The Power button and volume rocker are both located on the right side of the plastic frame. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack up top and a micro USB port on the bottom right. The back of the phone is textured polycarbonate, featuring too-bold Consumer Cellular branding, and a tinny rear-facing speaker. Peeling back the rear panel provides access to the SIM card slot and a microSD card slot. We were able to use our 200GB SanDisk card without issue. This is a good thing, since there’s only 8GB of onboard storage.
The 5-inch 1,280-by-720 display is bright, but I wouldn’t describe it as crisp. It looks slightly washed out and suffers from narrow viewing angles. It’s bright enough to use in direct sunlight, and certainly better quality than the Moto E’s 960-by-540 display, but the Moto G’s 720p panel looks a lot sharper.
Network Performance and Connectivity
The Vision 3 is exclusive to Consumer Cellular, an MVNO operating on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks. The carrier has fared very well in our Readers’ Choice Survey for the past few years. The phone supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900), UMTS (850/1900/2100/AWS), and LTE (2/4/5/12/17) bands. According to phono, I was connected to T-Mobile’s network while testing in midtown Manhattan. Download speeds were strong, averaging around 22Mbps outdoors and 10Mbps indoors. Wi-Fi is limited to single-band, and there’s no NFC, which you won’t find on the Moto G either, but you do get Bluetooth. Voice calls on the Vision 3 LTE have clear transmission, but voices sound a bit robotic. Noise cancellation is good, blotting out most background noise. Earpiece volume is loud, but it’s not as thunderous as with the Moto G’s mic.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The Vision 3 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM. It benchmarks on the lower end of things, scoring 17,943 on AnTuTu compared with 22,484 on the Moto E and 25,166 on the Moto G. You won’t be able to run lots of intensive apps or engage in heavy multitasking since you’ll hit the RAM usage limit fairly easily. Asphalt 8 is playable, but there’s latency in controls and lengthy load times between races. Battery life is excellent, at 6 hours and 6 minutes in our rundown test, which streams video over LTE at maximum screen brightness. It’s close to the Moto G (6 hours and 32 minutes) and better than the Moto E (5 hours and 59 minutes). All day use should be no trouble.
On the other hand, camera performance is mediocre at best. The 5-megapixel rear-facing sensor on the Vision 3 produces lackluster outdoor shots. Images are clear and color reproduction is accurate, however, there are patches of noise and blur, especially around moving objects and fine detail. Stationary objects come across clearly enough, but anything that moved, even slightly, ended up blurry in my test shots. The camera is capable of 720p video recording at 30fps, which is passable, if shaky. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is decent for capturing faces for video chats, but frequently washes out images.
Software and Conclusions
The Vision 3 runs Google Android 4.4 KitKat, which is outdated at this point. You’re almost certainly not going to get any updates, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since a stable OS experience is important if you’re looking for a phone that’s easy to use. The phone runs Huawei’s EMUI, splashing apps across the screen iPhone-style, and removing the app drawer. There’s also an altered lock screen, notification shade, and Settings menu. The only preinstalled apps, aside from the stock apps and Google apps, are the My Consumer Cellular account app, and a Consumer Cellular messaging app. You’re left with 4.10GB of storage, so you’ll want to throw in a microSD card if you intend to take photos or listen to music locally.
Aimed at first-time phone users, Simple mode can be enabled in the phone’s Settings. In this mode, the home screen will convert to a grid of brightly colored app icons accompanied by large text. Apps and widgets are replaced with a simple set of options—Browser, Camera, Contacts, Dialer, Messaging, and Settings. You can add two more apps to the grid yourself, and the rest can be found under Others and Downloads. Switching between simple and standard home screen styles is easy, so you can restore full functionality whenever you want.
Overall, the Huawei Vision 3 LTE is a very affordable, highly capable smartphone. It’s more powerful than the slightly less expensive Moto E, but for $50 more you can get the Moto G, which offers a much better camera, a sharper screen, and a louder earpiece. However, it lacks any customized software to simplify app layout, so users looking for an easy-to-use phone will be better off with the Vision 3.
Since Consumer Cellular allows you to bring your own phone, other options include the unlocked Blu Life One X and the premium Huawei Honor 5X. However, neither of these hit the flat $100 sweet spot of the Vision 3.