back to article ZTE Open: This dirt-cheap smartphone is a swing and a miss

Of the various open source Android challengers currently under development, the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox OS was the first to reach the market with actual, commercially available products. The ZTE Open smartphone is one such product. Unfortunately, that's about all it's got going for it. When ZTE started selling the Open via …

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Swing and a miss ... of the point

" and it's bound to disappoint anyone who isn't upgrading from an even lower-end feature phone."

I may be mistaken but I thought the point of this is as a starting point for DEVELOPERS and not a product for end users. The specs aren't super high because the project is just starting out as shown by the 1.0 release and the rough edges experienced. Give it time to develop and better hardware will come as well as better performance. From what has been described in this 'review' it seems hard to be much worse but that doesn't mean it will always be this way.

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Re: Swing and a miss ... of the point

To a large extent I agree. Plus to compare it to a Apple iPhone - even the original one in the UK in '07 would cost over £800 with the contract tie-in - when it's a budget platform really isn't comparing apples with apples (see what I did there!).

Give it a bit of time and let's see. It'd be nice to see the OS upgraded regardless of the manufacturer for once, but hey ho.

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Re: Swing and a miss ... of the point

Yes, and that world changing £800 marvel, didn't even support copy past!

chill out, wait for a more mature product, then make a fair review...

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Trollface

Re: Swing and a miss ... of the point

Yes, and that world changing £800 marvel, didn't even support copy past!

Oh, it certainly did copy the past all right...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Swing and a miss ... of the point

Someone was certainly desperately keen to slag it off. Comparing an $80 developer device to a $850 consumer device? Why? You could buy TEN of one of them and a really nice dinner out for the price of one of the other. Just madness.

Other than that, what's there to say about the ZTE Open's hardware? It has a fixed-focus, 3.1MP camera. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack. It supports HSDPA, dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, and FM radio. It takes microSD cards up to 32GB. Stop me when you're overwhelmed.

Well... there's REALLY USEFUL stuff in that list which the nearly ELEVEN TIMES more expensive comparison handset CAN'T DO... does that count as overwhelming?

...the ZTE Open running Firefox OS 1.0 just isn't going to impress anyone. It does too much to be considered a dumbphone, but for a smartphone, it's plenty dumb.

Erm... could that be because it's DESIGNED to fall BETWEEN the two categories?

...and so on...

God damn that was a fuckwitted reviewoid.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Swing and a miss ... of the point

"chill out, wait for a more mature product, then make a fair review..."

NO

This is on sale to the general public, so it SHOULD be compared to other phones for the same price.

If it's not fit to be released, then it should not be released.

Yes the iPhone 1 had issues (copy paste) but that was several years ago and was pretty much the 1st of it's kind, the technology world has moved on. You can easily pick up far more a capable Andriod phones for less money.

I'd be pretty pissed if I bought a car from a new manufacturer only to find the doors fell off, it didn't start half the time and when it did go, it could only do 40mph, so why accept this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so it SHOULD be compared to other phones for the same price.

RTFA, it's an 80quid phone being compared to an 800quid phone, FFS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so it SHOULD be compared to other phones for the same price.

£60 phone... subtite:

Hands-on with the $80 Firefox OS mobe

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JDX
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RTFA, it's an 80quid phone being compared to an 800quid phone, FFS.

No it isn't. The article makes it quite clear it sucks in general. The article compares it to an iPhone 1!

It sounds from the article like an $80 Android phone would be a better choice, which is of course the worst thing. And remember the Nokia Lumia 510 received favourable reviews but is in a a similar price bracket albeit not quite as cheap).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The article compares it to an iPhone 1!

Oh yeah, that was £80 at launch....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RTFA, it's an 80quid phone being compared to an 800quid phone, FFS.

No it isn't. The "article" bounces around comparing it to whatever the wind blew in.

There's no other way to say it: the ZTE Open is a cheaply made phone. Unlike Apple's "unapologetically plastic" iPhone 5c – which turned out to be little other than an iPhone 5 that comes in colors, with a price tag to match – ZTE's Firefox OS mobe practically revels in cheapness.

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Re: RTFA, it's an 80quid phone being compared to an 800quid phone, FFS.

An orange san Francisco would have been a better comparison for features vs cost.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so it SHOULD be compared to other phones for the same price.

Yes and they're pointing out why a good phone costs so much.

