I promised (myself, mostly) to give a review of the Chinese ZTE Blade smartphone within 2 weeks of its purchase.
The phone has been an absolute delight and definitely worth the low cost (189 eur, as of April 2011, from Elisa). Blade is a full-fledged smartphone, with easy-to-use features – excluding the text messaging.
SMS practicality and short battery life gets a few minus points. The rule of thumb is that if you are a power user, ie. use the Web a lot, or talk a lot, you will have to recharge within the day.
The phone has a touch screen, and in addition to that 3 physical buttons situated below the screen; in the right edge it has + and – for volume adjustment. There’s three ways to interact with the screen: touching, long press, and sliding your finger across the screen. Touching is for selecting things, long press shows you context-sensitive menus and options. Sliding is for gaming and some obscure applications like the visual screensaver; it’s actually fun idea: instead of a PIN number, the phone unlocks when the correct jigsaw is entered.
The screen is bright and big. Interestingly I found out that more screen real estate makes really a significant difference in the navigability of the phone: you don’t feel so claustrophobic with this one. I have to give Android full points for navigation in general; menu choices are logical and I’ve found all that I need to change very easily.
If you do however enter a very bright, sunshiny place, the screen is left second place against Sun. This is somewhat annoying during spring and summertime. Enter that cozy bar, or get inside, where every nerd belongs, anyway! 😉
Google’s personal information management is very easily integrated. Basically you create one account on the phone, which has your username and password, and after that it’s a delight to use every Google service. You have Gmail, documents, etc. Works like charm. The Android supports more than one Google accounts, if you need that.
Installing new software couldn’t come easier. The Android Market is the name for centralized Android software. Tap a program, “OK” the license, and it’s installed on your phone in a couple of seconds. If you have big downloads, you can get it done faster in a fast WiFi (instead of your phone’s data connection, 3G or 4G). 45000 free apps, plus another 40000+ for an average price of 4 eur (cheaper in USA).
Now, looking at the impact that software installation has, it is significant. When I used Nokia’s symbian platform, I was tearing my pants with every installation. It was sometimes as much as 15 dialogues worth of waiting, accepting… Really unnecessary stuff. Android has done a great work in this. If Nokia is to get on with competition, one of the most acute improvement sites is all its end-user issues, from ease of installation to web presence. Google’s got a big edge here.
I haven’t had so much time doing tests with software, but do try Ninja Kaka. And ‘Tap Tap 4’ is fun 🙂 There’s plenty of nerdy utilities available, one of my favorites being SunDroid free. HAMsters can find ‘HamSatDroid’ also interesting.
The Android 2.2 OS is very stable operating system. I got it hanging only once during 2 weeks, and that was partially thanks to a half-baked WLAN offered by a burger joint near me. This wifi had only IP to offer, but no valid gateway. So, Android’s IP stack didn’t find this very much of fun, and I had to zap with ‘droid. That is, a ON/OFF reboot. Normally, you can find handy information about the allocated space for software, as well as how many kilobytes it’s taking in current running session. This turns into valuable information if you happen to be close to running out of space.