On top of that, Cricket and Huawei have their own apps to preload. Huawei Music is one example. It's Android's basic music player with a Huawei skin. You'll see a host of Cricket apps for managing your account and backups, most of them practical and useful.
In addition, third-party titles come preinstalled, like the Documents To Go document viewer, the Let's Golf 2 and Asphalt 5 game demos, and Richpad, a notepad. You'll also find an FM radio onboard.
The Mercury comes with two cameras, both controlled by the default Android camera software. There are multiple scene and white-balance settings, plus the usual adjustments you can make for flash and zoom. The Mercury has an HDR (high-definition range) option, which is a very nice touch.
Photo quality was pretty good when viewed on the Mercury's screen and on a desktop screen, especially for shots taken outdoors in bright or even lighting. I took all shots using the phone's automatic settings. Edges were fairly defined, and colors looked sharp and true to life. Indoor shots, on the other hand, suffered. While skin tones were fine, photos looked duller and much less detailed. The experience was pretty consistent with my findings from the Huawei Honor (see the Honor photo gallery here and the Mercury gallery here.)
Self-portraits taken with the front-facing camera were pretty poor--grainy, off, and hard to look at--but if you must use it, it'll work. The Mercury has room for 2GB internal memory and, again, holds up to 64GB in expandable storage.
I tested the Huawei Mercury on Cricket's roaming network. Call quality was very good overall. According to the caller, my voice was loud (maybe too loud), clear, natural, and distortion-free. The sound was reportedly better than typical cell phone quality.
On my end of the line things were nearly as rosy. The volume and voice quality were beyond reproach on the Mercury, but I did detect an ongoing haze of white noise that persisted even when my caller and I both fell silent. It was light enough not to pose a distraction when outdoors, but inside a quiet space, it was more noticeable and distracting. Occasionally there were also blips that interrupted the audio, and voices on the other end would sometimes cut in and out.
Huawei Mercury call quality sample
Speakerphone was pretty impressive on the Mercury. Volume was strong when I held the phone at waist level, voices sounded pretty natural, and I was confident I could hear my caller in a louder setting. There was a bit of crackle and reverberation, so speakerphone wasn't flawless, but it's one of the best I've heard on a smartphone. My caller found the speakerphone call perhaps a little quiet, but extremely clear and natural, without any clipping or a whole lot of echo. We both agreed that we could have a long, fruitful conversation on the Mercury.
Nobody wants a phone that will slow you down. The Mercury's 1.4GHz processor is definitely adequate in this way. On the other hand, 3G data speeds in my tests didn't impress compared with phones on other networks. Again, this is Cricket's roaming network here in San Francisco, so results could vary for you. While data-intensive tasks like loading Web pages and installing apps did lag, they got there in the end.
To give you a better sense of the numbers, I tested the Mercury's speeds at various locations in the San Francisco Bay Area using Ookla's Speedtest.net diagnostic app. I never saw numbers faster than 0.3Mbps down and 0.21Mbps up. In the real world, this may not be a problem for sites optimized for mobile viewing. For instance, the New York Times mobile site loaded in 12 seconds, with the desktop site loading its last element in 36 seconds. CNET's mobile site finished in a pokier 35 seconds. The full desktop version of the Web site dragged behind at more than a minute.
The Mercury has an impressively large 1,900mAH battery and a rated battery life of up to 6.5 hours of talk time and up to almost 16 days of standby time. Unfortunately, however, the battery life was nothing out of the ordinary, and in fact, the charge barely seemed to last a day during my testing period. According to FCC radiation tests, the Mercury has a digital SAR of 0.77 watt per kilogram.
If you're looking for a higher-end smartphone on Cricket, the Huawei Mercury is about as fancy as you can get right now. While not all promises for the battery and camera pan out quite to the expected degree, the Mercury is nevertheless a nice package for Cricket's off-contract customers, and the price is comparable to what you'll find on other similar carriers. This isn't the phone (or network) that avid Web surfers should latch onto, and be forewarned that the Mercury isn't eligible for Cricket's Muve Music plan. If unlimited music downloads are what you're after, the Samsung Vitality is going to be more your type. Still, with fine call quality, a 4-inch screen, and nice outdoor photo quality, Cricket's Android options are looking up.