Huawei’s second phone to sound like a brand of yogurt, the Premia 4G is much better than the first, last year’s Activa 4G. And for as low as $99, it’s the best deal you can get on a contract-free smartphone from MetroPCS right now. That doesn’t mean the Premia 4G is perfect—it doesn’t run the latest version of Android, the video camera isn’t great, and it has a bulky frame for its 4-inch screen—but those flaws are easy to overlook if you’re searching for something inexpensive and dependable.
Design, Network, and Call Quality
A sleek phone this is not. The Premia 4G has a humdrum slab design, with a dark gray textured back panel and a ring of shiny gray plastic around the glass display. It feels solid, but it also feels like it’s an inch larger than it needs to be. The phone measures 4.96 by 2.53 by 0.48 inches and weighs 4.94 ounces. Given the 4-inch display, that means there’s a lot of bezel surrounding it on all sides, particularly the top and bottom. It’s still relatively comfortable to hold, even if it feels bigger than it actually is.
Speaking of the display, the Premia has a 4-inch, 800-by-480-pixel TFT LCD. It looks reasonably sharp and bright, especially given the price, though it’s a little reflective. Typing on the on-screen, Swype-enabled keyboard felt fine. For controls, there’s a Power button on top of the phone, Volume buttons on the right, and three capacitive touch buttons below the display.
If you’re hesitant about getting the Premia because of T-Mobile’s impending purchase of the company, you can put those fears to rest. While MetroPCS will shift its focus to GSM and LTE, sources have told us that the new network will support VoLTE even after CDMA declines. That means VoLTE-capable phones, like the Premia 4G, should work just fine.
We don’t know what will happen to data plans in the future, but MetroPCS offers pretty phenomenal rates right now. You can get truly unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 per month. $50 per month gets you 2.5GB of LTE data, with throttled speeds after that, and $40 per month is good for 500GB of LTE data, with slower speeds once you’ve reached your cap.
Reception is fair and data speeds are very good on the Premia. As we discovered in our Fastest Mobile Networks survey, MetroPCS’s LTE network can actually exceed 4G speeds on Verizon, though Verizon’s network is more consistent and offers far more coverage. I pulled in average speeds of 4.8Mbps down and 3.9Mbps up, which are not the fastest LTE speeds we’ve ever seen, but plenty fast nonetheless. The Premia also connects to 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz band.
Call quality is average. Voices distort at top volume in the earpiece, and there’s a lot of fuzz in the background. But calls made with the phone sound very clear, with surprisingly good background noise cancellation. Calls sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and the stock Android voice dialer worked fine. The speakerphone sounds a bit distorted and isn’t loud enough to hear outside. Battery life was average at 8 hours and 45 minutes of talk time.
Processor, Android, and Apps
The Premia 4G is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 processor, which is a fast chip for such a low price. The Premia feels fast and responsive in casual use, and turned in some respectable benchmark scores. You’ll be able to run any of the 800,000+ apps in the Google Play store without a problem.
The phone is running Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which is nearly a year and a half old now. That’s somewhat disappointing, as Ice Cream Sandwich lacks many significant upgrades you’ll find in newer versions of Android (Jelly Bean), like Google Now and an overall smoother experience. There’s no word on an update to Jelly Bean, and I wouldn’t expect one to come in the near future, if ever.
As it stands, the Premia runs a mostly-stock version of Google’s OS. You get five home screens to swipe between and customize that come preloaded with a few apps from MetroPCS. There isn’t a ton of bloatware, but you can’t delete anything that has been preinstalled, which is a bummer. The phone also bombards you with incredibly annoying ads for MetroExtras until you turn them off. But you do get the MetroPCS Easy WiFi app, which automatically finds and connects you to free hotspots.
You also get all the typical Android bells and whistles, including a fast Web browser, excellent email support, and free voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions via Google Maps. You can also share music, photos, and video on your HDTV or monitor via DLNA.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
There’s 2.17GB of internal storage, along with an empty microSD card slot underneath the battery cover. I was able to use my 32GB SanDisk card, but not my 64. All of our standard music test files played back fine except for FLAC and WMA. Music sounded excellent over a wired pair of earbuds, but it was a little thin through a stereo Bluetooth pair. For video, all of our test formats played back in resolutions up to 1080p but Bluetooth audio was very slightly out of sync.
The 5-megapixel camera is decent, but nothing more than that. It snaps photos in just 0.2 second, but takes a little longer to save them. Photos quality is average for a 5MP sensor, with decent color and detail, especially for photos taken outdoors. But video performance is poor. The camera records 720p video at a smooth 29 frames per second, but the autofocus locks in and out every time you move the camera even a little, which makes videos look like you are constantly refocusing. A standard 1.3-megapixel camera is on the front of the phone for video chat.
So while it isn’t perfect, it’s hard to argue against the Huawei Premia 4G for all the features you do get for less than $100. The ZTE Avid 4G costs the same, but has a very dim screen and a camera that’s worse than what you get here. The LG Motion 4G is also comparable, but has a slightly more compact size at the expense of a smaller, lower-resolution display. If you’re willing to spend a lot more, the Samsung Galaxy S III has a larger, sharper display, a faster processor, better call quality, and a much nicer camera. It’s the best phone on MetroPCS right now, but you can buy almost five Premias for the same price.
|Phone Capability / Network||CDMA, LTE|
|Screen Resolution||800 x 480 pixels|
|Dimensions||4.96 x 2.53 x 0.48 inches|
|Video Camera Resolution||720p|
|Available Integrated Storage||2.17 GB|
|Processor Speed||1.5 GHz|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 Dual-Core|
|Total Integrated Storage||4 GB|
|High-Speed Data||LTE, CDMA 1X|
|Screen Type||TFT LCD|
|Operating System as Tested||Android 4.0.4|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP Rear|
|1.3 MP Front-Facing|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||233 ppi|
|Bands||850, 1900, 1700|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Screen Size||4 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc