Category Archives: Android

Huawei Ascend Y330 Y530 Budget Android Smartphone Review and Tips

If you are looking for a budget smartphone, consider the Huawei Ascend Y330 (discontinued) or Y530.  Huawei (pronounced waa-way) is a large telecom company in China.  These phones are available on pay-as-you go plans in Canada on GSM networks like Rogers (7-11 Speakout and Petro Canada), Bell, and Virgin Mobile .  The phones are easily unlocked online (search ebay for huawei unlock).  Regular retail price is around $90 but these phones have been on sale for as low as $45.  Keep your eyes on the flyers for Visions, Superstore or Best Buy if looking for a deal.

Both of these models are similar and the main differences are that the Y330 has a 4″ display with Android 4.2 while the Y530 is slightly larger at 4.5″ with Android 4.3.  Both models feature  dual -processor cores,  512MB RAM ,  4GB storage, GPS, Bluetooth and FM radio.  Cameras on both models are pretty crappy.  An earbud/microphone (which also doubles as the FM antenna) are included.

With both the limited RAM and storage, you have to be careful not to have too many apps stored or running in the background.

To optimize memory, here are a few tips.

  1. Buy a microSD flash memory.  16GB or 32GB can be found relatively cheaply and can expand the storage on you smartphone.  Under Settings->Storage, change the Default storage location to SD card and when transferring files like pictures, video and music, store these on SD card.  Make sure apps that save files like your camera are set to store to SD card as well.  Under Settings->Manage Apps, you can select an app and it may be possible to Move the app to SD card.
  2. Disable bloatware.  The Bell/Virgin Mobile branded Huawei Y530 has a lot of bloatware that can’t be uninstalled but can be disabled under Setting->Manage Apps.
  3. Don’t install too many apps.  Even if you have installed an SD card, most apps can only run from installed memory.  An app like Facebook is a known memory hog and could bog down your phone considerably.
  4. For GPS, I used the paid GPS Navigation and Maps app since it works offline without requiring a data connection.  Since the maps are fairly large, I make sure they are saved onto my SD card.  I also use the GPS Status app since there is no built in app for GPS.

To conserve battery life, turn off wifi, gps and bluetooth unless you are using that feature.   At home, I have a tablet running gmail so don’t need wifi running on my phone.   If you are travelling and using your phone as a gps, put the phone in airplane mode which will shut off the cellular radio.

If you need more performance in a smartphone, consider the Moto G which has 1GB RAM and a quad-core processor but will be quite a price jump from the Huawei models.



Tweaks and Apps for Android

“There’s an app for that”.  But there are also settings you can change without needing to install an app.  Here’s what I’m running for both by smartphone and tablet.


Hangouts Dialer – You will need Hangouts installed but with this dialer, you can make free phone calls within Canada and the US.  Your caller ID will show up as “Private Call” if your friends are screening their calls.  You can only get a free incoming number from Google Voice if you are in the US.

GPS Navigation & Maps – Since I don’t have a data plan for my phone, I use this app which supports offline mode.  The app is $1 and maps are about the same price.  Handy for travelling as well.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – I run this lightweight antivirus program on all my PCs and have this installed on my Android devices.  You are more likely to get viruses if you install downloaded .apk files vs installing from the Play Store.

Missed Call Reminder – My old Razr phone would beep at me if I got a missed call or text and my smartphone doesn’t do this by default.  There are two apps named Missed Call Reminder and the one from DO Software works much better.

Call Blocker – This app allows you to block numbers.  I’m looking at you SFU alumni telemarketing fundraising.  However, I noticed spam calls are increasingly spoofing cellular prefix numbers.

GPS Status – Android doesn’t have a default GPS app which is probably why lost hikers can’t tell rescuers their location.  This app will tell you if your GPS is searching or locked and your position and speed.

Dailyroads Voyager – I am experimenting with this app which allows you to use your smartphone as a dashcam.

Android Settings

Battery percentage – I find it difficult to figure out how much battery level I have remaining with just a small icon.  Though there are many apps that let you display it as a percentage, you may be able to do this in Settings->Battery->Battery Indicator

Display date on the status bar – Settings->Bars->Clock and date.  This feature may not be available on all Android versions.

