If you're into white cell phones and resistive touch screens, retro-cool would be one way to describe the Huawei M735 for MetroPCS. If you're not, the word you could be looking for is "outmoded." The milk-white device has its appeal, but it also has one feature we haven't seen since the middle of the last decade and one that, like go-go boots and acid wash jeans, we're not quite ready to welcome back: a stylus for navigating the resistive touch screen.
To its credit, the M735 is a 3G-capable handset with e-mail, IM, pretty good photos for a 3-megapixel shooter, and a workable MP3 player. This BREW-based cell phone uses an operating system and interface quite similar to that found in the Huawei-made T-Mobile Tap, a benefit or detriment depending on your preference. On the downside, browsing speeds in our tests were more leisurely than zippy, call quality was variable, and speakerphone was on the quiet side. The stylus may not bother those for whom it's a novelty, but it hindered our speed. The Huawei M735 costs $99 without a contract.
MetroPCS called the Huawei M735 a "stylish" cell phone, and indeed, its distinctive look sets it apart from the pack of bland, black handsets. Its white body and rounded corners are reminiscent of the elusive white iPhone, but the physical comparison stops there. Silver trimmings and a touch of green, blue, and red on the buttons add a splash of color. At 4.1 inches tall, 2.2 inches wide, and 0.45 inch thick, the candy-bar-style M735 sits at the smaller end of the scale. It is petite enough for small hands, but not so tiny it will get lost in a purse or bag. The 3.7-ounce weight is a fine fit for the handset's dimensions.
The M735 has a 2.8-inch QVGA touch screen that supports a 320x240-pixel resolution. Unlike most cell phones we see today, the M735 uses a resistive rather than capacitive touch screen technology. While the screen feels smooth to the touch, it won't register light presses with your finger. You'll either need to press firmly to make a gesture or selection, or use the roughly 2-inch-long stylus that tucks neatly into the back of the phone. Resistive screens and the stylus are largely obsolete. In addition to taking more effort to use than a finger swipe, a stylus is easy to drop or misplace. Though we were able to navigate with our fingers, the stylus was often quicker and more precise.
Beneath the screen is a circular navigation toggle with a central Select button. On either side are the Tic Tac-shaped Talk and End buttons. The volume rocker and camera shutter are on the right spine. A 3.5mm headset jack is on the top, adjacent to the Micro-USB charging port. On the back is a 3-megapixel camera, far above the stylus pocket that sits at the bottom right corner of the M735's back. Pop off the back cover to access the microSD card slot. It holds up to 8GB external memory. Unfortunately, removing the SD card can be tricky.
The display itself is fairly clear and bright. There are five home screens that you can populate with widgets from a pop-out menu. If you're familiar with Samsung's TouchWiz 2.0 interface, you'll know exactly what do to with these widget trays. If you're not, adding and removing widgets may take some getting used to. We don't happen to be fans of this style. Along with the hardware stylus, the widget tray is one "feature" best left to the past.
At the bottom of each home screen are four static icons for the dialer, your message inbox, the app launcher, and a screen lock. After the screen times out, you'll slide the unlock bar to access the phone's display.
As for customizations, you can select the backlight time and brightness in the settings menu. There's also a banner you can customize, along with wallpaper for each of the home screens.
Note that since the M735 does not have an accelerometer (we don't hold it against Huawei), rotating the device won't produce a horizontal virtual keyboard. Instead, you'll need to tap an icon on the keyboard you see in portrait mode to expand to the QWERTY view. It is possible to type with your fingers, but the screen is a skosh small to accurately type this way--the stylus is faster in this case.
Although the M735 is most definitely not a smartphone, MetroPCS has done a sound job instilling it with useful apps. Before we get there, however, let's address the address book. It holds 1,000 names with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, and notes. You can also assign a calling group, a custom ringtone, and a custom image. Unfortunately, the phone lacks the ability to take a contact picture from the address book; you'll need to add it from the media folder or from the photo-editing mode after you snap the portrait.
The essential tools are all there: a calendar, an alarm, a voice recorder, and a memo pad. There's also a world clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a weather forecaster. As for connections, the M735 supports Bluetooth 2.0, mass storage mode, and airplane mode.
On the communications front, the 3G-capable M735 handles texting and photo messaging. Instant messaging for AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo clients is available for free through the Mobile IM app. E-mail comes to you from the Mail@Metro app, a standard addition to most MetroPCS-offered phones. While it has a basic, outmoded-looking interface, the mail app isn't hard to sign in to Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and AOL accounts. You can also sign on to further Web Mail accounts, and can manage multiple accounts from the same interface. There are a few tools and shortcuts to make the mail client simple enough to navigate, including a handy feature for seeing who you most recently contacted.
Although the phone doesn't technically have GPS, MetroPCS does provide location services with its included Metro Navigator app for turn-by-turn directions. Keep in mind that the Navigator app, like others, requires downloading before you can use it. An app store, backup service, and directory are other MetroPCS-sponsored services you'll find on the M735.
The browser, on the other hand, has been co-branded by MetroPCS and Opera. We're ordinarily big fans of the Opera Mobile browser, but we found this implementation to be overly slow, even in areas with strong 3G signal (the M735 uses the older, slower EVDO Rev. 0 rather than the newer, faster Rev. A). It took almost a minute to fully load CNET's Web site and 15 seconds to fully load the New York Times' mobile-optimized site. It's worth noting that CNET's very graphically rich desktop site loaded, not the usual mobile-optimized site that loads faster. Still, Opera Mobile, a standard HTML browser, typically works better on smartphones with high processing power. MetroPCS would have done better choosing Opera Mini, a lighter, typically faster version of the browser optimized for Java phones. On the upside, phone owners will get the full Web experience, as long as they're patient.
If you have a microSD card installed, you can take advantage of the M735's music player. Right off the bat you choose from one of three modes (album art, waveform, lyrics, when available). Controls aren't fancy, but they're sufficient. You can sort by artist, album, or playlist; pause, skip, and mute, your tracks; create a playlist on the fly; use the repeat and shuffle tracks; and rotate through equalizer presets. The phone also makes it easy to begin playing a song via Bluetooth and set the tune for an incoming ringtone, and so on. We did notice a slight hiccup each time we selected a menu item--this seems related to the phone's system-wide response to button presses. Volume was strong and the songs sounded fine when we paired the M735 with a moderate set of headphones. We were able to simultaneously play music and send an e-mail, but using the hardware camera button closed the player.
That handily brings us to the multimedia portion of this review. On top of the typical options and settings, the 3-megapixel shooter has some touch-sensitive controls: swipe vertically to zoom in or out (if you're at lower than the maximum resolution) and horizontally to adjust the brightness. You can also achieve the latter by using the navigation toggle. After snapping a photo, it's easy to turn the picture into one of your five wallpapers or a contact image. You can also share the picture or view the gallery.
Tapping the screen once pulls up hidden options. Tap each option to cycle through five resolutions, five white-balance settings, night mode, three self-timer presets, and four border effects. There's also a choice for shutter sound, and an option to take a single shot or action modes that snap off four or nine shots in rapid succession. Photos were not bad for the megapixel size; the colors were fairly strong and edges fairly sharp in indoor lighting. Natural lighting improves the outcome as usual. Although it's no knock on the phone, just keep in mind that the M735 has no video-recording feature, so you won't be able to capture movies. The M735 has 68MB of internal memory and, as we mentioned, can hold up to 8GB more.
We tested the Huawei M735 in San Francisco using MetroPCS' network. Call quality was variable, with some very good and some very poor calls. Voices sounded natural and mostly true. Volume was perhaps a bit weak; with the volume all the way up, we could hear with no problem. Sometimes, however, we heard a persistent high whine, compounded by spates of heavy distortion that caused callers to sound like we ran their voices through an Auto Tune program. Our callers didn't notice the distortion, but they did note that we sounded muffled at times and cut off at the highest frequencies.
The speakerphone control is a little tricky to find at first, and speakerphone functionality suffered from low volume that made us lift the phone closer to our ear. Apart from the volume, voices sounded fairly true to life on both ends.
Huawei M735 call quality sample Listen now:
The M735 has a rated battery life of 6.5 hours talk time and 14.6 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 6 hours and 56 minutes. FCC radiation tests measure the M735's SAR at 1.11 watts per kilogram.