The iPhone 5 isn't £800, it's £529 sim free, the cost with a contract is including mobile service too.

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kb

Re: RTFA, it's an 80quid phone being compared to an 800quid phone, FFS.

It doesn't change the fact that the phone sounds like a poor choice compared to phones in its price range and even lower!

Compare what we just read with the Galaxy precedent and LG Optimus, both of which are sold for $50 new at the prepaid shops here in the USA. While its true both run an older version of Android (2.2 and 2.3 respectively) as someone who has tried both and ended up going with an Optimus as my "day to day beat around" phone I can say its...its a nice phone actually. even though its CPU is just 800MHz its snappy, surfs well, there are even a ton of games and emulators that work quite well with it, and this is a $50 NO CONTRACT phone.

If this would have came out when iPhone 1 came out it might have had a shot as a low cost alternative, but as long as Google keeps supporting Gingerbread its main competition is gonna be the sub $100 Android phones and TFA sounds like it really doesn't measure up when compared to those.

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So you seem to be quite critical of cheap phone... because it's built cheaply?

What did you expect?

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Yeah, it's not great, but....

Are you looking for a phone that is Orange?

Do you want it to be sub £100

Would you like front and back camera, and an app store?

Then you need the Lenovo A660, sure it's Android ICS, and yes you might have to fiddle with putting on a modified ROM to get the experience that you like.

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Anonymous Coward

Battery life

How was the battery life? I have to ask because the article didn't mention it.

Criticisms of the UI usability and lack of basic apps showing written to use the offline capability are fair enough. But yadda, yadda, version 1.0.

Let's see if they and ZTE ship an update soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Battery life

>How was the battery life? I have to ask because the article didn't mention it.

Probably excellent then.

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Re: Battery life

I've had my Open (one of the Spanish models - black, not orange, alas) for about a week. Despite (or perhaps because) I'm a tech geek, this is my first smartphone. As such, I still don't really use it much, apart from the alarm to wake me up on the morning.

With my usual pattern of minimal use (though there was a fair bit of messing around because it was brand new to me), I got about four days out of the battery over last weekend. That was with Wifi on, and no SIM or memory card in(!), so YMMV.

Running a Youtube vid non-stop (10-hour HD Nyan cat, FWIW) over wifi got it down to 33% charge in about four hours. Not including the time taken to restart the video because it had stopped prematurely, for whatever reason.

Overall, I'd say it's definitely a v1 product.

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Anonymous Coward

Doesn't work with google, check.

Doesn't work with facebook, check.

Where can I get one?

Oh, you forgot the bit about it's for people needing a very cheap phone, but moving up from a feature phone, so it looks like the grounds covered for a first relase.

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I own one and I agree

I found myself agreeing with most of the review. The UI really is cumbersome and the OS needs more work - just to catch up to landfill Android.

I don't believe this phone is for those moving from a feature-phone. I agree it is a dumbphone.

I do believe this phone is for developers and those who are curious and not serious.

If I had to, I could sum up my experience with the ZTE Open in one word: pants.

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Silver badge

Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

....but it does raise credibility issues for the reviewer who doesn't seem to realise that android on underpowered hardware suffers from just the same "swipe acts as a click because the processor is too slow" problem. But then again, Android is shit, so maybe he has a point....

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JDX
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Re: Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

Read the mini-review from the persona above you, they said Android is better on equally crap hardware.

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Happy

Re: Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

Ooh, yeah, good idea! Or maybe I could just pick up my Sony Xperia running a version of Android 4.0 and see it perform like shit for myself....

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Re: Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

I was agreeing with you up to the point where you lost all credibility by calling Android shit. How is it shit? You've had a bad experience therefore it is shit? Sorry but while that is going to be your opinion based on your experience it doesn't mean that it is shit in general.

If you had an iPhone or whatever-it-is-you-like-phone and had a bad experience would you then call the whole system behind it shit? If so you lose all credibility for expecting too much. If you wouldn't then you lose credibility by playing favourites.

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Re: Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

Well PaulR79, unfortunately my opinion is the only one I have, I find repeating other peoples opinions pointless. My opinion is not simply based on one phone, I've played with a lot of androids, plus iPhones, Windows Phones, Nokias, hell I even have a Palm Pre that runs WebOS on my desk.

My point was that underpowered hardware hampers many touch based GUI devices, Android devices can have that problem. My overall opinion of Android doesn't make that any less true.

