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printed November 26, 2014
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Review: Huawei Ascend

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The Huawei Ascend on Cricket reaches an odd mix of cheap and classy. Most of the phone is swathed in glossy, piano black plastic, with brushed metal accents up front and a sanded steel band around the sides. It’s like an old school magician in a tuxedo. From a short distance, the phone looks slick and polished, assuming you’ve wiped your fingerprints off that glossy shell. Hold it in your hand, however, and the illusion starts to fade. The plastic feels a bit cheap. The buttons up front, all hidden beneath a continuous strip of brushed metal, are a bit too hard to press, and have a sharp click to them.

The phone is fairly thick, and the back bulges a bit, making it feel even bigger. It’s still quite comfortable in the hand, but this isn’t a svelte Samsung Galaxy S phone. Still, it was easy to slip into the pocket of a pair of comfortable pants, and it’s not a heavy phone, so the weight didn’t drag me down.

Up front, the Huawei Ascend uses a unique button layout, among Android devices. The phone has real Send and End keys, a luxury on today’s touchscreen phones. That End key can be programmed to act as a Home key as well, when you’re not in a call, or it can put the phone to sleep. There is also a Menu key and a Back key on both sides of the Ascend’s trackball. The phone lacks the familiar Search key you’ll find on most Android phones, but I didn’t mind the trade-off.

On the left side of the phone you’ll find the power / screen lock button. It raises to a small hump, but it’s still not as easy to find as the volume rocker or the camera button, which are both on the right side of the phone. There is also a microSD card slot on the left, covered with a flimsy port cover. I’d give that cover a month before it breaks off (or I tear it off, either way).

Up top, there’s another port cover, also flimsy, covering the microUSB port and the headphone port. That’s a 2.5mm headphone port, so your standard issue earbuds will not work with this device. That’s a real pain if you wanted to listen to music on this phone.

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