We love an underdog story. So when we saw that ZTE—a company which in the U.S. is not so synonymous with "quality" —was making a spec-monster phone, we were excited. After playing with it for about ten minutes, we're a bit less enthusiastic.
On the good side, the phone looks very nice and it was super light. And it comes in, like, eight different colors. The screen looked as sharp as you'd hope, but colors didn't seem as vivid as some other 1080p phones we've been peeping. But to be fair we'd have to do a side-by-side comparison to be sure.
The software is where things start getting messy. For starters the custom UI strips away the slickness of Android 4.1 (Jelly Been) both in look and feel. Menus look more like they belong on a late 2000's feature-phone. Everything is blocky and cartoonish in an unappealing way. Worse, though, the smoothness is gone. You can see it in the video when I flip between screens, there's a fair amount of lag. With a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro and 2GB of RAM for brains, you don't have lag on your phone unless you screwed up your software.
There's also this strange, floating thing that brings up the classic four navigation buttons for Android. It's omnipresent and distracting, but even more so, it's redundant as the phone has three capacitive navigation buttons at the bottom. See them in the video? No, you don't, because they're practically invisible and they didn't light up. Just what the hell is going on here?
The camera was slow to open and took a long time in between pictures. I wasn't able to get a sense for the photo quality in my brief time with the phone, but it's lack of speed is certainly troubling. When I first got to it, it was even laggier and slower than the video shows, due I assume to many people pawing at it over the course of several hours. I rebooted the phone to make sure it was getting a fair shake, but A) it shouldn't have had that problem in the first place and B) even with a clean boot it wasn't exactly a speed demon.
So, we'll see what happens here. Obviously, because we still don't know exactly when this phone will make its way to the U.S. or which carrier will pick it up (if any), the software isn't final, so they may be able to work these bugs out. We hope they do. Or, better yet, just sell it with vanilla Android. The enthusiast community would go nuts for it.