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Christmas Gift Guide

Your basic Android smartphone

Design

Typing troubles

Top view

Photo test

Focal foul

Toys

Flower power?

Also unfocused

Table

Studio shot

U.S. Cellular recently picked up the Huawei Ascend II, an entry-level Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone that doesn't stray far from the basics.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The Ascend II's design is attractive enough, with smooth round lines and a grippable soft-touch back cover. It's fairly petite without being tiny, so it's easy to cart around.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The 3.5-inch screen isn't too shrunken on its own, but typing was tough on the default keyboard, especially without Swype or other keyboards preinstalled to help out. I made a lot of errors.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
I kind of like how the headset jack straddles the top and back.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
First, the compulsory note: All photos were taken with automatic settings. While they have been resized, they are otherwise unaltered.

The Ascend II has a 5-megapixel camera, which certainly isn't extravagant, but could be capable of producing great pictures. It doesn't. Without a flash or autofocus, taking photos was a crap shoot.
Caption by / Photo by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
I was aiming for the chiseled Captain Marvel. Instead, Mr. Bacon stole the spotlight.
Caption by / Photo by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
The Ascend II did better than it could have with this scene. The focal field is a tad deeper than for some smartphone cameras.
Caption by / Photo by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Looking at this blurry photo of flowers, taken in early morning light, makes my eyes hurt. The color representation is good, though.
Caption by / Photo by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Here the leaves look better than the blooms, which I was trying to make my main subject.
Caption by / Photo by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
The slatted chair-and-table combo outside CNET's office looked decent photographed with the Ascend II.
Caption by / Photo by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
The Ascend II did OK with the standard studio shot, but not every object is in focus.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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