If it's a small and simple smartphone you're looking for, the Huawei M835 may fit the bill. The very petite handset is the T-Mobile Comet rebranded, also known globally as the Huawei Ideos. The phone runs the stock Android 2.2 Froyo experience, without much additional fanfare. That's a wise move; for a phone with only a 2.8-inch touch screen, the cleaner design, the better. Still, the diminutive screen size quickly hindered typing and navigation on a handset that already suffers from lag time. Still, it's one of MetroPCS' most affordable smartphones, less than a third of the price of its most advanced model, the $300 Samsung Galaxy Indulge.
The M835 retails for $129, but at the time of this review, you can get it for $79 with an instant $50 rebate from MetroPCS. You'll use a $50-per-month unlimited voice, talk, and texting plan.
We enjoy a petite, attractive smartphone just as much as the next guy, but there comes a point when small is too small. There's nothing wrong with the glossy black smartphone's compact dimensions--4.1 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide. (At 0.5 inch thick, it feels thick for the phone's height. At 3.0 ounces, it leans toward the light side of the spectrum.) It's the Huawei M835's 2.8-inch TFT screen that dances the line. On a display that small, the QVGA 240x320-pixel resolution looks sharp, colorful, and bright (it supports 262,000 colors.) However, the icons are on the smaller side, and navigating icons and browser links may frustrate those with larger or less precise fingers. Even with the Swype keyboard installed by default, our text was riddled with errors. With all the room beneath the display, we wonder if Huawei couldn't have made a slightly larger screen. Like many other cell phones, the M835's display washes out in bright sunlight.
Below the display are four touch-sensitive buttons to go back, bring up the menu, go home, and search. Below that are tall, narrow Call and End buttons, and a large circular select button whose silver-colored rim also serves as a four-directional navigator. As we said, the M835 has a glossy, plastic black body with curved corners, and a soft-touch finish on the back cover. There's a Micro-USB charging port on the bottom, the volume rocker on the left, and the power button and 3.5-millimeter headset jack up top. There's an indicator light on the face that flashes green when you have a new message or alert, and flashes red when your phone is perilously close to dying.
The camera lens is on the back cover, and beneath it you'll find the microSD card slot. Sadly, the memory port is positioned in a way that you'll have to power off the phone and remove the battery to slide the card in and out, an inconvenience.
Like other smartphones, the M835 has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, speakerphone, multiple e-mail accounts, texting, and multimedia messaging. As an Android phone, it also integrates Google services like Google Maps and navigation, voice search, and YouTube, and it has the standard Android music player as well.
The phone runs on Android 2.2 Froyo, with its customary five customizable home screens. It's unfortunate to see the phone one version behind Android 2.3 Gingerbread, although the differences between the two OS versions is slight enough that most people won't notice a huge loss. What Android fans may notice, however, is the phone's lack of hot-spot capabilities. Suppressing that feature is common for both more entry-level Android phones and for handsets on prepaid networks with all-inclusive rate plans. Using the hot spot to provide Wi-Fi for other devices usually costs an additional $30 per month on other networks, so in skipping that here, you'll also avoid the recurring monthly extra.
MetroPCS' typical apps have a home on the M835, including shortcuts to the carrier's own app store, navigation, backup app, and browser, among others. One of the most interesting is VCpay, the carrier's venture with MasterCard to provide a virtual prepaid debit card (note that there's a $1.50 monthly fee.) Several other apps are also preloaded onto the phone. Documents to Go, an IM and social networking app, Loopt, PocketExpress, Richpad, and Sound Recorder are among them.
The Huawei M835 has a 3.2-megapixel camera and camcorder, which is about what we'd expect to see on a phone of this type. There were fewer controls than on other Android phones, with settings just for image size, location options, white balance, presets, and zoom.
Unfortunately, the quality of both still shots and videos is a disappointment. Colors in outdoor shots were often wan in shadow and overexposed in bright sunlight, and often both lacked focus. Indoor shots were also lacking, and without a flash or night mode, you'll want to avoid taking photos at night. The camcorder produced videos on the grainier side, which were jerkier in playback than that on other phones. The colors again paled in comparison to real life, and motion sometimes blurred on playback. Will the feature work for getting the message across? Absolutely, but don't hang your hopes on pristine quality; they'll just keep dangling. The M835 has 256MB internal memory, but accepts up to 32GB external storage for multimedia hounds. It comes with a 2GB microSD card in the box to get you started.
We tested the dual-core (CDMA 800/1700 or 1900/2100, depending on the city) Huawei M835 in the San Francisco Bay Area using MetroPCS' network. Call quality was pretty poor. Although volume was fine to our ears, we heard a lot of background noise. Voices also sounded a little muffled and digitized. Our callers didn't hear background noise, they said, but our voice sounded piercing, even with the volume turned down. While our voice didn't sound clouded, they said, it wasn't exactly clear, either.
Voice sample: Huawei M835 call quality sample
Speakerphone was also disappointing. Volume was low on the M835, and the white noise and voice distortion intensified. On their side, our caller noted a lower volume, but it was still enough to hear. Still, it retained a muffled quality and audio cut in and out a couple of times.
MetroPCS doesn't have a 3G network and is slowly building out its 4G network for a currently (very) small selection of 4G-enabled phones. The M835 has 2.5G speeds, which feels achingly slow by 4G standards. Even worse is the handset's pokey 528 Mhz processor. There was significant lag time between opening, closing, and switching apps and navigation in general, so patience is a prerequisite for anyone considering this device.
Battery life is also mediocre, only up to 4 hours talk time and up to 8.8 days on its 1,200 MaH battery, and even less if you use data. The FCC measured the handset's digital SAR at 0.82 watts per kilogram.
You get what you pay for with the Huawei M835. $80 isn't outrageously high for a prepaid phone; in fact, it's pretty low for an Android phone of any class. Unfortunately, the M835 (just like the Comet on T-Mobile and the Ideos the world round) offers nothing special, just slow performance, poor call quality, and a diminutive screen. For $20 more you can find a better handset in the LG Optimus M, which costs $99 at the time of writing. While the M835 may still appeal to some, we wouldn't recommend it.