Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
2/2/2012 3:08:46 PM
Great size and shape, well-priced, extra home screens
Very slow and unresponsive, resistive touch-screen
Last year’s T-Mobile Pulse was one of the first budget-priced Android phones. It had a 3.5-inch screen, but the hardware was big: some people may have found it just too large to be comfortable in the hand. So now T-Mobile has collaborated with Chinese manufacturer Huawei to deliver the Pulse Mini with its more palm-friendly 2.8-inch screen. Of course, in the shrinking process, something had to give. The touch-screen is now resistive, not capacitive. For newcomers, resistive screens are pressure-sensitive and cheaper than the capacitive screen phones like the iPhone and Google Nexus One sport. Resistive screens don’t look quite as good, but you can use them with gloves on or with a stylus, unlike their posher cousins. They do require a little more pressure to operate, mind, and there’s no option for multi-touch with resistive screens: the feature that allows for the cute-looking pinch-to-zoom effect of the iPhone and Palm Pre, for instance.Though it’s a touch-screen, the Mini has a few physical buttons on the front. There are dedicated Send and End keys plus a round direction pad with central button. And then there are touch-sensitive icons at the base of the display: Home, Menu and Back buttons. There’s a power button on the top edge, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom edge and on the right-hand edge are the volume rocker switch and camera button. It’s quite hectic.The phone’s smaller screen unsurprisingly comes with a lower resolution than the Pulse, but it manages a higher colour-palette than its predecessor. And it beats the original in its version of Android – it ships with the latest edition, 2.1. This means there are additional features such as animated wallpapers – yes, now you can set your home screen to show gently waving grass or moving stripes of coloured lights. They won’t help battery life conservation, of course, but they look cool. The screen is certainly small, so browsing a website can sometimes be taxing. A double-tap on the screen magnifies the content, but on a screen this size by the time it’s readable, there’s not much text to see. It’s not impossible, but it’s a reminder that smartphones tend to have large screens for a reason.Still, T-Mobile has a cunning navigation system to move between home screens and, as with the original Pulse, it’s possible to add extra screens. The Mini has 12 to start with – more than other phones – and a quick press of the main navigation button brings thumbnails of nine of them into view. You can then drag the thumbnails around until you find the one you want, tap on it and it’s back to full screen. There’s also an on screen icon to shrink the pages.T-Mobile has its own extras, from the pink highlight colour instead of Google yellow, a dedicated music playback icon and more. And there’s the Android Market with its 20,000 applications waiting to be downloaded.The small profile of the phone is very satisfying in the hand, even if the display is on the titchy side.But there’s one thing about the Mini that lets it down terribly: it does everything at a snail’s pace. Press the camera key and almost five seconds elapse before the screen shows what the lens can see. One of the animated backgrounds shows leaves floating downstream. Touching the same screen on the Nexus One makes the water ripple instantly, but here there’s a lengthy delay. The computer chip at the phone’s heart is apparently the same 600MHz processor found in the HTC Legend, which is speedily responsive – so it’s surprising that the Pulse Mini is such hard work. It’s a shame as otherwise the phone is cute, physically pleasing and has lots of neat features, but it may prove a problem too big to ignore.