4G World: AT&T Impulse 4G by Huawei Impressions

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AT&T Impulse 4G MenuChinese manufacturer Huawei was one of the few exhibitors showing off its consumer devices on the show floor at 4G World in Chicago this week, and among them was the AT&T Impulse 4G, an affordable entry-level smartphone that was released last month on September 18. I got a chance to spend some time with the device (AT&T’s first smartphone with Huawei) which, while relatively ordinary, is still a solid 4G handset that will do well to help ease feature phone users into the world of smartphones at a very low price.

Personally, I thought the Impulse felt good in my hand because it was lightweight and had a nice matte finish on the back. But some people don’t like it when phones are as light as this one, as it may instead come off as feeling a little cheap or hollow, especially considering the fact that it looked like it should have weighed more; this is not a particularly svelte device. A rather thick and chubby smartphone, the Impulse is almost half an inch thick and measures in at 4.7″ x 2.5″ x 0.46″, yet only weighs 4.41 ounces.

AT&T Impulse 4G ThicknessWithin that frame, the Impulse sports a pretty roomy 3.8-inch, 800 x 400 touchscreen, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a volume rocker on the left side, and a 5-megapixel camera on the back capable of 720p HD video recording. Perhaps less impressive, however, is the fact that it’s powered by an 800 MHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor. Other features include a micro USB port, GPS capabilities, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Huawei’s regional account manager, Randy Ayala, who was showing me the Impulse, said that the device runs a vanilla version of Android OS 2.2 (Froyo). And while this was true, what I wasn’t used to seeing was the way the apps menu scrolled vertically and continuously, with the apps fading away when I scrolled as if they were on a wheel. I thought it looked nice and somehow made it feel like a more interactive and lively menu. It was a refreshing change from the comparatively bland usual set up of having the apps separated into pages that you sift through horizontally.

The Impulse is short on a few features, but considering the fact that it goes for a mere $29.99 with a new 2-year contract with AT&T, I can’t knock it too hard; this is clearly an entry-level smartphone and should be judged as such. Just be aware that it’s missing a few things like a front-facing camera and a dedicated physical camera button. Also unfortunate is that the microSD card slot (which is certainly welcome and can expand the phone’s meager 512 MB of onboard storage up to 32 GB) cannot be found on the outside of the phone. Instead, I had to remove the back panel and insert the included 2 GB card into a slot in the back. Otherwise, for what it is — a dirt-cheap smartphone — it’s a pretty impressive device.

AT&T Impulse 4G Wi-Fi HotspotWhile the Impulse’s shortcomings were somewhat expected given its low price point, its ability to tether or serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices stood out as a very pleasant surprise. Though I unfortunately could not test them out, it was nice to see an entry-level smartphone sport features that are lacking on some other, more expensive handsets. That being said, nothing that good comes for free; in order to use Wi-Fit hotspot capabilities, you have to sign up for AT&T’s Data Pro 4 GB plan, which will run you $45 per month.

The best thing the Impulse 4G has going for it is its value, because all things considered, it’s an excellent deal. It may not be anything too fancy, but you still get a few standout features — namely 4G connectivity, tethering, and Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities — for only 30 bucks. If you’re looking for a handset that isn’t too advanced but can support 4G speeds, the Impulse 4G might just be the entry-level smartphone that you’re looking for.

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