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ZTE is one of the top smartphone manufacturers in the world, however in some countries it isn’t as well known as some of the other major brands. ZTE’s product range is impressive and it has a large range of devices, in order to fit almost every budget. ZTE’s latest top-tier offering is the ZTE Star 2. Its recommended retail price is $399, which places it at the premium end of the market. It is more expensive than the recently released ZTE Blade S6, but the Star 2 brings a lot of features to the table.
|Display||5 inch, Full HD (1920 x 1080). Corning Gorilla Glass 3.|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2.3GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 330 GPU.|
|Storage||16GB plus microSD card slot|
|Camera||13M AF with Dual LED + 5M|
|Connectivity||GPS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth|
|Networks||2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, 3G: WCDMA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100MHz; 4G: FDD 1800/2100/2600MHz, TDD 1900/2300/2500/2600MHz|
|Software||Android 4.4 based Mi-favor 3.0 UI with Google Play|
|Dimensions||140.5 x 69.2 x 6.9 mm|
|Colors||Black or white|
|SIM slots||1x micro SIM|
The Star 2 is one of the sleekest 5 inch devices I have reviewed recently, it is easy to hold and feels comfortable in the hand. It certainly isn’t bulky at just 6.9mm thick, and carrying it around in my pocket wasn’t a problem at all.
One of the first things you will notice about the Star 2 is that it has glass on the back. Thanks to the Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which is also used on the front, the back of the device is smooth and sleek. The chassis is plastic, and feels pretty durable. The top and bottom edges of the device curve around, continuing the sleek feel. In many ways, it uses the same design language as the ZTE Blade Vec 4G. Josh said in his initial hands-on that it, “reminds us of a Sony Xperia Z3/iPhone 4 hybrid, which isn’t a bad design in the slightest!”
Joining the glass on the back are the camera and a dual-tone LED flash. Looking around the rest of the phone, you will find the IR blaster on the top edge, while the micro USB port and the headphone jack are on the bottom. All the controls are on the right: first the volume rocker and below that the power button. On the left side are two trays, one for the micro SIM card and one for the microSD card, plus the speaker. The position of the power button and the volume rocker means that if you hold the phone in your left hand it is very easy to reach the buttons with your fingers, however the position of the speaker means that the sound can be easily muffled by your palm.
Since the phone includes some very clever voice activation software, the ZTE Star 2 has a multitude of microphones. I have counted 3 separate holes, two on the top and one on the bottom. Presumably they are for noise reduction and better audio pick-up, and they certainly seem to do their job, as the voice commands work really well, but I am jumping ahead of myself.
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The display on the Star 2 is very good, it has great viewing angles and a good level of brightness. For me personally, a 5 inch display is still the sweet-spot and the ZTE Star 2 brings everything that I would expect from a phone in this category. The 5-inch LCD display has a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a pixel density of 441ppi. Overall the display provides a very nice viewing experience with a good level of sharpness. The colors are bold and the display gives the device a sense of vibrancy, making it a pleasure to use.
The display is flanked by nicely sized bezels, which my crude measurements show at under 3mm each. Above the display is the space for the earpiece, front facing camera, the sensors, and a multi-colored notification LED. Below the display are the three back-lit capacitive keys.
The performance of the ZTE Star 2 is excellent. It has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon processor as the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8, and the OnePlus One. Although the Snapdragon 801 is being superseded, the processor has a proven performance track record and it will easily handle just about any task you throw at it.
Using the ZTE Star 2 was a joy in terms of its fluidity and responsiveness. The extra features, like the voice commands, worked really well and didn’t seem to overly tax the processor.
As you would expect, the benchmark scores are good and on par with all the 2014 flagship devices. The AnTuTu score was 39503, while Epic Citadel, the demo app for the Unreal 3D engine, reported 59.8 frames per second (fps) on the High Performance setting, 59.4 fps on High Quality mode, and 46.4 fps on Ultra High Quality mode. Using GameBench I tested Riptide GP2 and found that the device managed an average of 39 fps, while Temple Run 2 did much better at 58 fps.
In terms of GPS performance, the Star 2 is good. I was able to get a lock outdoors and indoors without any problem. The indoor resolution was around 10 meters, but outdoors and in the car, the resolution was 3 meters. I tested turn-by-turn navigation with Google Maps and Nokia Here, both worked as expected.
