Huawei Ascend (Cricket Wireless)
Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
Typical Price: $159.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.0 / 5
The good: The Huawei Ascend runs on Android 2.1 and features a sleek design and a nine-home-screen grid for the 3.5-inch HVGA display. The file manager app is a handy addition, as is Swype as the default keyboard input method.
The bad: The Huawei Ascend has terrible call quality and a 2.5-millimeter headset jack instead of the 3.5mm standard. There are too many preloaded apps, and the dialer interface lacks a call end button.
The bottom line: Though poor call quality sours the Huawei Ascend, this smartphone delivers Android-based computing features to prepaid users at a great price.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
China-based Huawei may not be a well-known brand in the U.S., but that could change with the Huawei Ascend, an Android 2.1 phone now selling at Cricket Wireless. Though its $150 price tag (or $130 with a limited-time online discount) is no match for T-Mobile's $30 LG Optimus T, keep in mind that Cricket won't make you sign a contract. By contrast, Cricket's Sanyo Zio comes with a $180 price tag and the outdated Android 1.6 operating system.
The Ascend is quite a package, too. It brings a 3.5-inch HVGA touch screen, support, and 3G and Wi-Fi. Build quality is nice, and the handset is sleek and attractive. Yet there are a few gaps in the feature set that you'll have to overlook. Huawei has chosen a 2.5-millimeter headset jack instead of the standard 3.5-millimeter port, and Cricket has choked the home screen and app tray with over a dozen preloaded apps that aren't removable in the Settings application manager. Call quality in our tests left much to be desired on Cricket's roaming network. Despite these faults, the Ascend is easily Cricket's best phone in terms of hardware.
For a budget smartphone, the Huawei Ascend has its charms. It features rounded corners and a sloping chin. Its glossy black plastic face and back are dressed up with a dark gray bezel and polished chrome sides. While we wouldn't recommend dropping it, the Ascend looks like it could take a few licks and keep on ticking. At 4.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.55 inch deep, it's on par with other smartphones in terms of pocketability. Weighing in at 4.7 ounces, the Ascend has a very solid feel in the hand; it likewise feels fine on the ear.
We prefer touch screens measuring 3.5 inches or more for optimal visibility and touch usability, and the Ascend fits the bill. Its 3.5-inch HGVA display has a 480x320-pixel resolution and supports 262,000 colors. Sure, it's not the most advanced screen on the market, but for the phone's price and feature set, it doesn't need to be. We had no complaints all around. Though it's plenty bright in power save mode, you can adjust the Ascend's display if you prefer a more radiant screen. The virtual keyboard has large buttons that are easy to press. It comes with Swype loaded up by default, which lets you trace the letters of the word you'd like to type. You can change back to the standard touch keyboard by pressing and holding within a text field and then selecting "input method."
The display, of course, takes up the majority of the Ascend's real estate, with a trackball and four hard key buttons below--Menu, Back, and heavily stylized Talk and End keys. Like all hardware buttons they take a firmer press than most touch-sensitive controls, but they also lead to far fewer mispresses. The trackball is an admirable addition for those who prefer to keep finger smudges off their phone's screen.
Huawei has done a nice job of tucking the camera button, volume rocker, power button, and microSD card slot into the right and left spines. Even better is the hatch that uncovers the Micro-USB charging port and the 2.5-millimeter headset jack, although we'd have called for a standard 3.5-millimeter jack. On the rather plasticky back cover is a chrome-plated module housing the 3.2-megapixel camera lens.
One result of Android's openness is that phone manufacturers and carriers can stock the OS' start screen with their own flair. Huawei's take is a mix of playfulness and clutter. The rectangular onscreen navigation bar contains large, almost cartoonish, finger-friendly icons that open the app tray, the phone book, the contact list, the text composition window, and a view of the home screens.
Huawei has stamped another mark on the Ascend by giving the smartphone a nine-panel home screen in a grid design. That means you can swipe through three home screens from east to west, and three for each screen from north to south, while filling up each with widgets, shortcuts, and bookmarks. Typically for the Android operating system, pulling down the notification drawer at the top of the screen provides access to messages, open apps, and so forth.
