While ZTE isn’t exactly a leading brand in most of the English-speaking world, their reputation in other markets is quite good.
One phone in particular, the ZTE Maven, is attracting attention for its relatively decent feature set yet comparatively low price.
But can a low low-priced Android smartphone actually live up to the expectations of an everyday smartphone user?
Trickier yet, can it live up to the expectations of someone who recently broke his much more expensive phone?
I decided to find out.
Recently I picked up ZTE's Maven and I'm ready to share my thoughts in this quick review.
Unboxing the Maven, you’ll find a fairly standard piece of kit.
The plastic chassis and relatively bare design feels a lot like the fancy flagship smartphones of a few years ago.
It's a bit thick and soft, but comfortable to hold and the heft adds a sturdy feel.
The design takes a page from the HTC design book with your power button and headphone jacks up top and volume and microUSB charge port on the sides.
All of the buttons have a nice tactile feel and are easy to find just feeling the edges of the phone.
The removeable back means you can swap out SIMs or add a MicroSD card for storage.
The first thing I noticed about the Maven's battery was that it was covered by a giant label warning you that removing the battery voids the warranty. This means no swapping for a quick boost of power during the day.
On the upside, I found that the 2100mAh battery does a decent job of providing enough juice for a full day of use.
While on Wi-Fi, updating social media, checking emails, watching the odd YouTube video and a constant stream of SMS messages leave plenty of charge to make it back home at the end of the day.
Around the front of of the handset you’re greeted with a respectable 4.5-inch display. While its 854x480 resolution won’t wow anyone, it’s more than bright enough for outdoor use and text is easy to read.
Contrast is good with clean whites and respectable blacks.
If there was anything to knock the screen for it would be viewing angles.
While you won’t have any issues with normal use, friends peeking over your shoulder are likely to be greeted with a visual mess.
There's just 8GB of internal storage.
Is that enough?
Well, that really depends on how you use your smartphone. But for me, even adding a full suite of social apps, productivity apps and a music streaming app had the phone throwing low storage notifications.
The good news here is the above mentioned microSD slot.
By using the external slot you can help the memory problem by moving apps to the SD card. This doesn’t appear to impact performance much and gives you up to 32GB of additional space for a nominal fee.
The camera is an issue. I'd argue the weakest point of the phone. Then again..it is a "phone".
Between the dark, grainy front-facing camera and the slow, washed-out rear shooter, you won’t be taking many pictures with this phone.
The flash makes a handy flashlight in a pinch, but picture quality, even for social media purposes, is far from stellar.
The Dolby audio processing provides a surprising level of clarity on music and movies, but cranking the volume tends to result in clipping and crackling on headphones.
Not a deal breaker by any means, but an odd little nuance that might cause some music lovers to look elsewhere as the entry-level market continues to heat up.
Powering the phone, you’ll find a 1.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor.
Graphics are handled by the Adreno 306 GPU and 1GB of RAM offers enough memory to keep things moving at a respectable clip.
Let’s be clear for a second--this isn’t going to be a powerhouse.
But launching apps is quick, swapping between open apps is smooth and it plays most popular games on the Google Play Store with little trouble.
Unless you’re a power user, you’ll probably find the phone meets your needs.
The Android OS
Rounding all of this off is a clean and functional interface that sticks very close to the stock Android 5.1 Lollipop UI.
What's good is is that there are not many bells and whistles added outside of the bounty of branded apps from ATT.
What's bad is that some of the software is not without quirks.
My Maven for instance has a habit of resetting my unread counts on social media and messaging apps after rebooting the phone.
Certainly nothing critical, but something to consider.
Overall, if you’re looking for an affordable handset that is great for everyday use but not without its minor imperfections, the ZTE Maven is hard to beat.
While it might not age gracefully and could be outpaced as low-end phones continue to gain power and features, it currently offers exceptional value in a market filled with feature phones and older Android devices.
The ZTE Maven is a good enough phone at a great low price.
Lack of storage space
Minor software issues