Huawei’s $29 Android aims at AT&T feature phone users

Huawei, the Chinese company I soon expect to be a household name in the U.S. has a new handset targeted at first-time smartphone buyers. AT&T (s t) introduced Huawei’s Impulse 4G on Wednesday, with a Sept. 18 launch date. The Impulse 4G offers all the basics — and then some — of an Android-powered(s goog) smartphone and will cost just $29.99 with contract.

So what kind of smartphone does $30 get you? The Impulse 4G won’t compare to the new Droid Bionic(s mmi), but it costs one-tenth of the price. The phone has a reasonably sized 3.8-inch touchscreen with 800×480 resolution, 5 megapixel auto-focus camera with flash and 720p video recording, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. An 800 MHz Qualcomm(s qcom) chip powers the Impulse 4G; no that won’t set any speed records, but it should keep Android 2.2 humming along nicely.

The Impulse 4G supports AT&T’s(s t) HSPA+ mobile broadband at speeds up to 14.4 Mbps and in keeping with the target audience, the carrier is pushing its $15 monthly plan that offers 200 MB of data. That’s surely not enough for a heavy smartphone user, but for a user upgrading from a feature phone and just getting started with mobile email, web and apps, it’s a good starting point. And there are always the options of upgrading to AT&T’s 2 GB plan for another $10 per month, or taking advantage of AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspot network.

The phone isn’t the latest or greatest. In fact, it appears to be an older Huawei model — the Ideos X5 — that’s been branded for AT&T. But when roughlysix out of 10 Americans still don’t have a smartphone, the Impulse 4G has a solid chance of living up to its name: A $29 impulse upgrade from an older feature phone.