The Star 2 has a reasonable sized battery at 2300 mAh. Since we are used to seeing devices with 3000 mAh or more batteries, I was a little skeptical about the battery performance. However, I was happily proved wrong. During my time using this device as my daily driver, I often saw 20 to 24 hours of off-charger time with a screen on time of around 3 hours. My experience is that the device will last a full working day without any problems.
The Power Manager settings also provide a couple of interesting power saving options. The first is the “Auto adjust CPU” option, which allows Android to more aggressively control the CPU frequency. With “Auto adjust CPU” enabled, I estimate that the overall performance of the system decreases by about 25%, as the software forces the CPU to run at lower clock speeds. However such a drop in performance is unnoticeable, mainly because the Snapdragon 801 is already such a high performer. The other option is the “Long standby mode” which shuts down everything but the essentials for phone calls to give you extended battery usage. This is very useful when you are getting low on battery life but need to remain in contact, but not necessarily connect to the Internet or use the GPS, etc.
I ran some battery life tests. When running Epic Citadel, in its Guided Tour mode, the device lasts just over 3.5 hours before it runs out of juice. Using the same data-set collected when I tested the performance of Riptide GP2 and Temple Run 2, GameBench calculates that you can play the former for just over 4 hours on one charge, while the latter can be enjoyed for more than 5 hours.
For YouTube streaming (over Wi-Fi) the device can handle around 6 hours on one charge. All the tests were carried out with the screen on half brightness, syncing enabled, Wi-Fi on, and the “Auto adjust CPU” option enabled under the Power Manager settings.
The ZTE Star 2 is a single SIM device and supports 3G on 850/900/1900/2100MHz and 4G-LTE FDD on 1800/2100/2600MHz. It also supports 4G LTE TDD on 1900/2300/2500/2600MHz. Each 4G provider around the world uses one of the pre-defined frequency bands. My carrier uses 1800MHz (band 3), so the Star 2 worked on 4G without any problems.
The supported FDD bands (1/3/7) are used in many parts of Africa, some but not all parts of Central and South America, and large parts of Asia. In Europe, you should be able to find a carrier that uses one of these bands without any problems, the same is true in the Middle East. The biggest omission in terms of full European coverage is the lack of band 20 support. For example, this means that the ZTE Star 2 will work with EE in the UK but not with O2 or Vodafone, which both use 800MHz (i.e. band 20). The supported TDD bands (38/39/40/41) are basically for China and India, however they are also used by several different operators around the world.
Unfortunately none of the North American carriers use these 4G frequencies. Before buying the phone you should check with your carrier to ensure compatibility, or if you trust Wikipedia, then it has a global list of LTE networks.
This device is compatible with four 3G frequencies: 850/900/1900/2100MHz. Like the 4G coverage, compatibility depends on your carrier. The supported bands should give you 3G access on most carriers in Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. In North America you should get 3G on AT&T but not on T-Mobile. You should always check with your carrier to ensure compatibility, or look at Wikipedia’s List of UMTS networks page.
The camera app on the ZTE Star 2 is excellent. As well as the normal point and shoot auto mode there are lots of different modes including HDR, Panorama and Front/Rear. The Front/Rear mode combines the image from the rear facing camera with a shot from the front facing camera. Another mode is called Photo Clear, it removes moving objects, like cars, from photos by taking sequential images and removing the bits that move.
There is also a Group photo mode which takes photos of up to five people in a group and allowing you to pick the best facial expression of each member to create a new photo with everyone smiling and nobody blinking!
Besides the auto mode there is a Pro mode (a manual mode) which gives you full control over all the various settings like ISO, exposure, and white balance. It also gives you control over the focus. This means you can manually focus images, and with a bit of care you can create nice pictures with a narrow depth of field.
Other interesting settings in the camera app are Voice control and Time lapse. The first allows you to activate the shutter by saying “capture” or “cheez”, while the second is used on the video camera to only record 1 frame per second (or 1 frame per 1.5, 2, 2.5 seconds). The video camera can record at VGA, 720p HD, 1080p HD, and UHD. UHD means 4K, i.e. 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall ( or just over 8 megapixels).
Here are some samples so that you can judge for yourself:
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On the software side, the Star 2 uses Android 4.4, but it has a custom UI known as Mi-favor UI. Overall Mi-favor is colorful and light, without being too overbearing. One of the big differences, in terms of the UI, is the lack of an app drawer. All installed apps appear on the home screen, like on the iPhone. Personally I don’t mind this, as I tend to keep the majority of my apps on the home screen anyway, and with the judicious use of folders you can keep the device organized and clean.
