I haven't used the word "fun" to describe a phone for a long time, but the thought crossed my mind after I began playing with the Huawei Pinnacle for MetroPCS. No, the portrait QWERTY cell phone doesn't have flashing lights like the LG dLite, and it won't project images on a wall like the Samsung Galaxy Beam, but it does provide an engaging user experience and some colorful accents on the chassis.
This is the phone you get when you want to focus on texts, and on personal-assistant applications. However, the smaller 2.4-inch screen, sluggish processor, and slower 2.5G network speeds make waiting for Internet a real drag. And unfortunately, it stumbled on call quality.
The price is one sweet spot. Originally $49.99, the Pinnacle now costs $19 after a $30 mail-in rebate. Considering all the goodies inside -- including a music player, hooks into social networks and e-mail, and the ability to create folders, to name a few -- the Pinnacle is a nice surprise.
There are ugly phones and boring phones, and the Pinnacle is blessedly neither. It's got a gray face and a smooth black back coated with a soft-touch finish, but what stands out for me are the circle motif on the navigation buttons and the bright red accents on the navigation toggle and on the keyboard. Otherwise, it's a medium-size cell phone that comes in at 4.3 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick. The 3.5-ounce weight is a little light, but it does feel fairly balanced in the hand. At least it won't sit like a brick in your pocket or purse.
The Pinnacle's screen would be on the small side for a touch-screen phone, which this is not. Instead, the configuration is pretty typical for this type of portrait QWERTY handset. Its screen measures 2.4 inches on the diagonal, which works OK with the keyboard combination for navigating and entering numbers and text. Resolution is a typical QVGA (320x240 pixels) on a TFT screen with support for 262,000 colors. All this leads to colors and sharpness I can't complain about.
One of my favorite things about using the Pinnacle is navigating through the interface. It's a proprietary operating system, but it borrows heavily from Android's visual philosophy in its graphically rich icons, and it has bubbly menu options reminiscent of Web 2.0. Huawei has offered up a lot of control over finer points of the phone experience. For instance, you can choose among six brightness levels, set your ringtones, and turn on predictive text for typing. You can't do everything, like tweak the font, but I generally felt like I had options.
Soft-key buttons control the menu options and widgets. As with many MetroPCS phones of this class, poking the central select button also pulls up a bar with shrunken apps, most from MetroPCS or its partner publishers. These include Metro Navigator, Metro411, Metro Mail, Pocket Express, and an IM and Social app shortcut that can get you chatting on social networks and checking Twitter and Facebook.
This extra app portal creates a disjointed experience. It isn't obvious that unique tools are there, the icons are teeny-tiny when you do find them, and not all the app shortcuts are readily available from the tool and app folders within the standard menu.
I mentioned that the navigation array is one area I liked. It consists of round Call and End buttons on either side, a large central select navigation toggle in the middle, and soft keys in between the two. You'll also see a speakerphone button and a Back button flanking the central navigation.
Beneath the navigation, four rows of keys rise from the surface to form a QWERTY keyboard. While it's compact, I didn't have any problems with spacing, and I like the rounded tops. However, typing wasn't as comfortable or as fast as I've experienced with other keyboards before. I got used to it, and it's fine, but perhaps the buttons are just a tad stiff.
You'll find that the hardware button to launch the camera shares space with the symbol button. You have to press and hold and wait to launch the app. Hardware shortcuts are a good thing, but it's odd and unfortunate that there's no Menu control for accessing the camera.
On the right spine you'll find the Micro-USB charging port and up top there's the 3.5mm headset jack. The volume rocker is on the left, and the 1.3-megapixel camera/camcorder lens is on the back cover. Pop off the back cover to get at the microSD card slot, where you can pump in up to 16GB more memory.