AT&T Fusion U8652 review:

AT&T Fusion U8652

If you're not too picky about your smartphone camera, you might find it a handy addition when you just need a swift shot. The Fusion's 3.2-megapixel lens lacks flash and auto-focus, so it'll do its best shooting outdoors in natural light. You can forget the close-ups. While I took some acceptable photos in a lush Milwaukee back yard, indoor photos there and in San Francisco were subpar, and even the suburban nature scenes came out duller and flatter than in real life.

Unless you're very patient, don't expect too much on the focus front. The same goes for video, too, of course, so prepare to be judicious. You can get a better idea of the range of camera quality in this photo gallery.

AT&T Fusion
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Greens are less vibrant with the Fusion than they are in real life. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I tested the quad-band (GSM 800/900/1800/1900 MHz) AT&T Fusion in the San Francisco Bay Area. Call quality sounded rickety on the phone. I was able to make appointments and have conversations without the other party asking me to repeat myself, but jabs of digital distortion and metallic pings reached my ears. Louder settings, like the wind rustling through trees, muted some of the more distracting effects. Volume was a little low, especially with outdoor calls.

On her end, my chief phone tester found audio decent, with no extraneous buzzing. She said I sounded natural and fairly clear.

AT&T Fusion call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone volume dropped immediately on my end, and was tinny and a little echoey. To the landline I called, I sounded distant and grainy, with hollowness and white noise. Audio also clipped in and out, especially at the ends of my sentences.

The Fusion's 600MHz processor felt slow, with noticeable lag between events. It takes apps a second longer to load, which contrasts sharply with some Android smartphones equipped with a 1GHz processor. As far as data speeds go, the Fusion is solidly a 3G phone. The app recorded diagnostic download speeds that peaked at 1Mbps and upload speeds as high as 0.33Mbps.

In real-world testing, the Fusion was able to access the New York Times' mobile-optimized site in about 17 seconds, and reached its full site in 42 seconds. CNET's mobile site came in at 28 seconds, with the desktop site loading after 1 minute and 23 seconds. The phone also hung on e-mailing a group of photos, until I hopped on a Wi-Fi connection an hour later.

Anecdotally, the battery wasn't very long-lived on the Fusion -- drain was noticeable even when inactive. CNET will continue to test the talk time.

If you're seeking an entry-level prepaid Android handset for a low price, the AT&T Fusion GoPhone costs a reasonable $125 and has the good graces to look nice. Unfortunately, the tardy performance, dull camera, and missing basics like a pinch-and-zoom screen chip away at all the positive points. The Samsung Galaxy Appeal, another prepaid AT&T GoPhone in a similar price range, has a smaller screen, and an only OK keyboard.

Considering that the arguably best prepaid Android phone with AT&T, the Pantech Crossover, costs $100 more, the Fusion may wind up suiting your needs. Since you aren't tied to AT&T with a prepaid plan, I'd also recommend shopping around for other prepaid smartphones in the price range, perhaps even the Boost Mobile's Samsung Galaxy Prevail, which is by now a little older.

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