Tapping the menu button ,or swiping up from the bottom of the screen, brings up the launcher customization panel. Here you can choose from a series of solid colored or abstract wallpapers, or download one from ZTE’s online library. Like the software on the ZTE Blade S6 there is a built-in slider to give your wallpapers a blurred look. You can also alter the desktop transition effects.
The other thing that is the quite different on the ZTE Star 2 is the Settings page. It is completely different from other Android handsets, however it is still very easy to use. Inside the settings you will find a plethora of new features that help set the Star 2 apart from the rest of the field.
Along with features like double-tap to wake, and settings for the display temperature, there is also the always-on voice recognition service called Voice Assistant. Even when the device is offline, you can still access a number of different areas of the phone just by voice control. Calling contacts, controlling music and waking up the device are just a few of the voice commands users can use with Voice Assistant.
The first step is to give your phone a name. This is the key phrase that the phone will be listen for. I used “OK phone” and it works very well. Once the phone is listening it can respond to a variety of commands like “Call mom” or “Wi-Fi off”. You can even open apps with commands like “Open twitter.”
The only thing you can’t do is say a complete phrase like “OK phone open twitter” when the phone is sleeping, you need to say “OK phone”, wait for it to respond and then issue the second command. However this minor problem is slightly alleviated by the magic words features.
You can record special commands (magic words) which are associated with an action which will be performed when the phone hears that command. Possible actions include calling a contact or opening an app. The difference between the magic words and the normal commands is that the magic words don’t need to be prefixed with the phone’s name. For example, I defined a command called “quick camera” which opens the camera app. To start the camera all I need to do is say “quick camera” to the phone and it will open the camera app, even when it is sleeping.
The Voice Assistant is a lot of fun and simultaneously quite useful. Talking to the phone in this way reminds me of the Transparent Aluminum scene from Star Trek IV.
Another cool feature are the motions. As well as motions like Flip to mute there are lots of other motions available including Auto answer, Pocket mode and Change from speaker to earpiece during a call. The first will automatically answer a call when you bring the phone up to your ear, the second ensures that the phone rings with the maximum volume when it is in your pocket, and the third will automatically switch from speaker to earpiece when you lift the phone to your ear.
These are all very cool features and I hope they become standard on all phones in the future. Each motion can be enabled/disabled individually so you can pick which ones you like and don’t like.
The device comes with full Google Play support and all of the normal Google apps are available. For those Google apps not pre-installed, a quick trip to the Play Store gets you everything you need.
The 16GB of internal storage is probably a bit limiting for some people, especially those who like to store lots of media on their phones. The 16GB is divided up into a system area, of 3.84GB; a user area of 3.93GB, which is used for installing apps; and phone storage of 8.23GB, which is used for data and media. There is an option to move apps from the user area to the phone storage. The good news is that there is a microSD card slot which supports cards upto 32GB. Unfortunately there is no option to move apps from either the user storage or the phone storage to the SD card.
You are able to set the default write location to the external SD card, however this seems to be a bit hit-and-miss in terms of which apps respect or understand this setting. For example, offline videos from YouTube were stored on the external SD card, however movies downloaded from Google Play Movies and TV went to the phone storage. But having said that, the “Manage downloads” section of Google Play Movies and TV shows a combined free space from the internal storage and the SD card. So I guess some internal algorithm decides where to put the downloaded media. The camera app has a separate setting for where the images are stored, and it can be set to use the external SD card.
Pricing and conclusion
The recommended retail price of the ZTE Star 2 is $399, however I have seen it online for $350. That is certainly a great price for a premium device. The processor is excellent and it is the same package used by many of 2014’s flagship devices. The design of the device is sleek and the display is as about as good as you can get for an LCD display at this resolution. The software is advanced and you are getting much more than just a stock Android experience. The voice commands work well and the bundled camera app is excellent. Lanh gave the
Lanh gave the ZTE Blade S6 a score of 8.5, mainly due to its competitive price, its 64-bit processor, and because it is running Lollipop. I am going to give the ZTE Star 2 a score of 8.8. The Star 2 has more features than the Blade S6, and a better design. It costs more, however, I think the extra money is worth it!
