Review: Huawei SnapTo
The SnapTo's pre-installed media apps are limited to the Google Play options. The Play Store has a solid selection of music, movies, games, books, and magazines. The individual apps for interacting with this content should be fine for most people. The YouTube app is on board, as is an FM radio (headphones required). I wish the phone included a simple MP3 player, but plenty are available to download from the Play Store.
I was generally pleased with the quality of music and video playback on the SnapTo. Music sounded great in my headphones, but not so great via the speaker. Video looked a bit cold to me on the SnapTo's screen.
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One of the SnapTo's hallmark features is called Ultra Snapshot. The phone doesn't have a dedicated camera button, but if you double-press the down volume toggle, the camera will not only open but also fire off a quick photo, even if the device is locked. The camera app then brags about how well it performed: "Ultra Snapshot only took 2.5 seconds." (Seriously, this had me in stitches every time.)
Beyond Ultra Snapshot, you can open the camera from the lock screen or the home screen. It is one app that managed to perform consistently without trouble and it opened quickly.
The viewfinder tools are straightforward and easy to manage. The settings, options, and controls are available along the left side of the screen, while shutter buttons are on the right side of the screen. I like that the SnapTo has separate buttons for the camera and video camera.
The SnapTo has a handful of shooting modes. The basics are auto, panorama, HDR, and filters. There are a couple of others worth mentioning. For example, the phone has a smart setting that "will automatically enhance the photo quality based on your surrounding environment." (Shouldn't all cameras do this, all the time?) Honestly, I couldn't spot any differences in photos I took in auto mode versus smart mode. More to the point, if you use smart mode the camera locks down some of the other tools, such as white balance, exposure, and ISO.
The audio note feature mimics Samsung's Sound & Shot. It takes a picture and then records up to 10 seconds of audio to accompany the photo. Then there's voice control mode, which will "automatically take a picture when your voice reaches a preset decibel level." In other words, say something and the shutter will fire. Of course, this doesn't work very well when you're in a noisy environment, like a party, where many people are talking at once.
Then there's watermark. This shooting mode lets you place a predetermined piece of text over a photo, but it has serious limitations. To start, the phone only has a handful of preloaded watermarks and they are all rather cheesy: "I'm here!"; "This is my breakfast"; and so on. I couldn't find a way to download or access more watermarks. Worse, the watermarks only work when shooting in portrait orientation. If you're shooting in landscape orientation the watermark will appear sideways on the screen. I'll give Huawei credit for conceiving the idea, but the implementation is all wet.
When shooting in auto mode you can access a handful of settings, such as object tracking, timer, burst shots, and so on.
In all, I suppose the camera software isn't bad for standard use, but the extra features are half-cooked at best.
The SnapTo has a 5-megapixel sensor that pretty much met my modest expectations. The SnapTo managed to get focus and white balance accurate most of the time, but it had trouble with exposure. You can see the details are blown out in some of the flower shots below. My biggest complaint, though, is the grain. Nearly every image had granular artifacts degrading the overall quality of the shot. The grain was most prevalent in low-light settings, but I saw it in pictures captured outside during the day, as well. But in this price range, it's not fair to expect too much. The SnapTo's camera does just fine for what it is.
Video resolution maxes out at 720p HD and the SnapTo does a decent job of it. The results fell in line with those of the camera, but I noticed more consistent exposure and less grain. It's not a perfect video camera by any stretch, but the SnapTo delivers results good enough for capturing those everyday moments. If you have serious stuff to record, use a real video camera.
The Huawei-skinned gallery app doesn't present any challenges when it comes to managing your photos. The app lets you sort pictures by location, date, people, or album. It automatically generates a lot of these criteria based on when and where you shoot your pictures. Moving pictures from one album to another is no problem, nor is sharing images via whatever social network you might choose.
Huawei pulled the editing tools directly from the Google Photos app (which is also on board). The tools provide plenty of control over your images and manipulating them to suite your tastes. Crop, rotate, and straighten are just the basics. It also includes mirroring, scribbling (text), and exposure/levels controls, as well as an incredible array of Instagram-like filters for jazzing up the end results. You could spend all day messing with your photos.
The SnapTo is not branded by any US carrier, so it is devoid of carrier bloatware. Huawei did stick a few of its own apps on the phone, however, and some of them are actually quite neat. For example, there's an app called Phone Manager that can rate the SnapTo's performance. It scans the device to see what apps and services are running and then suggests what to shut down to improve performance or create more storage space, and so on.
The Phone Manager is also where you'll set your Do Not Disturb parameters and power-saving tools. Huawei also gave the SnapTo a "harassment filter." This app makes it easy to block spam messages or other unwanted scams and advertisements. You can also completely blacklist numbers and prevent them from contacting you at all.
Phone calls I made via Bluetooth sounded a lot better to my ears than did calls made via the SnapTo's earpiece. I was pleased with the volume and clarity pumping through my headset. Music sounded OK when pushed to a Bluetooth speaker, but I've definitely heard better. It doesn't help that the SnapTo lacks the aptX profile for the highest quality. If you need to pair and connect the SnapTo with other nearby gadgets you won't have any problems.
You'll find Chrome and the generic Android browser on the SnapTo. I was pleased with the performance from both browsers, which did an excellent job of rendering web sites. Speeds weren't the fastest, though, and other AT&T phones provided much better performance under the same signal conditions. As I've often stated, I prefer Chrome to the generic browser simply for its account-syncing tools.
The SnapTo's clock is rather hard to read. It's a white, digital clock perched close to the top of the lock screen. I could hardly see it when outdoors, and you simply cannot pick a white or light-colored wallpaper. I wish Huawei (and other phone makers) offered more control over the lock screen clock.
Google Maps interacted with the SnapTo's GPS quite well. It located me quickly and accurately. I didn't have any problems using Maps to navigate between points in real time. Maps did have trouble rendering satellite imagery on the screen, leading me to question the Snapdragon 400's performance once again.
The SnapTo also has a third-party app called Route 66 on board. This for-pay app is meant only for navigation purposes and not for finding the closest McDonalds.
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