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ZTE Kis review

Can ZTE break from its network-branded roots with this budget offering?

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Our Verdict

For

  • Decent keyboard
  • Stylish design
  • Loud rear speaker
  • Responsive
  • 12 months' free data

Against

  • Very poor viewing angle
  • No Flash support
  • Lack of Facebook
  • Tiny internal storage
  • Bloatware

Coming out of network-branded obscurity is a path that many mobile phone manufacturers are taking.

HTC are now a major player in the mobile industry, and now Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE are hoping to follow suit.

Entering into the extreme budget market, the ZTE Kis squares up against the Huawei Ascend G300, as well as against phones from more experienced and well-known manufacturers such as the Sony Xperia Tipo, LG Optimus L3 and the Motorola MotoSmart.

The ZTE Kis comes locked to Virgin, but at a rather respectable price of £59.99 with 12 months' free data on PAYG, ZTE are looking to really challenge the big guns.

ZTE KIS review

It also means they are clearly targeting first-time smartphone buyers, as well as students. Our model was white, but the Kis also comes in black. So, what do you get for your money?

Bundled in the box comes just about everything you would expect. Phone? Check. Charger? Check. USB Cable? Headphones? Check and check. There's even a 2GB microSD card to help you store all your pictures and music.

ZTE KIS review

Looking at the ZTE Kis, you would have expected to pay a lot more. However, the specifications are more akin to the price tag.

The 800MHz processor, HVGA screen and 3.2MP rear camera (no front-facing offering) are by no means mind blowing. But then we didn't expect them to be. The lack of 3G, though, is rather disappointing.

As expected, ZTE have only opted for Android Gingerbread (2.3.6), with no upgrade on the cards.

ZTE KIS review

Although lower cost, the ZTE Kis is immediately on the back foot against the Huawei Ascend G300 and the HTC Desire C.

As we said, looking at the Kis you'd be forgiven for thinking you had paid a lot more - the HTC Salsa immediately comes to mind.

Following an almost standard Android layout, the front is dominated by the screen, wrapped in a thick, black, glass front.

At the bottom of the screen are the four capacitive soft keys; Menu, Home, Back and Search. Just below this in a similarly-large plastic chassis is the rather visible microphone.

Also concealed behind the black wrapping is an LED light that flashes when you have a new notification, or when you are charging the Kis. It's not immediately visible, but it's just to the right of the speaker.

The top of the ZTE Kis houses both the 3.5mm headphone port moulded into the body, and the power/lock button. The lock button doesn't stand out massively from the body, but is easy to locate and hit one handed.

ZTE KIS review

On the left of the Kis is the volume rocker. It's a bit firm for our liking, and the way it curves up at the edges makes it a bit sharp when you slide your finger up and down the side. Being at the top, though, means you are unlikely to hit it accidentally.

The opposite side houses an uncovered microUSB port. ZTE have left the back pretty sparse as well, with nothing but the camera, speaker and handset branding. The plastic chassis wraps around, and is the first visual clue to the price of the KIS.

Thankfully, unlike some devices, including the high-end HTC One X and the iPhone 5, the battery cover is removable.

ZTE KIS review

Sliding a fingernail in the slight groove in the top right of the cover pops the cover off very easily.

The plastic is thin and flexible; again more clues as to the price of the ZTE Kis. Behind the battery cover is the SIM-card slot, 1,400mAh battery and microSD card slot.

The microSD card slot isn't easy to use, having to lay the card flat against the Kis and slide it in.

We often found ourselves dropping the card on the sofa and losing it down the back, so a pop in/out slot would have been preferred. We were impressed with the device's size, as everything is easy to hit one handed.

The 120g weight means that you notice it in your pocket, without feeling that it is weighing you down. It is also comfortable to use for long periods, and we don't envisage you dropping it (we didn't, and we're not exactly graceful).

The 3.5 inch HVGA TFT screen will never win any prizes. On the plus side, its bright enough to use outdoors and the capacitive buttons are very responsive. The viewing angle is pretty poor; we certainly can't imagine watching full-length movies on the Kis.

Overall, we can imagine you wanting to show the style of the ZTE Kis off to your friends, and making them guess how much you spent on it.