The Ascend sports several icons that differ from the Android standard, including new icons for the dialer, gallery, and calculator. Despite the visual noise of the interface right out of the box, the Ascend is mostly easy to navigate. We took umbrage, however, at the dialer interface, which forces you to open the Menu to end a call onscreen (you can still use the End button) and turn on speakerphone. A dedicated call end button like we see on almost every other smartphone would have been better.
The Huawei Ascend comes equipped with a satisfying set of hardware and software features. You'll find voice dialing, a speakerphone, threaded text and multimedia messaging, and the full range of wireless options: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, and GPS. The phone book is limited only by the available memory, and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, IM handles, group IDs, photo caller IDs, and so on. You can merge contact information from various accounts, such as Gmail and Outlook--as with every Android phone, some of our contact information was out of sync.
On the apps front, there are the usual Android 2.1 offerings, like the HTML browser, Google Maps, Gmail, Navigation, Places, YouTube, an audio recorder, and the Latitude social location app. A file manager handily lists the phone's multimedia files.
The aforementioned interface clutter is apparent with the nine apps that come preloaded on the phone. Cricket's branded apps and shortcuts include a browser, a storefront, an account manager, and a backup manager. You'll also find third-party apps like Midnight Bowling 2, Uno, and Photobucket. Annoyingly, none of these apps can be deleted from the Settings menu. Documents To Go (free version) and Poynt are our favorite of the preloaded bunch, but you'll need to purchase the full version of Documents To Go to use its editing and drafting capabilities. Additional free and premium apps, like instant-messaging options, are available through the Android Market.
For e-mail, the Ascend caters to Gmail, POP3, IMAP, and Exchange accounts. A combined in-box color codes messages from all your accounts, but you can also view each account separately. Search functionality would be helpful for finding messages. Android supports e-mail attachments, a big bonus compared with some of the other white-labeled apps we see on other feature phones in Cricket's lineup.
A 3.2 megapixel camera and camcorder captures your memories in stills and video. We've seen the stock camera module on many an Android phone, with the onscreen controls for easily toggling between camera and video mode, and for viewing a previous picture. Although an onscreen button is present, we prefer to use the hardware shutter instead. Zoom controls and camera settings are accessible by touch, though you can also find camera settings through the hardware menu key.
There's no flash, which made the photo quality of indoor shots a bit dull and blurry. Natural light improves the image detail, though the resolution is still not high enough to replace your dedicated camera. Video quality was fine for a cameraphone, though expect some choppiness during playback. Android makes it easy, however, to share shots and video through multimedia messaging, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, e-mail, and other networks. There are 512MB of internal memory and a 16GB card slot; the Huawei ships the Ascend with a 2GB card to get you started.
The Ascend also uses the stock Android music player, which sorts tunes by artist, album, song name, and playlists. Shuffle and party shuffle mix up the order, and the player displays album art when available. It's still a simple player by some smartphone standards, but it offers a nice experience, especially for those who are new to the Android platform. As we've said before, the largest drawback of the Ascend is Huawei's decision to use a 2.5-millimeter headset jack instead of the 3.5-millimeter standard.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1,900; AWS 1,700) Huawei Ascend in San Francisco on Cricket Wireless' roaming network, since San Francisco is outside of Cricket's coverage area. Sadly, call quality was poor. Callers' voices were blanketed by a persistent muffle that made them sound like they were lisping. White noise further disrupted the audio, plus occasional background blips that sometimes cut out a second of the conversation. Our callers heard garbled speech as well, but didn't complain about volume.
Low volume was our main speakerphone complaint. Volume levels plummeted on both ends, with the caller asking to suspend speakerphone after only a handful of seconds into the call.
Huawei Ascend call quality sample
During our browser tests we got just 2.5G speeds much of the time even though the Ascend is a 3G-capable phone. CNET's full Web site loaded in just under 30 seconds. The phone's 600MHz processor makes the Ascend a tad sluggish at times, but to be fair, it's acceptable given the phone's price, and we were pleased with the phone's value overall.
