It's not often that we get to review a cell phone from a new company (at least, new to us). That's why we requested to examine the Huawei M328 from MetroPCS. Though it's hardly the flashiest phone around--it doesn't even have a camera--we wanted to see what the Chinese company was all about. In fact, the M328 is perfectly suited for MetroPCS's no-frills, no-hassle service. Though we had a few design complaints, it offers decent call quality and an easy-to-use interface. You can get it for just $79; that's a fair price, given that MetroPCS does not make you sign a contract.
The Huawei M328 doesn't put on any design airs. The silver flip phone shows none of the design trends popular today: it's not particularly thin, it doesn't come in multiple colors, and it's not a slider. It's not unattractive, but it won't stand out in a crowd either. At 4.54 inches by 1.77 inches by 0.7 inch and 3.2 ounces, it's portable and lightweight, but we were divided on its long-term durability. The hinge is sturdy, but the plastic skin feels the tiniest bit cheap.
The M328s external display is a bit small (1.1-inch) and we weren't crazy about the vertical orientation. Yet even so, it manages to be useful by showing the time, battery life, and signal strength. The display supports 65,000 colors, but you're never able to put it to good use since the M328 doesn't support photo caller ID. Just note that the display disappears when the backlighting is off. The backlighting time isn't adjustable, but you can reactivate the screen by pressing the volume rocker. It's also worth noting that the M328's glossy front face attracts fingerprints and smudges.
On the left spine you'll find the aforementioned volume rocker, and a proprietary charger port and a 2.5mm headset jack are located on the right spine. A small, round speaker sits in the lower-left corner of the front face.
The internal display measures 1.8 inches and supports 65,000 colors. Though it could be larger and the graphics could be sharper, it's perfectly suited for this caliber of phone. You can change the backlighting time only. The icon-based menu interface is straightforward and intuitive; we had no issues finding the features we needed.
The navigation array is quite spacious with a tactile four-way toggle and central OK button. The other controls--which consist of two soft keys, a clear control, and the Talk and End/power buttons--are flush but we didn't have any issues with misdials. We would prefer a dedicated speakerphone key, however.
The keypad buttons are a mixed bag. They're flush with the surface of the phone, and we couldn't help but notice they felt a tad flimsy. We could dial and text quickly, but we're concerned about their long-term durability. The central row of keys is recessed, but the backlighting is dim and the numbers are too faint.
The M328 has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for four phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with one of 11 polyphonic ringtones. As mentioned previously, the phone does not support photo caller ID, but that's a minor point on a phone without a camera.
Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, Web-based e-mail, a voice recorder, an alarm clock, a scheduler, a calculator, and a stopwatch. The M328 offers a respectable 4.8MB of internal shared memory.
You can personalize the M328 with a variety of banners and wallpaper. More options, and additional ringtones, are available from MetroPCS via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You also can record your own ringtones and save them to callers. The M328 doesn't offer any games, but MetroPCS offers an assortment of applications for download.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; 1xRTT) Huawei M328 in San Francisco using MetroPCS service. Call quality was quite decent on the whole. We enjoyed a strong signal in urban areas with little static or interference. Voices sounded natural, though the volume was a tad low. We had to strain a bit to hear in noisy environments. On the other hand, while the speakerphone was quite loud, the audio was distorted at the highest levels. On their end, callers said we sounded fine. A few reported that the phone picks up background noise, but that was the extent of complaints.
The M328 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 8 days standby time. Our tests showed a longer talk time of 6 hours and 35 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the M328 has a digital SAR of 1.38 watts per kilogram.