If you want to jump in the Android pool like the cool kids but you don't have the money to shell out for pricey goods like the Motorola Droid Bionic or the Samsung Galaxy S II, you might want to consider a budget smartphone to help kick off your Android habit. One such handset for AT&T is the Huawei Impulse 4G, which is considered an entry-level handset. Huawei is a relatively new handset maker in the U.S., and while it has made a few inroads in the smartphone arena, it has mostly kept to the budget entry-level line, like this phone for example.
The Huawei Impulse 4G is essentially the Huawei Ideos X5 (or the Huawei U8800) dressed up in AT&T clothing. Back in February when the Ideos X5 was released, its 5-megapixel camera, 800MHz processor, and Android 2.2 FroYo operating system placed it in the midrange category. Today, we consider the Impulse much more of an entry-level handset based on the more advanced Android phones that are out today. Fortunately, the Impulse 4G is only $29.99 after a two-year service agreement, making it one of the cheapest 4G phones in AT&T's stable.
Design and interface
Because the Impulse 4G is so similar to the Huawei Ideos X5 we reviewed earlier this year, we'll point you to that review for the full design details of the phone. The overall shape and size of the phones are exactly the same, as is the 3.8-inch WVGA display. Even the operating system looks similar, which we think is kind of a shame. We do think Android 2.2 is acceptable as an entry-level operating system, but we're starting to expect Android 2.3 Gingerbread in lower end handsets these days. In other words, we hope the Impulse 4G is eligible for a firmware upgrade further down the road.
We are happy that Huawei wisely stuck to Google's stock design for its Android interface. You get the usual five customizable home screens, and the menu looks and feels like vanilla Android. Aside from the default multitouch Android keyboard, you also get the popular Swype keyboard as an option.
Features on the Impulse 4G are pretty standard Android fare. Because it only has Android 2.2, you won't get the snazzier interface that Android 2.3 Gingerbread provides. You still get decent smartphone features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, plenty of e-mail support, and more. It has that same 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and 720p HD video capture as well. For more details on the features of the Impulse 4G, please refer to our review of the Huawei Ideos X5.
As you might expect, AT&T bundles the Impulse 4G with a variety of different AT&T apps like AT&T CodeScanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Live TV that works well if you're also a U-Verse subscriber, and Layar, an augmented reality browser. Many of these apps are not removable.
One of the key features of the Impulse 4G is that it supports AT&T's HSPA+ network, which AT&T claims is 4G. This makes it one of the most affordable 4G handsets on the market. We'll get to its HSPA+ speeds in the Performance section below.