The rise of China’s home-grown smartphone brands continues. ZTE has just announced a 94 percent increase in its net profit in 2014, led by strong smartphone sales and growth in China’s 4G carrier networks.
Profits reached 2.63 billion yuan ($423.4 million) in 2014, up from 1.36 billion in the previous year, while operating revenue rose 8.3 percent to 81.4 billion yuan. Strong demand for low-cost handsets have helped to drive ZTE’s bottom line, the company is riding the same wave that has seen Xiaomi, Huawei, Meizu and other low-cost Chinese manufacturers rise to prominence in Asia’s booming smartphone industry.
Like others, ZTE has its sights set on further overseas expansion this year. To do so, ZTE has increased its marketing expenses by 50 percent in 2015 and, unlike most of its rivals, is directly targeting the US market next. The company aims to make it into the top three smartphone vendors in the US by 2017. ZTE currently sits in fourth position in the North American market, behind Apple, LG and Samsung, and the company saw its smartphone shipments jump by 50 percent in the US last year, so the goal may not be as out of reach as some may think.
In addition to smartphone growth, ZTE is also benefiting from the adoption of faster 4G data speeds throughout China. A separate arm of company supplies telecommunication equipment for networks and the division is expected to build a further half a million 4G base stations around China in 2015, according to Phillip Capital.
2015 is likely to be another bumper year for China’s smartphone manufacturers, with competition only likely to increase as companies look to expand into overseas markets.
While likely to be overshadowed by today’s Galaxy S6-related announcements, ZTE has now taken the wraps off the Nubia Z9 Mini and Z9 Max at a special press event in Beijing.
The Mini model is a budget oriented offering powered by a Snapdragon 615 with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, microSD support, a 5-inch 1080p display, LTE, and a 2,900 mAh battery. The larger 5.5-inch Max offers more upscale internals, such a Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB RAM. The display is still just 1080p, with other specs including 16GB storage, microSD, LTE, and a 2,900 mAh battery.
Both phones share a few things in common, including reasonably attractive metal-framed designs with all-glass rears. The designs aren’t identical, but they are certainly similar. The camera experience on both phones is also quite similar, with both offering an 8MP front cam and a 16MP rear cam. That said, the Mini caps out a 1080p recording for the 16MP shooter, while the Max supports 4K. Both phones also include Android 5.0.2 Lollipop right out of the box.
The phones are expected to be priced at $240 (CNY 1,499) for the Z9 Mini and $400 (CNY 2,499) for the Z9 Max. It’s unclear what markets, outside of Asia, we can expect to see the Z9 Mini and Max arrive in. What do you think of ZTE’s latest? Impressed or not?
ZTE’s latest Zubia Z9 has appeared in some photos online, showcasing the general design of the device. The Z9 is supposed to use a 5+ inch screen, and it’s pretty clear that this is going to be a very large device when you see it next to an iPhone 6.
Aside from screen size, we can see the phone sports smoothed, rounded edges and an all-metal body. It looks very, very thin, too, which makes sense for a flagship device in 2015.
The back of the phone houses the camera and what will likely end up being the fingerprint scanner, plus an LED flash and speakers at the bottom of the device. It does have capacative buttons, not on-screen buttons, which could be a deal breaker for some. That ultra thin bezel might change some minds, though.
Come comment on this article: ZTE Nubia Z9 leaks in photos showing fingerprint scanner and all-metal body
Chinese technology manufacturer ZTE has been hard at work developing its flagship smartphone of 2015 for the past year or so, and now, thanks to a leaked benchmark test, we’re getting our first peek at its specifications.
The “Nubia Z9″ is a thoroughbred flagship device expected to compete against the likes of the Galaxy S6 and HTC One (M9). The handset packs a 5.2-inch Full HD display, a Snapdragon 810 System-on-Chip, 3GB of RAM, a 16-megapixel primary camera and 32GB of internal storage.
With regards to its raw performance, the folks over at AnTuTu state that the “results are not quite up to scratch with what other Snapdragon 810 devices have managed to obtain,” but it’s possible that ZTE will be able to optimize the Z9’s OS to run smoother.
Whatever the case may be, we’re pretty excited to see what ZTE comes up with for its next flagship smartphone. Are you? Be sure to let us know your thoughts below.
