WIND Mobile Huawei U8350 Review

Daniel Bader

December 5, 2011 1:23 pm

Another day, another inexpensive Android QWERTY device. Last week we took a look at the slightly more expensive Motorola Pro+, and today we have the smaller, slower and significantly cheaper in price Huawei U8350 from WIND Mobile.

The device retails for $135 outright, or for free on the WIND’s Tab+, but either way you slice it the phone, known as affectionately as the “Boulder”, is a far cry from the high-end Android scene. Can the versatile operating system be adapted to run well on a device such as this? Read on to find out.

Specs:

– Android 2.2 Froyo
– 2.6″ 320×240 display, 65k colours
- 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor
– 256MB RAM, 512MB ROM
– 3.2MP camera
– WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS
– 115 x 62.8 x 9.9 mm
– 105g

The Phone

We were shocked when we first picked up the Boulder to discover its bezel was actually made of aluminum. With a smooth, uniform finish and high-quality plastic keys, it is a relatively well-made device. The keys don’t rattle, and are sprightly to the touch; the right-side volume rocker feels lively, and for such a small device it possesses an assured weight to it.

The keyboard in many ways surpasses the quality of phones three times the cost: we were able to touch-type on our first try, and each button has a satisfying click. Their rounded shape makes it easy to delineate between keys, and the placement of each is first-rate.

Above the keyboard is the standard Android quartet: Home, Menu, Back and Search, and between them in a four-way directional pad with a selection button in the middle. Each of these is dramatically oversized, but nothing compared to the massive Call and End buttons right underneath the screen. It seems like they padded out the size of each function key because they didn’t want to invest in a bigger screen.

Said screen is exactly what you’d expect from a device that costs $135: grainy, colourless and flat, with narrow viewing angles and extreme fuzziness. Due to the awkward 3:4 aspect ratio (as opposed to 4:3 or 16:9, which is what most Android devices have) the screen is stuck in landscape mode. While other devices such as the HTC Status got away with the same design, their screens were of significantly higher pixel density. As it is the Boulder can barely fit anything on its screen: you’ll barely get through two lines of text on an email before scrolling down.

Responsiveness is pretty bad, too, which is likely why Huawei stuck a four-way directional pad on the front, BlackBerry-style. Though not well used, Android supports analog movement and selection, and it actually comes in handy on this device. The Boulder’s design is appropriate for basic text-based communication. For anything else, we’d recommend going with something more powerful and touch-friendly.

Performance

There isn’t much “performance” to speak of inside this device. With specs akin to the original HTC Dream circa late-2008, the Boulder runs stock Android 2.2 at a pace only a mother could love. It manages to wheeze its way through five home screens and a sparse app drawer, and but for access to the Android Marketplace we’d have sworn this was a feature phone.

It does come with all the stock Android apps that we love, including Gmail, Maps and a browser theoretically capable of rendering full web pages, though we painfully waited for a few to load and decided to stop the torture. One thing we always say about entry-level Android devices, though, is that they’re cheap GPS replacements: the Boulder includes Google’s excellent free turn-by-turn Navigation software, and with WIND’s cheap data plans it’s a pretty good alternative to a dedicated Garmin or TomTom.

We found typing on the device to be easy enough, and the processor was thankfully able to keep up with our presses. By default there is a very intrusive and screen-occupying predictive text bar that appears as you type; it ebbs and flows with the movement of your fingers, constantly repositioning the input box in the process. We’d recommend turning that off and trusting your instincts.

The phone has a useful feature in its ability to assign keyboard keys shortcuts to open various apps. Each letter or, if you’re so inclined, number can be combined with the Search button to effortlessly open the camera, browser or your favourite music player.

Facebook and Twitter, along with an app called Social Streams, are pre-installed if you want to do some socializing, and there is notepad alternative called Richpad for your various riveting thoughts. Social Streams is actually integrated into the Dialer app, appended to the right-most tab, and consolidates both Twitter and Facebook into a single feed. Quite helpful if you’d rather browse than participate.

Many apps don’t run on a device with such a low screen resolution, and the ones that do are so squashed as to be barely usable. Proceed with caution if you’re intending on using the Boulder to satiate your Android app appetite. If you are an app fiend, keep in mind that there is only 150MB of storage on-board.

Another great use for the Boulder would be as a music player. Capable of holding a microSD card up to 32GB music from the headphone jack sounds great. Calls sound fine, too, through the earpiece and the speakerphone is adequately loud for the occasional conference call.

