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The ZTE Warp ($200 as of November 30, 2011 from Boost Mobile) is a prepaid Android smartphone that sets a new standard for prepaid handsets. Though by no means perfect, ZTE is a high-quality Android phone for the carrier-free masses.
When I first laid eyes on the Warp, I mistook it for the Motorola Atrix 2. The two phones have a similar shape, and both sport a nicely textured back that feels good to hold in your hand. The Warp's 4.3-inch, 800-by-480-resolution display isn't especially sharp, however, and it can be a bit difficult to see outdoors. Because the screen has a tendency to retain fingerprints, you may want to carry a cleaning cloth to prevent it from getting smeary.
At 4.96 by 2.67 by 0.45 inches, the phone will fit comfortably in your pocket and yet it provides ample room for pounding out text messages and playing games. The Warp has a dedicated camera button (always a welcome feature), along with a smallish power button and a volume button, but little else. The buttons were responsive and had the right amount of give to them.
Powered by a single-core 1GHz Qualcomm processor, the Warp is no slouch at performance. Menus flew from beneath my fingertips, and in general the phone was extremely responsive to input. Granted, you may not be able to run the most graphically intensive games, but apps such as Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Angry Birds, and Cut the Rope ran reasonably smoothly.
In San Francisco, the Warp supported a download speed of about 0.7 megabits per second and an upload speed of about 0.83 mbps, as measured by the Ookla Speed Test app. That should be fast enough to enable you to browse the Web and to update your Facebook status without any problem.
The Warp had even call quality, with no signs of hiss at either end of the phone calls I made. Audio coming from the earpiece sounded muffled, however, as though my caller were speaking through a towel. Since this occurred in an area that had good reception, so I imagine that callers would be difficult to make out in areas where you only get one or two bars of service.
The Warp's battery life was great. I kept the phone on standby for more than a week before I had to recharge it. At moderate usage, you should be able to make it through most of the day on a charge: After I spent several hours recording video, taking pictures, playing Minecraft, and watching movies on my test Warp, the phone's battery gauge was at around 45 percent.
The Warp ships free of manufacturer installed overlays, so you get a fairly unadulterated version of Android. You do get a few useful carrier-installed apps from Boost Mobile: BoostZone, Mobile ID, and Documents To Go.
BoostZone lets you manage your Boost Mobile account; it also recommends some apps that you may enjoy. Documents To Go allows you to view Office files on your phone or from your Google Docs account, though you have to pay for the full version to be able to create and edit files. Mobile ID enables you to customize your phone with premade themes that come with coordinated wallpaper, ringtones, and apps to suit the mood. So a music theme might change your wallpaper into a picture of a guitar and litter your homescreen with apps such as Pandora and Google Music. Though not particularly useful to anyone familiar with Android, Mobile ID can be extremely helpful to anyone who is new to the OS.
As I mentioned earlier, most games should run on the Warp without a hitch. The touchscreen is large enough and responsive enough that you shouldn't feel constrained as you slash at enemies or fling birds at pigs.
During my time with the Warp, I had good luck streaming HD movies over 3G with the phone. Videos were clear with very little blockiness due to a slow Internet connection. You'll probably want to load your own videos onto the phone for situations where you don't have a network connection, though. The screen isn't high-resolution, so you will see a few jagged lines here and there.
The ZTE Warp comes with 4GB of internal storage and a 2GB microSD card that you can swap out for a larger one, if you decide that you need the extra space. The speaker on the rear isn't especially loud--so if you want to rock out, you'd better bring your own headphones. Though I like standard overlay-free Android, I'm not a fan of the stock music player, due to its lack of audio options. You can always download a third-party player like WinAmp, however.
The ZTE Warp has a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. The Warp certainly won't replace your point-and-shoot camera, but it did a reasonably good job at taking photos. Photos taken in the late afternoon came out a little dark, but indoor shots looked fine. Video was a whole other story: Shooting in VGA, the Warp produces videos marred by a very distinct "jelly effect": Objects seem to bend and flex as you move the camera around. The Warp picks up voices reasonably well, but you won't want to use it to record anything fancier than YouTube videos.
The ZTE Warp is one of the better prepaid Android phones available now. It is responsive, has a nice large display, and takes decent photos. Video isn't its strongest point, but the Warp is a very good phone for anyone who wants an Android model that doesn't come tied to a carrier contract. If you're a Boost Mobile customer looking to upgrade to a smartphone, the Warp will be a perfect fit.
The ZTE Warp is an impressive pre-paid smartphone and is the device to get if you are on Boost Mobile.
- Well built
- Vanilla Android Gingerbread
- Muffled audio in phone calls
- Poor video recording
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