The Ascend has a rated talk time of 3.5 hours and a standby time of 12.4 days. As with many Android phones and other smartphones, screen brightness and demands on system resources drain the battery over the course of a full day or two of frequent use. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 43 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Ascend has a digital SAR of 1.19 watts/kilogram.
|Cellular technology||CDMA2000 1X|
|Talk time||Up to 210 min|
|Short Messaging Service (SMS)||Yes|
|Combined with||With digital camera / digital player|
|OS provided||Android 2.1|
|Included accessories||Stereo headset, Power adapter, USB cable|
Average User Rating: 3.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 72
4 Star: 43
3 Star: 22
2 Star: 11
1 Star: 41
Great phone. I was very surprised.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 21, 2010
20 out of 27 users found this review helpful
Pros: Android market that seamlessly integrates with all Google Products (voice, gmail, talk, contacts, maps, navigation, listen, etc) | Battery Life | Good wi-fi & 3G speed | Sturdy build (nothing cheap about it) |
Cons: The only con I have found in my 3 full days of use is that it sometimes stalls when you have multiple apps running in the background at the same time (like Pandora, Skype, mp3 player). Those apps are memory hogs, so it's expected from the 1 GHz Proc
Summary: Why everyone doesn't purchase this phone outright and use it on Cricket's reliable 3G network for a $55/month unlimited, no contract plan is a mystery to me.
I demo'ed the voice & gesture search to my uncle today (who travels constantly with his iPhone 3G S) and he was very impressed. I was getting 3 bars of service in B.F.E. and using the GPS Google Sky app and he was getting nothing at all...and at the same time, he was very impressed with the speed and the nexus theme. I even linked it to his Infinity M35 through Bluetooth and played Pearl Jam on the way home.
I didn't have my expectations too high when ordering this phone. I previously dated an iPhone but hated being a contract slave and paying more than I felt was responsible every month, while also envying the Android platform. I thought this was a phone (and a plan) I wouldn't have to make a commitment to -- and that after a month or two, I would settle into a long term relationship with a better Android product.
I don't know if I'm still wearing beer goggles -- or I just woke up beside a 10. Either way, we're both having fun and seem to get along quite nicely. Maybe she's the one???
If you're doing your research before investing in this hand candy, take the plunge. The water's fine. This cheap date is one you can have a ton of fun with...and then proudly show off to momma.
Way better than ZIO! Great phone!
Rating: 4 / 5
on October 27, 2010
16 out of 22 users found this review helpful
Pros: Comparing the ZIO (Cricket's other Android phone) to the Huawei Ascend isn't even fair. The screen on the Huawei is far more responsive, apps run much faster and it feels like a quality phone in your hand where the ZIO fails on all accounts.
Cons: So far, after two weeks, I am still very impressed. Added a 16gb card still no slow response times. The same 16gb card made my ZIO chug and freeze-up.
Summary: Compared to the ZIO, the Huawei is a slam dunk!
Android with fantastic price / plan / reception!
Rating: 5 / 5
on October 29, 2010
17 out of 26 users found this review helpful
Pros: Most reasonable plan anywhere and I am so sick of making those big, fat executives at AT&T richer. Excellent phone and 3G reception. Android platform flexibility! Great looking phone, great screen at an excellent value that exceeded my expectations.
Cons: The only negative thing about this phone is having to teach people how to say Huawei. , "Wah-way...(insert friend's dog-like sideways head tilt here---and repeat)...WAH-WAY!" You kinda sound like Gilda Radner's impersonation of Barbra Walters.
Summary: Android everything with a super excellent value phone and plan. Much more than I expected. And I am getting great reception in Kansas City. My roomies T-Mobile phones have issues in my house so I was anticipating issues and was very curious to see what sort of reception this Cricket Ascend would have - but no problems here.
There is also a little known advance payment benefit that Cricket offers...if you pay three months in advance you get one month free. Not sure why this is not advertised widely, but about a year ago I got a text on my old Cricket-flashed Palm Pre about getting one month free if I paid for three months in advance. IT'S AWESOME!!!! I ask each time I go to pay my bill if the offer is still good and it is. SO---that means my $55 monthly unlimited talk / text / internet plan goes down to $41.25 (plus taxes) per month. Isn't this unbelievable?
And, btw, who needs insurance?! I got mine online for $129.99. At $5 a month for insurance ($60 a year) why not just buy a new one IF you need to. And as far as that goes, a year from now I might want a different phone...and since there is no contract I can upgrade myself WHENEVER I WANT and sell my old phone on craigslist or something.
