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Huawei Impulse 4G (AT&T) review: Huawei Impulse 4G (AT&T)

Huawei Impulse 4G (AT&T)

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Nicole Lee
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Nicole Lee

Former Editor

Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.

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4 min read

If you want to jump in the Android pool like the cool kids but you don't have the money to shell out for pricey goods like the Motorola Droid Bionic or the Samsung Galaxy S II, you might want to consider a budget smartphone to help kick off your Android habit. One such handset for AT&T is the Huawei Impulse 4G, which is considered an entry-level handset. Huawei is a relatively new handset maker in the U.S., and while it has made a few inroads in the smartphone arena, it has mostly kept to the budget entry-level line, like this phone for example.

Huawei Impulse (AT&T)
7.0

Huawei Impulse 4G (AT&T)

The Good

The <b>Huawei Impulse 4G</b> is a decent budget smartphone with a colorful and intuitive touch-screen display, 720p HD video capture, a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T's HSPA+ network. It's also very affordable.

The Bad

The Huawei Impulse 4G only has Android 2.2, and we experienced inconsistent HSPA+ speeds.

The Bottom Line

The Huawei Impulse 4G satisfies the basics of most Android phones, but its outdated software and inconsistent speeds keep us from fully recommending it despite its bargain price.

The Huawei Impulse 4G is essentially the Huawei Ideos X5 (or the Huawei U8800) dressed up in AT&T clothing. Back in February when the Ideos X5 was released, its 5-megapixel camera, 800MHz processor, and Android 2.2 FroYo operating system placed it in the midrange category. Today, we consider the Impulse much more of an entry-level handset based on the more advanced Android phones that are out today. Fortunately, the Impulse 4G is only $29.99 after a two-year service agreement, making it one of the cheapest 4G phones in AT&T's stable.

Design and interface
Because the Impulse 4G is so similar to the Huawei Ideos X5 we reviewed earlier this year, we'll point you to that review for the full design details of the phone. The overall shape and size of the phones are exactly the same, as is the 3.8-inch WVGA display. Even the operating system looks similar, which we think is kind of a shame. We do think Android 2.2 is acceptable as an entry-level operating system, but we're starting to expect Android 2.3 Gingerbread in lower end handsets these days. In other words, we hope the Impulse 4G is eligible for a firmware upgrade further down the road.

We are happy that Huawei wisely stuck to Google's stock design for its Android interface. You get the usual five customizable home screens, and the menu looks and feels like vanilla Android. Aside from the default multitouch Android keyboard, you also get the popular Swype keyboard as an option.

Features
Features on the Impulse 4G are pretty standard Android fare. Because it only has Android 2.2, you won't get the snazzier interface that Android 2.3 Gingerbread provides. You still get decent smartphone features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, plenty of e-mail support, and more. It has that same 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and 720p HD video capture as well. For more details on the features of the Impulse 4G, please refer to our review of the Huawei Ideos X5.

As you might expect, AT&T bundles the Impulse 4G with a variety of different AT&T apps like AT&T CodeScanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Live TV that works well if you're also a U-Verse subscriber, and Layar, an augmented reality browser. Many of these apps are not removable.

One of the key features of the Impulse 4G is that it supports AT&T's HSPA+ network, which AT&T claims is 4G. This makes it one of the most affordable 4G handsets on the market. We'll get to its HSPA+ speeds in the Performance section below.

Performance
We tested the Huawei Impulse 4G (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 850/1900/2100) in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. Call quality was decent on the whole. Voices sound loud and clear, and as natural as a cell phone call would get. There was hardly any background noise either, though we did detect the occasional buzz. Callers reported similar call quality, and praised the clarity of the call.

Speakerphone sounded good, though it did have more buzz and distortion than we expected. Callers said we were much quieter, and we had to speak up to be heard.

Huawei Impulse 4G call quality sample Listen now:

We have to say that our experience with the Impulse 4G's HSPA+ speeds were wildly inconsistent. In downtown, we had horrible speeds. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we got an average of 1.01Mbps down and 0.31Mbps up. When were at home in the outskirts of San Francisco, we had very good speeds of around 5.78Mbps down and 0.77Mbps up. They still don't compare to the LTE speeds on Verizon, but they're good for HSPA+ speeds. Similarly, when we were in downtown San Francisco, we had to wait almost three minutes to load the full CNET Web page, while we loaded the same page in just 25 seconds at home. Thus, we have to say that our speed test is inconclusive since it varies wildly from place to place.

The Huawei Impulse 4G has a rated battery life of 4 hours. FCC tests measure the digital SAR at 0.34 watt per kilogram.

Conclusion
The Huawei Impulse 4G is a decent entry-level smartphone for AT&T customers. It has a workable 800Mhz processor and basic smartphone features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and good e-mail support. However, it's saddled with Android 2.2 with no clear sign of a possible upgrade in the future, and we don't think its inconsistent HSPA+ network qualifies it as a true 4G phone. Yet, for only $29.99 with a new two-year agreement, you might be able to overlook its deficiencies.

Huawei Impulse (AT&T)
7.0

Huawei Impulse 4G (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7
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