Editors' note: This review has been updated with in-store pricing.
The T-Mobile Comet is a rebranded version of the Huawei Ideos, which is a low-cost Android phone. It certainly is budget-friendly; the entry-level smartphone is $9.99 with a two-year contract (alternatively, you can get it as a prepaid option for $200) and offers some nice features, such as Android 2.2, a compact design, and excellent call quality. However, it also suffers from a smaller display and sluggish performance, and our review units had a design malfunction. We'd suggest spending just $20 more for the LG Optimus T, which offers better hardware and additional features, for free with contract.
At just 4.09 inches tall by 2.16 inches wide by 0.54 inch thick and 3.6 ounces, the T-Mobile Comet is quite the petite handset. It's certainly easy to travel with, and the curved edges and rounded corners make it comfortable to hold, but we have some concerns about the overall build quality. It's not so much the durability, as the handset feels quite solid, but the plastic piece covering the navigation control area started peeling off almost immediately. It could be an isolated situation, but we received two review units and it happened on both. In one instance, simply pressing down on the plastic cover fixed the problem, but in the second instance, the left corner kept popping back up, which only got worse as more dust and debris collected on the adhesive strip.
The Comet features a 2.8-inch WVGA (320x240) capacitive touch screen. In an affordable, entry-level device, the lower-resolution display is to be expected, and we found the screen to be sufficiently bright and clear. It's also quite responsive, as it registered all our touches and smoothly scrolled through lists and menus. However, there is no multitouch support, and the display's smaller size definitely hampers the Web browsing and multimedia experience. It also makes for a cramped onscreen keyboard, but the inclusion of Swype alleviates the problem, as it's easier to swipe from key to key than to peck at the small buttons.
Below the screen, you get touch-sensitive keys for the back, menu, home, and search shortcuts, and beneath those are talk and end keys and a navigational D-pad. Note that the outer silver ring is used as the directional keypad, while the big black button in the center is the select key. With the touch screen, we didn't find much need to use the D-pad, but it does come in handy when trying to click on links within a Web page.
There's a volume rocker on the left side, and a power button and 3.5-millimeter headphone jack on top of the device. The camera is located on the back, while the microSD expansion slot is behind the battery.
The T-Mobile Comet comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, and reference material.
The T-Mobile Comet ships running Android 2.2, which is great since some of the higher-end smartphones aren't even running Froyo yet. With it, the smartphone offers such features as voice dialing over Bluetooth and the ability to save apps to an SD card. The OS also technically supports Flash 10.1 Player, but due to hardware limitations, the Comet does not. You still get all the standard Google services, however, and fortunately T-Mobile doesn't bog the phone down too much with unwanted services.
The Comet's voice features include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone is also 3G-capable and has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Unlike the LG Optimus T, the Comet can't make calls over Wi-Fi.
The smartphone can handle multiple e-mail and social networking accounts, including Gmail, Yahoo, Exchange, Facebook, and Twitter. We had no problems adding our Gmail, Exchange, Facebook and Twitter accounts to our review unit, and we received messages and updates without problem. The Comet offers a unified inbox and calendar, though you can choose to keep your accounts separate if you prefer.
Multimedia capabilities on the T-Mobile Comet are pretty standard. The built-in music and video player supports a range of music and video codecs, including MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MPEG4, WAV, and MIDI. The music player's interface leaves much to be desired, but it supports on-the-fly playlist creation, shuffle/repeat modes, and a "Use as ringtone" feature. The handset also has an FM radio and a dedicated YouTube player. The Comet only has about 149MB of internal memory, but as we mentioned earlier, T-Mobile includes a 2GB microSD card and the expansion slot can accept up to 32GB cards.
The Comet has a 3.2-megapixel camera. Editing options are pretty limited, but you get white-balance settings, digital zoom, geotagging, and video capture. Picture quality was pretty much what we expected: grainy with dull colors. Still, you can make out the objects in the photos, and shots taken outdoors fared better. Video quality was pretty murky.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA) T-Mobile Comet in New York and call quality was quite good. On our end, the audio was clear with little to no background noise, and voices sounded rich and full. Friends also reported good results and didn't have any major complaints.
T-Mobile Comet call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality was also impressive. Calls sounded rich and full without any of the tinniness and hollowness that often plagues speakerphone calls. In addition, there was enough volume to have conversations in noisier environments. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
We got pretty reliable 3G coverage in Manhattan, though there were spots, such as Midtown, where it wavered from 3G and EDGE. Over 3G, CNET's full site came up in a minute, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 7 seconds and 12 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos loaded within several seconds and played back without interruption and with synchronized audio and sound. There is the option to switch to high quality, but with such a low-resolution screen, it doesn't make much of a difference.
The Comet is powered by a 528MHz processor, and though we never experienced any major problems or delays, the smartphone can be sluggish at times. It always registered our commands, but the handset could hang for a couple of seconds before launching the appropriate app or task.
The T-Mobile Comet ships with a 1,200mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 9 hours and up to 12 days of standby time. The Comet fell well short of the promised talk time in our battery drain tests, offering just 5 hours of continuous talk time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Comet has a digital SAR rating of 1.27 W/kg.