Camera

The 3MP camera on the Boulder comes without a flash, and we found it to be about as poor as we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Detail is barely perceptible, with most edges blending into the next in spectacular abstract fashion. The Boulder can also capture video at its native resolution.

Battery Life

For such a meagre phone, we’d expect decent battery life from the 1200mAh cell. Unfortunately even that is not the case, as it depleted quicker than any device in recent memory. From being fully charged, we’d have around two to three hours before it died on us. Perhaps we got a lemon, but it was quite unnerving to see the meter drop minute by minute.

Conclusions

The Huawei U8350 is to a smartphone the way that KFC is to chicken. It’s neither gourmet nor special, but it’s delicious for the price — or perhaps because of the price. It really only fulfils the very basic needs of someone who needs a phone that can text, tweet, email and occasionally browse.

The Huawei U8350 is available from WIND Mobile for $135 outright, or for free on the WindTab+.

Pros:

– Well-built, with metal accents
– Keyboard is springy and well-designed
– It has big buttons

Cons:

– Excruciatingly slow
– Poor screen quality and camera
– Bad battery life

  • Alex Perrier

    i find it unfair that a grade (e.g: from 1 to 10) is missing for this smartphone. Three hours of battery life is sad. Huawei disappoints. :'(

  • Windy

    You got a lemon. We’ve sold dozens of these, and nobody has said anything about a poor battery life.

    • T1MB1T

      Dozens? Thousands! Read your inter store bulletins! There are 0 issues with that phone it is always user error. Like tony says ” you could tie a string to a rock and those i****s would get it wrong “

    • Ralph

      The first one I tried had no obvious battery life issues, but the current device seems to require charging more often than it should. That might be just a setting.

      IMPORTANT: Get a pouch that fits snugly. The phone is not expensive, but it’s still too expensive to lose two days after purchase. You don’t think that can happen, but it most certainly can. I found a nice Blackberry case with rotating belt clip that fits very well. It cost around $30 Canadian and, if it keeps the phone secure, will be worth every penny.

  • Nareem

    I use this phone, and it goes for a bit over a day on one charge. I charge it nightly anyway, just to be sure.

    I agree with the reviewer, the phone is nothing to write home about, but for $135 it’ll do.

  • Aaron

    I just got this phone, i love this phone with super good hand feeling and its amazing device with such a good price. way better than paying 700 bucks to get a BB torch or any other andriod, i strongly recommend for everyone.

    btw, it’s really thin and slim.

  • sam

    why get this when nokia e73 @ mobilicity is $99.99

    • T1MB1T

      That Nokia was supposed to be an exclusive for wind but Moblicity and Rogers teamed up to take it away from wind! I say we protest! rise up! take action! Support only wind!

  • Edward

    it’s free with WindTab

    not WindTab+

    WindTab+ is for device more than $200

    • Burned once

      If you apply for Windtab,be prepared to have WIND destroy your credit rating before they get it right.Be smart just pay the $135 and forget any “windtab” crap.Or go somewhere alse and get a REAL phone

  • Big Man

    Once you can AFFORD a more expensive phone, You are no longer realistically looking at phones like these….however, if you’re an infrequent user or have kids who want (need!?) a phone, these kinds of ‘options’ become a blessing!!

  • Windpower

    Yup, piece of crap.

  • mindo

    this has to stop. these useless android phones suck so bad its embarrassing. wtf is the point of this?

    android will never have a good qwerty phone. never.

  • Larry Bee

    Yo Chile-up guys You never appreciate anything. i love this phone perfect

  • WIND dealer

    Just over hundred bucks for phone that has mobile wifi hotspot, skype, email, qwerty and apps. are you guys nuts? its perfect for 80% of population.. non of that blackberry b/s either. plus wind now offers unlmited canada-wide $29/mo talk /text /data.. BTW device is touch screen as well.

    Apologies for impartial opinion, but this is perfect device for masses.. stop focusing on iPhone alone, its $700, of course it has a better screen.

    • Lisa

      is it ok for skyping on, im thinking of getting this soon, that would be great!!

  • TdotFunk

    I just got this phone yesterday. For the price, it is a great phone. Free, no contract, and now I’ll be paying $29 a month. Instead of that $100 for bell. I’m gonna pay my ETF, it will pay itself in 2 months.

  • firzen_net

    Laughing my a*s off reading this review. I always find these entertaining.