Come comment on this article: ZTE Nubia Z9 specs surface online
There’s a variety of ways to unlock your smartphone or tablets these days. You can simply swipe away the lock screen, tap in a passcode, trace a pattern or biometric methods such as fingerprint and facial recognition. As if that isn’t enough choices, ZTE has another option for you. Eye-recognition. The function is called Eyeprint, and we have more details after the break.
ZTE has partnered with EyeVerify to bring Eyeprint to the ZTE Grand S3 smartphone, offering a password-free smartphone experience. Eyeprint works by using the Grand S3′s front camera to trace the unique vein patterns in the human eye. This means that the Grand S3 could be one of the most secure smartphones in the world when it comes to trying to unlock the lock-screen. It also means you will never forget your passcode.
Eyeprint works by creating a map of the veins in your eyes, creating a secure ID. Then, when your device is locked, you press the power button and swipe down from the top of the display. You then look at the screen, from a distance of around 15cm, and after around half a second, the Eyeprint function identifies you, allowing access to the inner workings of your smartphone. Depending on your perspective, the fact that Eyeprint can only be set-up to identify one person at a time could be a good or a bad thing.
In what seems to be a natural progression, ZTE is also planning on integrating the Eyeprint function with mobile payments. The ZTE Grand S3 with Eyeprint launched in China back in January with a RMB 2,999 ($478) price tag.
Come comment on this article: ZTE lets you unlock the Grand S3′s lock-screen with eye-recognition
Tired of punching in numbers or swiping strange patterns to unlock your smartphone? Fingerprint and facial recognition have been tried before with varying levels of success, and now ZTE thinks it can offer something better. The company’s Grand S3 smartphone in China is getting a feature called “Sky Eye,” which lets you swap Android’s traditional lockscreen methods with your eyeballs. It uses a biometric authentication called “Eyeprint ID” and of course, we had to check it out and see if it was more than just a gimmick.
The setup is fairly simple. A green line bounces up and down the screen, requiring that you follow it with your peepers for about eight seconds. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera records the blood vessels in the whites of your eyes and creates a secure ID. The process could be faster, but once you’ve done it once you should, in theory, never have to do it again. Unless you swap your eyeballs Minority Report-style, of course. Only one Eyeprint can be registered at a time though, so Apple’s Touch ID is superior in that regard.
Once the Grand S3 is locked, you’ll first need to tap the power button and swipe down from the top of the screen. There’s definitely a sweet spot for the eye recognition — I found that about 15cm from the handset was ideal — but you’ll receive a prompt on screen if you need to move closer or further away. When you’re in range, the system takes about a half second to identify your eyes’ unique characteristics and give you access to the rest of Android.
We tried it a handful of times and it worked as promised on every occasion. It’s not quite as fast as using Touch ID, but a huge advantage for smartphone makers is that it doesn’t require extra hardware. Provided the phone has a decent front-facing camera, there’s no reason why Eyeprint ID couldn’t be implemented in other handsets. ZTE says the feature will be included in its future Grand smartphones and will later be expanded to mobile payments. If the entire experience can be made just a little more seamless, we wouldn’t be surprised if other Android OEMs begin experimenting with this feature too.
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In the last year or so, budget-friendly smartphones have become a huge part of the Android landscape, with OEMs not compromising on elements like build quality and performance, even with the devices boasting price tags that are less than $300, or even $200 in a few cases. It is also a testament to how far we’ve come in a short of amount of time, when you consider that a lot of these smartphones pack specifications that were thought of as flagship only a couple of years ago.
The competition in this space is heating up, and even though 2015 has just begun, we’ve already some great additions in this category. Joining these smartphones is another great budget-friendly offering from the Chinese device manufacturer ZTE, which we will take a closer look at in this in-depth review of the ZTE Blade S6!
When looking at the ZTE Blade S6 for the first time, it is obvious what inspired the design of the phone. From its gray colored body, rounded corners and curved sides, to the positioning of the logo, the camera, and even the “Designed by ZTE in California, Assembled in China” stamp on the back, the Blade S6 borrows heavily from the design language of the iPhone 6. Of course, while it looks similar, the actual build quality and feel in the hand is a completely different story.
The entire body of the Blade S6 is made of plastic, and while plastic doesn’t necessarily have to feel cheap, as we’ve seen from the slew of premium quality mid-range smartphones released recently, unfortunately in this case, it does. For starters, the plastic is coated in a smooth satin finish, likely to mimic the metallic feel of the iPhone 6, and it does tend to slip around in the hand quite a lot, even if I have luckily not dropped the phone yet. The back of the device also has a lot of give to it, resulting in a very hollow feel. This may be the case only with this particular review unit though, but it is something that is noticeable right away.
