Systems developer Angus Gratton recently made a trip to Shenzhen, China where he purchased a $34 smartphone that boasted 4G connectivity, 8 cores, and Android 4.4 (Kit Kat). After running the Huami H3 through its courses, Gratton discovered that none of the above was true, but for $34, you might be surprised at what you get.
The software on the H3 runs painfully slow. Even scrolling down a list in the settings section causes skips and screen freezes. But, considering that the device is running Android 4.0.3 (not the claimed Kit Kat version) with only 200MB of RAM, it is chugging along reasonably well.
Gratton notes, “I’m amazed Android 4 is even halfway usable with such meagre RAM, given how terrible recent cheap smartphones with 512MB of RAM are!”
After digging around the software, Gratton discovered that quite a few of the original claims were incorrect. Not only was the About page modified with false information showing a faster processor with more cores, but the internal storage stats were falsified (only 1.2GB instead of the supposed 4GB) and the build strings that show Android’s Kit Kat as the operating system were all physically changed from their original build of Ice cream Sandwich.
Gratton also did a teardown of the H3 so we could see what is inside. The most interesting revelation is that none of the parts inside are from used phones. They all appear to be new chips, transceivers, and other bits of technology.
Overall, Gratton writes that, for the price, the H3 is “pretty remarkable.” Although he notes that it won’t be replacing his main phone. The device supports the idea that OEMs can make ridiculously cheap, carrier-free smartphones that work reasonably well, especially if they actually produce what they claim (or at least tell the truth about the tech specs).
While the price may be tempting (the Huami H3 has no carrier contract to lock you in), I’m not sure that one could consider this to be a useful smartphone as a main. It is nicely priced to be a working backup in case something went wrong with your main phone. It could even be hacked and repurposed as something else entirely. However, the headache that comes along with a device that can barely handle the software running it may not be enough to make you send your buddy into the “dodgy cell phone market” of Shenzhen the next time he takes a trip to China.