Increase your battery life – Bluetooth, GPS and Wifi all draw power when on.  To maximize battery life, turn these off when not needed. In Kitkat, the GPS is enabled by turning on Locations.

Put website shortcuts on your desktop – You can put shortcuts to your favorite websites on your desktop.  With Chrome, click on the settings icon on the top right and then “Add to Home Screen”


Asus ME301T Android 4.4 Kitkat Installation

Update: I highly recommend installing Lollipop 5.1.1 instead of Kitkat since it runs much better and is stable.   You can also remove all the GAPPS bloatware with a clean install.   You still need to follow the instructions in this post to install TWRP (backup and restore utility) but see the Lolliop installation post here.

The Asus ME301T tablet only supports the older 4.2 Jellybean Android OS.  I think that Asus wants you to buy a newer tablet if you want the latest OS.  Luckily,  third party ROM’s can be installed though this will void any warranty and there is a chance you could brick your device.  Here is the procedure I used to update my tablet.

  1. Make sure you have the latest firmware Settings->About Tablet->Build number should be US_epad- for the US version.  Update the firmware on your table from the About Tablet menu if it’s not the latest.
  2. From your tablet, go to ASUS’s website to download the utility to unlock your boot loader.  Remember this will void the warranty.  Go to Settings->Security->Unknown Sources and enable it to allow apps to be installed from outside the Play Store.  Files are available here under the Utilities section.  The downloaded file needs to be unzipped, installed and then run to unlock your boot loader.
  3. Once the bootloader is unlocked, you will need to install the latest TWRP 2.8.1.x The procedure requires the utility fastboot for the PC, the proper drivers to connect to your tablet with Windows and USB debugging enabled on your tablet.  TWRP files available here.  Transferring the file should take seconds – try again if it’s not working.  Procedure can be followed here.
  4. To boot with the TWRP, first make sure your tablet is powered off (not sleeping).  Then hold the vol-down key and hold the pwr key.  When you see the startup messages let go of both buttons and press the vol-up key once with RCK (recovery) selected.  Vol-down cycles through the choices and Vol-up selects.  Wait a few seconds and you should see the TWRP menu screen.
  5. With TWRP, you want to backup your factory OS so you can restore it if necessary.   Backing up the data is optional but you should back up to an external micro SD card.
  6. Download the latest Omnirom for Kitkat (stable) and transfer to your tablet (do not extract).  Download from here.  If you want to experiment with Lollipop (pre-release), check here.
  7. Using TWRP, perform a wipe and then an install pointing to the omnirom package.
  8. Reboot and you should be running Kitkat


Asus Memopad ME301T Touchscreen Problem

I purchased a used Asus Memopad Smart 10 (ME301T) tablet recently as an upgrade from a 7″ and later 8″ tablet, mainly to help my eyes out with a larger screen.  Though released in 2013, it is currently still being sold but looks like it will be replaced by the Zenpad 10.  Upgrading from the Memopad 8, additional features include a charging LED on the power button and a micro HDMI port.  As a downgrade, the tablet was running Android 4.2 Jellybean.  My biggest issue with Jellybean was the inability to remove empty home screens though a different launcher would allow this.

After doing a factory wipe, I noticed that the touchscreen was occasionally unresponsive.  Swipes and taps had troubles registering which was verified by enabling “Show Touches” in debugging mode.

I decided to upgrade to a custom ROM which supported Kitkat 4.4 to see if performance could be improved.

After a lot of searching, I was able to piece together a procedure to unlock the bootloader, load the TWRP bootloader (which allows backup, restores and installs), and then load the Kitkat ROM.  See procedure here.

With Kitkat, the touchscreen performance was slightly better but the problem still persisted.  I finally found a fix which involved forcing an update of the digitizer firmware here.  I had to image back to the original Jellybean OS.  Remove the back cover.  Disconnect the digitizer/touchscreen flex cable.  Reboot and wait for it to update the touch firmware and interrupt it by unplugging the battery cable.  Plug the flex cable and battery back in and reboot again.

I still had one final problem with touches sometimes not being recognized which I traced to the Facebook app.  It is a big RAM hog and closing it does not remove it from memory.  It had to be uninstalled for my tablet to function smoothly.

See my tips for tweaking Kitkat here.