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Huawei Ascend Q for Cricket hands-on

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Huawei is showing its Ascend Q, a low-end portrait QWERTY smartphone that will launch on Cricket in August.

Gallery Photo: Huawei Ascend Q for Cricket hands-on
Gallery Photo: Huawei Ascend Q for Cricket hands-on

We just spent a few minutes with Huawei's Ascend Q, a low-end Android handset with one very special feature that sets it apart: it's a portrait QWERTY model, still a sad rarity in the smartphone market. Its 3.2-inch HVGA display washes out easily and has a full millimeter of gap between the glass and the display element itself, so users will pretty quickly identify this as a cheap device if they've spent any time with an iPhone or virtually any AMOLED — but we imagine Cricket will be looking to price it aggressively when it launches in August (we're told it could be on shelves as early as July 31st).

The keyboard — which features ridges on each key that curve away from the middle — is surprisingly easy to use considering the phone's diminutive size (and my relatively large hands). Stepping down to a single-core 800MHz Scorpion processor is a little jarring after months of using dual- and quad-core devices, but the basic elements of the UI (and even the browser) seem to hum along well enough to avoid frustration. A 3.2-megapixel camera around back is on photography duty; under the hood, you've got 512MB of RAM and 2GB of expandable ROM (though using Cricket's Muve Music feature requires that you stick with the bundled DRM-enabled card).

Speaking of Muve, the Ascend Q features a DTS logo prominently on its soft-touch back right below the Huawei logo. This appears to be an answer to the proliferation of Beats Audio — whether DTS has the same brand recognition among consumers that Beats enjoys is another matter altogether, but we're told that the surround sound effect that the phone offers over headphones is pretty convincing.

Regardless of webOS's fate, the Palm Pixi form factor lives on. Huawei tells us to expect more details on the Ascend Q closer to launch.