Huawei Pal review:

Way too basic to even bother

As for other features, you're looking at a miniscule list. There's messaging, a memo pad, an audio recorder, a stopwatch, a calculator, world and alarm clocks, and a calendar. The Pal also comes with designated folders for photos, ringtones, and other files that aren't already on the phone. If you do manage to download anything, you'll have 25MB of storage.

There's not even a volume rocker. Josh Miller/CNET

Lastly there's an ancient-feeling WAP browser that runs on a slow 3G network. Certainly, you can use it to browse, but you'll see only the most stripped down of mobile Web pages. Unless you've only used a WAP browser for the past decade, it's pretty tedious. The browser also connects to the carrier's MetroWeb portal where you can check your customer account. The Pal runs BREW 3.15, though it has no games to speak of.

I tested the dualband (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the Pal's premier feature (making calls) doesn't quite pull through. It does connect and the MetroPCS signal only fluctuated when I was underground or deep inside a building, but the audio was patchy and callers sounded rather robotic. The volume level could be louder, as well. And while I'm on the subject, the only way to change the volume when you're on a call is to use the navigation toggle.

Speakerphone calls are louder thanks to the single speaker on the Pal's rear side, but they're scratchier than normal calls. Though that's not a huge surprise on a basic phone, I still wouldn't use it unless I was all alone in a quiet room and sitting right next to the phone. At the end of the day, my call quality issues probably won't bother anyone who just keeps the phone in the glove compartment for emergencies. Anyone else, though, should look elsewhere.

The Pal has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 14 days of standby time. During our battery test for continuous talk time, it lasted just 4.85 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Pal has a digital SAR of 1.33 watts per kilogram.

As I said, there's nothing wrong with a simple cell phone. The Huawei Pal, on the other hand, borders on primitive. Between its small screen, empty feature list, and numeric keypad for texting, there's not enough here for even the most casual user. And when you throw in the disappointing call quality, you have a device than can't adequately perform its primary (and, frankly, its only) feature. That's why I suggest opting for the Samsung Freeform M if you're just looking for a free phone on MetroPCS. You'll get a much more user-friendly device that will do a lot more.

What you'll pay

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