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Huawei Verge review: Familiar design, forgettable performance

It's user-friendly and does what a phone should do, but not very well.

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Kent German
Kent_German.jpg

Kent German

Senior Managing Editor / Features

Kent is a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and has worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog, or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).

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6 min read

If you thought the last the cell phone I reviewed, the Samsung Array, was simple, then you obviously haven't met the Huawei Verge. Also known as the M570, it doesn't run Android or Windows Phone, it doesn't have a keyboard or a touch screen, and the camera is just a 1-megapixel job. Now I know that right now you're asking yourself, "Is this some ancient CNET review from 2003 that I'm seeing by mistake?" Good question, indeed, but you're seeing an honest review from 2012. As basic as it is, the Verge was born just in October, the same month as flagship smartphones like the iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920 went on sale. It wins points for being different, but the handset is just for making calls. And if that's all you want, MetroPCS has much better options like the Samsung Freeform III for just a few dollars more. The Verge is $49 with MetroPCs' no-contract service.

Huawei Verge (MetroPCS)
5.7

Huawei Verge

The Good

The <b>Huawei Verge</b> has a user-friendly design and a bright display.

The Bad

The Verge has variable call quality. The camera and Web browser aren't worth the trouble.

The Bottom Line

The Huawei Verge gets points for simplicity, but there are better basic phones in MetroPCS' stable.

Design
With its exceedingly basic candy bar design, the Verge could be a phone you found buried in your junk drawer. Sure, such a handset served you well a decade ago, but you've long switched to a smartphone and now have no use for such a relic. All understandable, but there is something to be said for such simplicity. You could hand the Verge to anyone and they'd know how to use it immediately. The rectangular shape fits nicely in your hand and the dimensions (4.57 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.49 inch deep) are comfortable. It wasn't so small that it got lost in a bag and I barely noticed it was in my pocket. The plastic shell gives it a flimsy feel, though. This is not a device you'd want to bang around.

The Verge's controls and keypad are comfortable and easy to use. Josh Miller/CNET

The 2.4-inch QVGA TFT display has a 320x240-pixel resolution. Yes, that's almost nothing, but it's full-color and you can control the brightness and the backlighting duration. And just like the old days, you even can change the clock style and write a personalized banner. The icon- and list-based menus are familiar and easy to use and you can add weather and calendar widgets to the home screen. There's also a shortcut tray that you can fill with up to nine preselected MetroPCS apps. It's a nice touch on such a basic device even if it doesn't pull in features that I'm aching to use.

The navigation array is spacious and well designed. There's a square toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a speakerphone shortcut, a Back key, and the Talk and End/power buttons. All controls are raised so you can use them by feel. I also like the alphanumeric keyboard below. There are individual buttons, instead of one big block of keys, and there's enough space to text quickly. Of course, that's assuming you remember how to use T9 predictive typing.

The camera lens and speaker are on the Verge's rear side. Josh Miller/CNET

Finishing up the Verge's exterior are the volume rocker and Micro-USB/charger port on the left spine. The rocker is large and easy to use without removing the phone from your ear. Around back you'll find the camera lens and a single speaker, and up top is a 3.5mm headset jack.

Features
As I mentioned, there's not much about the Verge's feature set that's interesting. The phone book holds 1,000 contacts with each entry having space for multiple phone numbers (and a fax number!), an e-mail address, and a URL. You can save contacts to groups and pair them with a ringtone and a photo. Interestingly, if you don't assign a photo, a stock avatar of a faceless guy in a blue suit will appear on your caller ID.

Other basic features include a stopwatch, a world clock, a calculator, a voice recorder, Bluetooth 2.1, a notepad, and the aforementioned weather and calendar apps. For written communication, the Verge has threaded text and multimedia messaging and e-mail through MetroPCS' portal.

The Huawei Verge is simplicity defined (pictures)

See all photos

There's a separate app that you'll have to install that gives access to Facebook and Facebook messaging, GTalk, and instant messaging through AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo. I guess it's nice that the app is there, but I'd avoid using it at all costs. Not only will you have to suffer through a slow data connection to use the Web-based app (while paying any data fees), but also typing is maddening on the alphanumeric keypad.

Standard studio shot Kent German/CNET

The camera maxes out at a 1-megapixel resolution. As you'd expect, features are pretty limited. There's a multishot mode, a self timer, four frames, three color effects, a night mode, and an adjustable white balance. That almost covers the basics except for a digital zoom and a brightness meter. The Verge does not shoot video and it lacks a flash.

Indoor shot Kent German/CNET

Photo quality is dismal at best, but that's what you get for such a low-resolution camera. Colors were muted, there was a lot of image noise, and the camera couldn't handle the contrast between light and dark areas. So like I said, it's not a camera phone.

Outdoor shot Kent German/CNET

The Verge has a bare-bones WAP browser. You're forced into the carrier's MetroWeb portal to start, but you have the freedom to move around from there. But even then the browser is more tedious than it's worth. I know that I've been spoiled by a touch screen, but with good reason. Navigating with the toggle takes forever and the stripped Web pages aren't any fun. There's also the matter of the data speeds, which I'll address below. MetroPCS also has the @Metro store for purchasing apps and using various services from the carrier, such Metro411 and MyMetro, for checking your account status. Here again, though, the experience just isn't worth the trouble. The Verge has about 66MB of user-accessible memory.

Performance
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Huawei Verge in San Francisco using MetroPCS' network. Call quality was resoundingly average. It wasn't terrible by any means, but it wasn't great, either. There was plenty of volume, which was nice, but there was a slight echoed effect and the audio paused on a few occasions. Voices sounded natural for the most part, though, and I didn't hear any static.

Huawei Verge call-quality sample Listen now:

Callers reported mixed conditions, as well. It was best when I was calling from indoors and not so good when I was outside. Most of my friends said the Verge picked up a lot of background noise as well. I didn't have a big problem with automated calling systems except under the same outdoor conditions. The speakerphone gets loud, but there's a lot of distortion at the highest levels.

A nice touch is that the Verge has a handy menu that pops up when you're making a call. Without disconnecting you can look up a contact, type a message, or write a memo. Inside, the Verge runs smoothly on its 192MHz processor, but there's not a lot to tax it anyway. Data speeds top out at 2.5G 1xRTT, which are achingly slow.

The Verge's 1,150mAh battery has a promised life of 5.5 hours talk time and 14.5 days standby time. During our talk time test, the device lasted 8.5 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Verge has a digital SAR of 0.79 watt per kilogram.

Conclusion
I won't cut a phone for being basic, but I'll strike it down for not doing its job. And that's why I can't recommend the Verge to anyone who just needs a phone to make calls. I admire Huawei's minimalist design angle, but the camera and browser don't do it any favors. And more importantly, its call quality doesn't measure up. Even if you're on a budget, the Samsung Freeform III is very much worth the extra $20. For that price you'll get a full alphabetic keyboard, more features, and superior performance.

Huawei Verge (MetroPCS)
5.7

Huawei Verge

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 6
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