On the bright side, the device is fairly thin with a thickness of just 7.7 mm. Combined with its 5-inch display, thin bezels, and rounded corners and sides, you get a phone that is easy and comfortable to use with one hand, even if you do have to worry about it slipping out. Going around the device, the power button and volume rocker are located on the right side, within easy reach, with dual SIM card slots and a microSD card slot found on the left, along with the headphone jack and microUSB port found at the top and bottom respectively.
The Blade S6 utilizes capacitive keys up front, and they do have an appealing unique look to them. The home button in the center is denoted by a blue ring that also glows a nice bright blue when you touch it, to indicate when you have notifications, or when the device is charging. Two LEDs flank the home button to represent the back and menu keys. By default, the back button is to the left and the menu key is on the right, but that is a setting that you can flip if you prefer it the other way around.
The ZTE Blade S6 comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display, with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. This resolution may be a little low for pixel junkies, but the experience on the display was very good, with everything, including videos and games, looking great. The display brings with it all the loved features of IPS LCD panels, including vibrant but not overly saturated colors, great brightness, and good viewing angles. While not at the level of some AMOLED screens out there, the black levels provided by this display were also surprisingly good, and might be the best I’ve seen on an LCD without exhibiting light bleed.
One of the best parts of this display has to do with the glass panel itself, with edges that are curved, similar to what we’ve seen on the Moto X (2014), resulting in a very smooth and seamless experience when swiping.
Performance and Hardware
Under the hood, the Blade S6 packs an octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This is one of best mid-range processing packages currently available, that allows for a performance that is quite similar to its more high-end counterparts in every day tasks.
The Blade S6 is snappy, responsive and fast. Animations run smoothly every time, apps opening quickly, and multi-tasking is a breeze. The gaming experience is also great, with the device handling graphic-intensive games very well. One jarring performance issue that did come up when sliding the brightness slider to the left or right, which resulted in some choppiness. This is likely a software optimization issue though, and is a minor gripe given the excellent overall performance this processing package provides.
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The device comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, which is further expandable by an additional 32 GB via microSD. A single speaker is found on the back at the bottom right corner, and while it does get the job done, it obviously doesn’t provide as good an experience as you would get with a front-facing speaker. As is the case with most rear speaker setups, it is quite easy to cover it up while holding the device, and the sound is muffled if the phone is placed on a flat surface.
A standard suite of sensors and connectivity options are available, including support for 4G LTE, but it is worth noting that since this device is catered towards Asian and European markets, it doesn’t connect to LTE networks in the US. In fact, while testing this device on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, I was surprised to find data connectivity limited to Edge, which made the device difficult to use. A lot of devices available for international markets can get at least 3G connectivity, if not LTE, so this was certainly very disappointing to see. If you aren’t in close proximity to a Wi-Fi network for the majority of your day, the Blade S6 may unfortunately not be the device for you, if you’re living in the US.
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When it comes to the battery, the Blade S6 comes with a 2,400 mAh unit. In my testing, I managed to get up to 15 hours off the charger, with around four and a half hours of screen-on time, but keep in mind that, as mentioned above, this was while primarily on a Wi-Fi connection, and usage will vary when the device is connected to 4G LTE, so overall, the battery life is just about average. Battery saver modes are available though, so you will have the option to squeeze some extra juice out of the battery in an pinch.
Moving onto the camera, ZTE claims that the Blade S6 will deliver DSLR-like quality, which is definitely a bold statement to make, but essentially what you’re looking at is a Sony made 28 mm wide-angle lens, coming in at 13 MP.
When you jump into the camera interface, you’re going to notice two modes – simple and expert. Simple is basically just an auto mode that lets you snap photos without having to worry or play around with any additional camera settings. On the other hand, Expert mode introduces a few additional controls like white balance, ISO, metering, and exposure, but that’s about as extensive as it gets. Various shooting modes like HDR, panorama, and a few others are also available, but one thing to note is they’re only accessible when you’re shooting in the Simple mode.
