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If you don't know who Coolpad is, you're not alone. Though its name sounds like something you set your laptop on to bring down its temperature, it's actually a phone maker in China. And while it's still a small fry compared with the heavyweight OEMs we have here, Coolpad is trying to get into the American market with its first U.S. smartphone, the Quattro 4G.
Currently, the device is one of Metro PCS' seven 4G LTE handsets and is going for $149 without a contract. The mid- to entry-level phone has a 4-inch screen and a meager 3.2-megapixel camera. In addition, its slow 1GHz processor barely gets by, despite running on the carrier's 4G LTE network. This all results in an underwhelming debut performance from Coolpad that I hope, given enough time, will improve from here on out.
The Coolpad Quattro 4G is reminiscent of the T-Mobile MyTouch from Huawei, except bigger. It is 4.96 inches tall, 2.6 inches wide, and 0.51 inch thick. Aesthetically, I'm only a fan of the phone's silver back plate. Its textured quilted design is unique and chic, and the tapered bottom is a nice touch, too.
However, the device itself is quite boxy, with a thick bezel, wide profile, and almost a half inch of dead space underneath the screen. Its light plastic build (it weighs 3.32 ounces) gives it an almost toylike feel. And while it's fine to throw into a shoulder bag or backpack, it'll take up a lot of room in a clutch. It's also bulky and uncomfortable when placed inside the front or back pockets of jeans.
On its right is a volume rocker. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and a sleep/power button. On the left is a shortcut key to the camera, and at the very bottom is a Micro-USB port. The back hosts a 3.2-megapixel camera and LED flash. There's also a small open slit for the output speaker at the bottom. Because there's no indentation that you can use to pry off the back plate, removing it is very difficult. If and when you do eventually pry it away, you'll get access to the 1,600mAh battery and microSD card slot.
The 4-inch touch screen has a 480x800-pixel resolution. The display's pretty impressive; colors are vibrant, and menu icons and text look crisp and clear. Default wallpaper images are bright, though there's a noticeable amount of graininess in the images.
Unfortunately, the screen isn't very responsive. I ran into a few hiccups while carrying out simple tasks such as swiping through the five home screen pages, typing on the keyboard, and scrolling through the app drawer. My touches were either "too light" or they registered inaccurately, so I ended up opening an app or keying in a letter I didn't intend to.
Above the display is an in-ear speaker and in the top right corner is a VGA front-facing camera. Below are four navigational keys that light up when in use: menu, home, back, and search.
Powered by a 1GHz processor, the handset is sluggish. There's noticeable lag when launching apps like the camera or the game Temple Run, switching the screen from portrait to landscape mode, and transitioning back to the home screen.
It runs on last season's Android 2.3 Gingerbread, making it feel already dated before it comes out of the box. It comes with the usual trove of Google apps: Gmail, Latitude, Maps with Navigation, Places, Play Books, the Play Store, Search, Talk, and YouTube.
Aside from the usual basic apps (a calculator, a calendar, a clock with an alarm function, a native e-mail client and music player, a news and weather app, a sound recorder, and a voice recorder), there is a slew of other preloaded features thrown in, such as an app for mobile hot-spotting; the always credible Yahoo Answers; IM and Social, which consolidates all your social-networking portals; an emergency app that gathers emergency and Amber alerts; the mobile media suite known as Pocket Express; and a live TV app called IntoNow.
The phone also comes preloaded with Rhapsody's music subscription service. For an extra $10 a month, on top of a $50-a-month unlimited talk, text, data, and e-mail plan, you can search for and download thousands of albums and artists on major U.S. record labels. You can't play songs offline unless you add them to a playlist, but the service is intuitive and easy to use.
There's a handful of MetroPCS apps as well, including M Studio, which stores media files like ringtones; MetroPCS Easy Wi-Fi; Metro411, which searches and locates for nearby businesses and restaurants; an entertainment and media app called MyExtras; and MyMetro, which lets you check your account balance and plan.
Camera and video
The 3.2-megapixel camera doesn't offer many options. Aside from a 1.6x digital zoom and flash, it has five white balances, two shutter tones, an exposure range from -2 to +2, four picture sizes, three picture qualities, and five color effects. The front-facing camera does not have the zoom, flash, and white balance options, and only two picture sizes. Video recording offers even fewer options. You can choose among four video qualities and four shutter tones.
Not surprisingly, photo quality was poor. Edges weren't well-defined, dark hues were hard to distinguish, and colors bled together. In dim or low lighting, you can see a lot of digital noise and graininess, and an odd pink color would appear on white backgrounds. The front-facing camera fared even worse, and overly washed out bright lights.
Video recording was also disappointing. Audio didn't pick up well, and voices that were nearby in real life sounded 10 feet away in the recording. There was also a low humming noise, and picture quality was grainy. Though the feedback didn't lag much behind the motion of the camera, lighting was all over the place since it took a while for colors to adjust.
I tested the quad-band Coolpad Quattro 4G (800, 1700, 1900, 2100) and call quality was excellent. Sounds sounded clear and isolated, and there was no extraneous buzzing or dropped calls. However, maximum volume could be louder. Speaker quality came off a little tinny and harsh, especially on max volume, but it wasn't too irritating.
Coolpad Quattro 4G call quality sample
MetroPCS' 4G LTE network isn't the most robust, but data speeds were passable. Loading the CNET mobile site, for example, took an average of 10 seconds, while loading our full site took 27 seconds. Surprisingly, The New York Times' full site took slightly longer on average, clocking in at 29 seconds, and its mobile site took 16 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 23 seconds on average, and its full site loaded in 20 seconds. The 22MB game Temple Run downloaded and installed in an average of 6 minutes and Ookla showed me an average of 1Mbps down and 1.3Mbps up.
During our battery drain test, the device lasted 5.8 hours. Anecdotally, it didn't last too long. Standby time barely lasted overnight and after just a few hours talking on the phone and watching videos, its reserves drained almost halfway. According to FCC radiation tests, the handset has a SAR rating of 1.4W/kg.
Despite the solid call quality and 4G LTE data speeds, both the phone and Coolpad have a long way to go. And instead of coming out with a bang, Coolpad debuted more with a whimper. The Quattro 4G has frustratingly low-end specs, and its Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS is a real letdown. If you want a 4G LTE prepaid device on MetroPCS, consider the LG Motion 4G instead. It has a dual-core processor, a 5-megapixel camera, runs on Android 4.1 Ice Cream Sandwich, and most importantly, it's the same price as the Quattro.