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ZTE Kis Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Zippy performance

The Bad

  • Low internal memory

The ZTE Kis is a £50 phone exclusive to Virgin Media with £10 top-up. £50, that’s about a tenth of the price of a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a quarter of the price of a Sony Xperia U. What makes this Kis so sweet is that for its bargain price, you get a smartphone running Android and an 800MHz processor, not to mention a camera with autofocus and solid build quality. This means Android apps a plenty, suggests decent performance and screams value for money – but is it really as good as it sounds?

ZTE Kis Review: Design

If the HTC One V had a younger, cheaper, clunkier sibling, it would look like the ZTE Kis. There’s a cheekily comparable chin, build is solid and the soft touch backing feels considerably richer than the price indicates. The fascia is clumsy with far too much bezeling, dwarfing the 3.5-inch screen. ZTE don’t backlight the four capacitive buttons which makes them impossible to locate in the dark. We also don’t like the high gloss base around the back though for £50, the solid overall build and good weighting is alone giving you your money’s worth.

ZTE Kis Review: Screen

The 3.5-inch capacitive HVGA screen is low resolution. You can therefore expect a pretty lacklustre experience in terms of text reading and general interface browsing, especially if using the stock UI. Colour reproduction is pretty dull and viewing angles poor. It’s usable however, offering passable outdoor viewing and responsive touch input. 

ZTE Kis Review: User Interface

This Kis is laced with heavily branded Android 2.3, Gingerbread. This is an out of date version of Android which we’ve reprimanded other handsets for shipping with of late, though for the price we’re hard pressed to see it as real cause for complaint on the Kis. What is a little more irksome is the extent to which the user interface is butchered with bevelled icons and jarring backgrounds. The screen isn’t high resolution enough to support these touches and it looks messy.

You get a series of home screens which you can load up with widgets and shortcuts. There’s also an applications menu with a host of pre-installed apps as well as apps you may have downloaded from the market. Out of the box Virgin do make your life easier with a link to manage your account and top up your pay as you go credit on the fly, but there’s a fair amount of bloatware in there too. The quick settings shortcuts in the notifications bar is a great addition and there are two keyboards to choose from, both of which perform well. On the whole though, the Kis interface leaves us with more of a passing tingle than a wistful longing. 

ZTE Kis: Camera and Multimedia

The 3.2-megapixel camera on the ZTE Kis has autofocus, but no flash. Naturally, picture quality isn’t the best with weak detail, no touch to focus or scene modes, though you can adjust the white balance and ISO which is a plus. Video fares similarly at VGA resolution with output looking best on the device itself or being shared across mobile, faring poorly if exported to a larger display.

The music player is 100% stock Gingerbread which is simple, functional but frill free. This means that you get to order your music by artist, album, track and playlist and that’s about it. When it comes to video, there’s only support for MP4 files out of the box, though a 3rd party player will play back other file formats up to roughly VGA thanks to the relatively decent 800MHz processor.

ZTE Kis: Connectivity and Storage

If you’re on the market for a cheap GPS, you could definitely do worse than the ZTE Kis. The £50 smartphone also packs Wi-Fi and 3G as well as Bluetooth making it as well connected as it needs to be to take advantage of Android and all it has to offer.

It’s let down in the web browsing department by the screen being too low resolution. Text is pixelated and you’ll be pinching in and swiping a fair bit when navigating non-mobile optimised sites.

There’s about 30MB internal storage which means you’ll need to pick up an SD card with your ZTE Kis. Chances are you’ll have one in your old phone, however a 2GB card won’t set you back more than £5-10.

ZTE Kis: Performance and Battery

Despite a humble 800MHz processor and 256MB RAM, thanks to a modest HVGA screen, the ZTE Kis’s processor demands aren’t too high. This results in relatively smooth performance throughout the UI. As for gaming, the Kis will be perfect for the likes of Angry birds, though Temple Run for example wouldn’t work.

1400 mAh is a pretty generous cell size for the screen size and processor requirements. It will come as no surprise therefore that you can expect around a day and a half to two days out of the ZTE Kis using it relatively intensively. Call quality is very average, though voices sound audible and volume is decent.

ZTE Kis Review: Conclusion

We’re hard pressed to complain too much about the ZTE Kis when the asking price isn’t much more than that of a video game, so we’ll keep it short. The screen is lacklustre, the UI graphics are overbearing and the operating system is out of date. In the same breath, you’re not going to get a better smartphone in store for the price. It’s zippy, solid and functional. The camera has autofocus, it can handle most apps on the Google Play store and running Android, can be heavily customised. So while the ZTE Kis might not scream performance, it roars value with its smartphone spec-sheet at £50 on Virgin pay as you go.




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