While I don’t think the pictures are DSLR-like quality, I will admit that they are actually quite good. Pictures are sharp and vibrant in color, but not overly so that it looks unrealistic, and in most situations where lighting was adequate, I was able to get pretty much any shot that I wanted. The f/2.0 aperture is also great, giving off that bokeh effect that you can normally only achieve with a DSLR camera. Dynamic range however isn’t the best, and tends to crush the darks quite a bit, causing a lot of loss in detail. HDR does help in most situations, but I found that it works best indoors. In outdoor situations, it does bring out more detail as you would expect, but tends to create a very cold and unnatural looking blue cast to the images. With indoor shots, it was a lot more reliable, and what I really enjoyed about the HDR post processing is that it also bumps up the saturation, giving off a very vibrant look that I thought was pleasing to the eye.
In low light, performance was pretty shoddy, which was very surprising considering the f/2.0 aperture. The noise levels are extremely high, making it impossible to capture much detail, and a maximum ISO of 800 doesn’t help improve the situation either. All said and done, the rear camera is pretty solid, but it’s a far cry from what you can get from a DSLR.
If you’re a selfie lover, you’ll enjoy the front-facing camera, as it comes in at 5 MP. The quality isn’t spectacular by any means, but just like the rear camera, it is a wide-angle lens, which means that you can easily fit you and a couple of your friends into a single shot.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, the ZTE Blade S6 is one of the few phones that runs the latest iteration of the OS. You get all of the great features of Lollipop with a few additions from ZTE, and while the custom launcher does have its unique features, a lot of the stock elements of Android 5.0 are available here. Elements like the lockscreen, notification shade, overview, and applications like the settings, dialer, and clock still preserve the material design from Google.
Like the software experience we get on most devices from Chinese OEMs, the custom launcher is colorful with squared icons, and does away with the standard app drawer in favor of having all applications reside on the home screen, leaving you dependent on folders to keep things from getting too cluttered. Of course, this is still Android, so you always have the option to download a third-party launcher from the Google Play Store if you are looking for a more familiar experience.
Swiping up from the bottom of the screen, or simply hitting the menu button, will bring up a panel of customization options for the launcher itself. You can select from a series of solid colored or abstract wallpapers, and more can be downloaded from ZTE’s online library. There is also a built-in slider to give your wallpapers a blurred looked, which I actually thought was a really nice touch. Desktop transition effects are also available if you’re feeling fancy, and once you’re satisfied with all of the changes that you’ve made, you can create a backup within the launcher preferences so you never lose them.
Gesture and motion features can also be found in the settings, and while some of them are gimmicky, others can prove to be quite useful. You do have the option to disable them if you don’t plan to use any. Gesture features include things like Air Gesture, Cover Phone Screen, and Shake It. Air Gesture allows you to control your music by holding volume down button, and drawing a V or an O to start and stop the music. It’s a very awkward thing to do, but it does seem to work pretty consistently. Cover Phone Screen will silence any incoming calls or alarms just by waving your hand over the phone. Shake It will open either the flashlight or camera by shaking the phone when you’re on the lockscreen.
The motion features are a little bit more self-explanatory with features like auto call, auto answer, pocket mode, and flip to mute the device. The rear camera can also be activated by holding the volume up button and bringing the phone up horizontally, and the same thing can also be done with the front facing camera when bringing the phone up vertically towards your face.
And finally, you have MI-POP, which puts a bubble consisting of on-screen navigation keys on your homescreen, for easier one-handed operation. The Blade S6 is already pretty easy to use in one hand, but this is a very handy feature to have just in case you need it.
|Display||5-inch IPS LCD, HD (1280 x 720 pixels), 294 ppi|
|Processor||1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 Octa-Core (MSM8939)|
|Camera||Rear: 13MP, f 2.0, Sony sensor
Front: 5MP, 80 degree wide angle
|Connectivity||GPS, microUSB 2.0, WiFi a/b/g/n, 5GHz, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Software||Android 5.0 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||144 x 70.7 x 7.7 mm|
Pricing and Final Thoughts
The ZTE Blade S6 will be available globally from February 10, directly through Ali Express and on Amazon in select markets. The price is very affordable at $249.99, but from the way things are shaping up, the competition at this price range is going to be intense. Everything said and done though, the Blade S6 isn’t a viable option for those living in the US, unless you’re perfectly okay with using Edge data speeds. For those in European and Asian markets, this device is a very solid wallet-friendly smartphone that you should definitely consider.
So there you have it – the ZTE Blade S6! While the design and build quality could have been slightly better, once you get past that, what you get with the Blade S6 is a device that offers a best-in-class processing package, a solid camera experience, and the latest iteration of Android, all in a very affordable package.