Updated on Oct 29, 2010
Surprisingly better than most Androids on the Market
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 26, 2010
13 out of 20 users found this review helpful
Pros: Everything you could ask for comes inside the phone. Fast web browsing, web pages are crystal clear, the call quality is great and with a bluetooth device even better. Does not feel cheap at all like described by other sites
Cons: The only thing I do not like is the 2.5 mm jack. I would have liked to have plugged it into my aux in my car and take my music on the go but I'll get the MIFI that they have and connect my Ipod that way so it's no big deal. Sucks but oh well
Summary: Overall the Huawei Ascend is a great phone and the price makes it even better. I would have preferred a 3.5 mm jack on the phone so maybe the next one they come out with will have that but overall, two thumbs up to Huawai for making a great phone and having it run on Android 2.1 is even better.
Updated on Nov 10, 2010
Perfect for Entry-level Android users.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 21, 2010
7 out of 11 users found this review helpful
Pros: Relatively responsive Android device for low cost. Intuitive design and function. Runs Android 2.1 OS and has full access to Android marketplace.
Cons: Some physical components of the phone feel a little cheap. Moderate Lag from the processor (only time I have incurred was while installing new shortcuts to home screen or running more apps than I needed to be).
Summary: The main reason I bought this phone was to because most of my online organization is run through google (gmail, google calendar, google maps, etc.). After 3 days of use (so far), I haven't found much that has made me regret buying it.
Prior to buying this phone I heard some negative input about the overall construction of the phone. The body of the phone itself feels pretty solid. The back plastic casing picks up finger prints like you wouldn't believe and feels slick to the touch after holding in your hand for a while but the overall rigidity is fairly strong. The only thing that concerns me about the construction of the phone, at this point, is the unorthodox "pressable" buttons that surround the roller ball (below the touch-screen). These buttons are a single, flat, plastic panel that resembles brushed aluminum. It is flexible enough to "receive" the input you are attempting, but this flexibility makes it feel like you could pull it off of the phone without much effort. There is also a gap between this panel and the touch-screen that is liable to collect some dust-bunnies and crumbs over time. The volume rocker, camera button and power switch are all located on the side of the phone and seem pretty functional. I like that the micro-USB port is covered but it's location at the top of the phone, along with the fact that it is concealed within the same port cover as the headset-jack, seems a little cumbersome.
The performance of the phone is surprisingly good, given the phone's price-point. As you probably know, it runs on Android 2.1. As I mentioned before, the only lag I have gotten from the processor is while accessing the menus required to install a new shortcut to the home screen. Other than that, even with 8-10 apps running, I have not incurred much lag.
The battery life of the phone is also relatively extensive. The fact that I have limited phone usage probably doesn't make me the best judge of battery life, but I have made it through the day with 50% battery life remaining after 10 hours.
Interactiion with the phone is very intuitive. The screen and keyboard are extremely responsive and accurate. The keyboard rotates from "profile" to "landscape" view within a single second of rotating the phone itself (compared to an I-phone and it even seemed to rotate faster). When viewing web pages it seems to take a little longer to "organize" all of the items on screen after rotating. The phone also vibrates slightly when you are typing, which is a nice little feature.
The camera seems decent. The quality of picture is good (in adequate lighting). The lens is concealed in a housing that will probably attract debris.
Usually the phone function of a device like this is the first thing that would be mentioned in a review like this. For some reason I am getting to it last (sign of the times). The sound quality of a call is slightly "tinny" but this does not seem to affect clarity. The call functions are simple until you reach the time where you have to end a call. The only function I have found to hang up is to select the "menu" button on the press button panel and wait for it to load the "end call" function. This has left my voicemails with 4-5 seconds of empty space at the end, but it's not a big deal and I'm sure there might be a more intuitive function to end calls that I am just not aware of. Overall, it hasn't been a big enough issue to even be considered an annoyance.
Finally, one word about cricKet and their infamous customer service. I know that their (outsourced) service personnel is a controversial topic. I, however, haven't had a single issue with them to date. They were extremely helpful in getting my phone number ported over and explained to me every step necessary to reset the device after my number was successfully ported. This isn't to say that I won't run into customer service issues down the road, but so far, they have been nothing but helpful.
In summary, for a price of $150 retail, this phone actually goes beyond what I expected. Only several minor hitches prevent it from getting a full five-stars.