-over.

  35. Alicia
    September 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm — Reply

    best 4n av ever had… wonderful applications… all pdf documents, intact!!! Ilove it why lie..

  36. brian
    November 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm — Reply

    i believe i am in love with android not the ideos…what i like is the way it backs up your data to google servers..so if you lose your phone or get another android phone all you have to do is set up your gmail account and you are done..calenders, contacts etc are re-downloaded to your phone

  37. November 15, 2011 at 7:03 am — Reply

    […] news, product service reviews. One of his most popular posts to date is his review of the Huaweii Ideos. According to Afrigator, his blog ranks second and he has made up to $500 in AdSense  not […]

  38. charles
    November 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm — Reply

    bin preety gud 4ne,cheao and fast as compared 2 java 4nes da only wory is its battry.hop u cn upgrade dat.3g net workin jst fyn

  39. noman
    November 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm — Reply

    i am looking for cheap chinese Android tablets available in Nairobi.
    Any one know about the location ?
    please email me at nomansaeed at gmail.com

  40. Guus
    March 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm — Reply

    You mean,it improves your chances of getting a sugarmummy and getting hooked up? Haha By the way samsung released expensive rivals-samsung galaxy mini s5570 and samsung galaxy y. i have to make a choice on which to get later this year

    October 15, 2012 at 10:17 am — Reply

    I love the phone its great, yeah but the battery is letting many people down then please tell me why i can’t call or send a text when i have less than twenty shilling

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