Hello Android fans, here’s what went down in the world of Android this week: Facebook launched its Lite app for entry-level Android devices, we’ve heard some troubling news about Sony, Qualcomm confirmed its overheating problems, ZTE and Meizu introduced new devices, alleged renders of the Galaxy S6 and One (M9) surfaced, we discussed Cyanogen’s plans to take Android from Google, and Microsoft launched its Outlook and Office apps for Android.
Inside AA HQ
This week Josh and Darcy visited Huawei’s headquarters in China, where they learned more about the tech giant’s plans for 2015 and got a peek at all the work that goes into designing, building, and selling a modern smartphone. Expect a look behind the scenes soon.
Because of Josh’s trip, our Friday Debate podcast is actually going down this Sunday. In this edition, Josh, Andrew, Joe and Jon are talking about the Cyanogen’s plans for a Google-free Android. This topic has been on everyone’s lips this week, especially since news broke that Microsoft has become an investor in the company founded by Steve Kondik. We’ll update this post with the podcast widget as soon as it goes live.
Joe is piloting a new format and a new name for his popular weekly show about apps. The segment is now called Android Apps Weekly, but the gist of it is the same – cool new apps, big updates, and all the news that matter in the world of Android apps.
In our Sunday Giveaway, we’re putting up for grabs a brand new Nexus 9! Throw your name in the hat here.
The stuff you shouldn’t miss
Here are some interesting posts for your Sunday reading:
- Opinion: Matthew prefers Tizen to Android Wear – read all about it here
- Hands-on: Josh checks out the new Huawei Honor 6 Plus
- Review: It’s thin, it’s cheap, it’s the Blu Vivo Air
- Throwback: A modern look at the phone that start it all – the T-Mobile HTC G1
- Debate: Cyanogen has huge ambitions. Can it make it?
Top news of the week
And here are the top news in the Android world this week:
- Sony is getting back to longer smartphone release cycles – report
- Is releasing a single Xperia Z flagship a year the right move for Sony?
- Sony will reportedly cut 1,000 more jobs from its mobile division
- Sony announces partnership with Spotify to replace Music Unlimited service
The heat is on Qualcomm
- Snapdragon 810 issues may put the heat on Qualcomm
- Qualcomm reveals “large customer’s flagship” won’t use Snapdragon 810, all signs point to Samsung
- LG reassures that the G Flex 2 and G4 won’t be affected by Snapdragon 810 issue
ZTE Blade S6
Our first look at the One (M9)?
Microsoft loves Android
- (Update: final versions) Microsoft Office for Android tablets now available on Google Play/
- Microsoft Outlook Preview for Android lands in the Google Play Store
Galaxy S6 rumors
- There will be less bloatware on the Galaxy S6 – report
- Don’t take those Spigen Galaxy S6 cases too seriously (Updated)
Samsung’s shaky quarter
- Q4 2014 was a photo finish between Apple and Samsung
- Samsung sold fewer phones in Q4, but made more money out of them
We always want to hear your feedback. Whether it’s criticism or praise, feel free to tell us what you think about Android Authority’s content, design, and community. Comment here or get in touch with us on our social channels:
ZTE this morning unveiled its latest Android smartphone, the mid-range Blade S6. Carrying a $250 price tag, it’s a 5-inch handset with Android 5.0 Lollipop running the show.
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, specs include a 13-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front-facing shooter, and 2GB RAM. Nothing to knock your socks off, no, but that sticker has mass appeal. Additional specification include 16GB storage, microSD expansion, 4G LTE connectivity, and a 2400mAh battery.
ZTE doesn’t make reference to the resolution of the display so we’re assuming it is on the lower side of things. But, on a positive note, this potentially means longer life out of the battery. Listed as “HD” we’ll assume it’s along the lines of 1280×720.
In terms of software, ZTE has loaded version 3.0 of its MiFlavor OS and features Smart Sense.
…Includes an intuitive and practical sets of gesture and motion controls, such as with a flick of the wrist that allows users to shine the Blade S6’s flashlight, activate its built-in mirror application, take rapid succession of photographs, play music, and much more.
The ZTE Blade S6 will be offered in silver or pink matte finish when it launches. No hard dates were announced though we should expect it in retailers such as AliExpress, Amazon, and eBay.