  • Muhammad

    Just got this phone yesterday.

    First impressions: Very impressive, fast and functional for an Android device. Zero lag whatsoever (even though I’ve bloated it with quite a few downloads already).

    Google Talk is Unbelievably accurate.

    The Cons: Battery life is rather pathetic. I think it may be because my 3G or WI-FI was on. I did download “JuiceDefender” – a free app that cuts off the battery-sucking Data after 1 min or something of non-use. It doesn’t seem to work.

    If you restart, takes FOREVER to load.

  • Eugenia

    Nice and slender phone! Does everything it is supposed to do and does it fast. As for the camera quality – it’s a phone, I haven’t seen a camera with the phone function yet! yeah, now we need a DSLR quality in our phones. Give me a break! As for the battery life, it is pretty decent, like any other android phone that I own, HTC Inspire and Samsung Galaxy. I downloaded ATK and it kills unwanted apps every halfhour. Very good phone for the price, feel, and functions!!! Highly recommend.

  • Peter D.

    Battery life will deplete quick if you dont turn background un-necessary apps running int he background.There is a fantastic battery saver app that increased my battery dramatically. To say it is slow, on home wifi it flies as does my unlimited data plan with wind.This is a great phone for the money and is much better than implied in your overview.

  • Canadian Gal

    Got this phone for xmas, love it for the price, I also have battery issues. It dies far faster than my previous Huawei which kept going and going and going. So far the searching is not slow for me, perhaps thats a signal issue?

  • JujuBee

    Considering the price this is a darn good phone. This mobilesyrup review seems to be a bit snobbish.

    Battery life needs to be managed by turning off all of the non-essential activty for standby (there are apps for this which will turn them all back on with one tap).

    I don’t measure my life in nanoseconds so waiting 1.5 seconds for a webpage to load is OK for me. Also, the touchscreen tiny delay is no big issue.

    I don’t have superhuman bionic eyeballs so what I see on the screen is pretty acceptable. The photo quality is as good as the much, much more expensive low-end of the BBs.

    It is a solid piece of hardware similar to other quality made cheap Huawei phones. I have dropped my old Huawei U3200 several times on pavement and it has held up. I imagine the U8350 will be as durable.

    If I paid $135 cash for it I’d be glad that I got a good deal. I didn’t, it’s free on a WindTab so I’m even more pleased.

    • AHAHAH

      “I don’t measure my life in nanoseconds so waiting 1.5 seconds for a webpage to load is OK for me. ” Collector thought ahah roflmao. That was genious. Thanks :)

  • ian

    how is the clarity on this phone? i bourght a couple of Alcatel One Touch 908s for my wife and i for christmas and between phones the clarity sucks.
    we want to change phones for something in the same price range and cell phone scale that actual works and you can hear each other.

  • Shelley

    Clarity on mine is fine.

    My battery lasts for almost 2 full days so the original review must have gotten a lemon.

  • mo

    can you skype call with this phone? and also would the app ” draw something” work with it?

  • germana

    is it possible to get on-screen keyboard on Huawei U8350? might be easier for me to see than phone k/board? please help

  • wencekun

    Well.. this is weird xD. I mean, I have read many reviews of this phone and they were talking pretty good about this phone.

    I’m using it now, with Opera Mini I’m able to do what I wanted to do, with trillian to chat, a good and lightweight launcher as Lighting Launcher.. I don’t know, if I read your review first I would never buy this phone but I’m very happy with it, actually I’m using it with the Wifi on all the time (because I have the Trillian app open all the time) and the battery is very decent.

    Off course I love the blackberry-like phones (I hate the touchscreen) but this phone isn’t as bad as this review could make believe to an average user.

    (Greetings and sorry about my english, actually spanish is my native language)

  • singlewoman

    This review is bang on. Only my battery is ever worse than it says. Says I got the phone, the battery has drained very very quickly when surfing. I cannot and never could use Facebook with this phone as once I sign into FB my battery is completely dead within about 4 mins. The maps app that is mentioned, also drains my battery completely in about 12 mins so it’s not an app I can use. The batteries for this phone are awful. Mine has been awful since the first day I got it. I charge my phone several times a day and it only takes about 15 mins to fully charge but it drains just as quick! Long phone calls are not possible on this phone as the battery will die.

    I mostly use my phone for phone calls, texts and to see emails so it’s fine for that. But if want a phone that doesn’t anything more than that, skip this one.