The Pulse features a pretty generic version of Android, in contrast with the deep-rooted overhaul present in the HTC Hero. Your perspective on this might vary depending on how you find the standard Android experience, but we personally find it pretty satisfying -- and crucially, Hauwei / T-Mobile have preloaded a useful mix of third party applications onto the device to overcome any shortcomings.
From a design perspective, the Pulse has a dark theme with a dark grey top bar and a faux-carbon fiber wallpaper (changeable, of course) that cleverly matches the back of the device. In keeping with the T-Mobile branding, the device theme features pink accents. It all fits together well, and feels neither too pink nor too dark.
One of the key changes that existing Android users will notice on the device is the lockscreen and the launcher itself. The lockscreen design has been tweaked with a 'flick upwards to unlock' and, unlike the stock Android build, the main homescreen canvas itself scrolls vertically as well as horizontally. Rather than being 1 x 3 in size, the canvas is 2 x 3 in size by default and can grow or shrink as you add content. Scrolling between the six screens is very smooth and it is possible to zoom out to view the whole canvas at once. On the Pulse the applications list is accessed by pressing a button in the bottom right of the screen (since an upward flick traditionally used in the Launcher scrolls the canvas) and a button on the left hand side provides quick access to favorite people. Flick gestures allow you to switch between different people in your favorites list, while a click on their picture brings up a menu from where you can call, SMS, email etc. In addition to the standard Android widgets, the Pulse features something called "Widcards," which are live widgets for Calendar, Email, Music, Notepad, Pictures and Videos. The Widcards vary in functionality -- the Notepad widcard for example allows you to pin a note on your homescreen and also forward the note to another Pulse owner either instantly or at a scheduled time.
We mentioned previously about how Huawei and T-Mobile have partnered with third party developers to supplement gaps in the Android software and the three key examples of this are the inclusion of a slightly stripped down version of Dataviz's Documents To Go office suite, a full version of the RoadSync Exchange sync solution and a full version of Cootek's excellent TouchPal soft keyboard. Other software over and above the standard Android base includes a Block Breaker game, a custom camera application, tweaked contacts and dialer applications, a file manager, a custom music application, a notepad application and a device wide search application. On the whole the software experience feels well rounded and not lacking in any particular area. Wrap-up
We weren't sure what to expect from the Pulse, but we have to say that we're pleasantly surprised. The hardware feels good -- and with the possible exception of the weak camera, restrictive memory size and arguably the 2.5mm jack, it's up there with the best. The software, while fairly generic, performs smoothly on the Qualcomm hardware, and the whole package seems supremely stable -- no mean feat for what is effectively a first effort from Huawei. It would have been nice to have seen the device shipped with Android 1.6 / Donut (no word as yet on whether that is forthcoming), but that is only a minor niggle -- the changes in 1.6 are small, after all.
If you're looking for an Android handset on a budget, an Android handset with that larger 3.5-inch screen, or you just fancy looking at something from someone a bit different than the major players, we don't think you'll be disappointed with the T-Mobile Pulse.