(Loathe though I am to say it, it's making sure the GUI stays responsive that made iOS such a big hit. Watch the way an iPhone will always respond to touch, even when the GUI can't keep up and paint stuff in it just scrolls a chequerboard pattern. Something Android could learn from....)

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the OS needs development....

To clarify my experience with the ZTE Open: I get noticably better performance from my current HTC Explorer which runs Android 2.3 but has a slower CPU.

Sure, the HTC Explorer wasn't £60 at debut, but you can pick one up on eBay today for less than that. Granted, it's 2nd hand, but I'd take a used HTC Explorer over a new ZTE Open if I was looking for a better UI experience.

YMMV, but my experience suggests it's the OS, not the hardware, that deserves more attention.

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Re: Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

"I was agreeing with you up to the point where you lost all credibility by calling Android shit. How is it shit? You've had a bad experience therefore it is shit? Sorry but while that is going to be your opinion based on your experience it doesn't mean that it is shit in general."

Why not? There are those who say that Windows Phone is shit (probably) without even having had the bad experience (http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/09/13/lumia_1020_launches_in_uk_but_wait_goes_on/), so why isn't someone else allowed to say the same of Android?

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kb

Re: Underpowered hardware doesn't mean the OS is shit....

Really? Somebody needs to tell that to my poor wittle Optimus Q then, it is snappy and responsive when according to you it should be slow as Xmas.

Of course i don't have a bunch of dumb social "app" garbage running in the background 24/7 either..Did you think it might, just maybe, be the lousy apps you install that could possibly be the problem?

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Re: the lousy apps you install that could possibly be the problem?

Wow, you looked on my phone and found lousy social apps? You're clever, I haven't even installed any!

But yes, when I said low powered devices could struggle with Android I was specifically talking about you and Optimus prime....

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For £60 I think they have done a fab job. If they get that keyboard working and touch responsiveness down then for £60 it sounds perfect and something I'd be happy to take out on a night out.

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>something I'd be happy to take out on a night out.

Play with it pal, don't date it.

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Glad to hear my own frustrations about the appalling input echoed in your article - this is my first touchscreen phone (Yes, I'm a luddite) and I've very nearly hoyed the damn thing across the street a few times.

Before text-input even, the presumably-simple act of calling a number in the phone book is frustrating beyond belief - I'm still unsure exactly how many microseconds I'm supposed to keep my finger depressed for the unit to register that I want to call, not edit a number.

And then - drizzle. Don't even try to use the screen if there's even a speck of 101% humidity on the damn thing.

A shame, as i could forgive every other fault if I could just use the damn thing without frustration.

My hopes of fart-arsing around and developing a wee HTML pseudo-App are long-gone. Just not worth the red mist...

.

Also - did anyone else here get copied in, twice, to a couple of emails from ZTE proudly declaring that they value privacy.. whilst CC'ing in 300+, then 700+ names of other handset consumers?

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Anonymous Coward

ZTE Open is a cheaply made phone

I'm really disappointed to see such a "perceptive" remark. I mean, what the (...) did you expect?

Maybe it's the way you phrase it, perhaps you could have stated the obvious less... obviously? Sorry, it's Friday and pissing down here, have a beer! ;)

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The comparison will be made

There will be consumers out there who will buy it for $80 and expect it to be comparable with the iPhone at $800. They will complain bitterly about it and refunds will be demanded. Some will be more sensible and understand that the performance difference is why there's an extra zero on the iPhone price, but definitely not all.

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Silver badge

Re: The comparison will be made

Sorry, but I disagree.

I recently helped a relative replace her ageing Nokia. She was on an extremely tight budget, so we originally planned to replace it with, possibly, a feature-phone at best. Instead, we ended up with the snappily-named Samsung Galaxy Star s5280. Cost? €80 in-store, SIM-free.

(More info here: http://www.samsung.com/it/consumer/mobile-devices/smartphones/smartphones/GT-S5280RWAITV – [NOTE: Italian site, but the specs should be understandable] ).

That's an Android "Jellybean" 4.1.2 smartphone for about the same price as the ZTE Open.

(Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the lack of 4G and even 3G support, but these are useless outside of Italian urban areas. Out here in the Italian countryside, you're lucky to get even basic 2G signals unless you live right inside a town or village. On the other hand, home broadband with WiFi is easy to find. The next Android phone up was over the €100 spending limit.)

The Galaxy Star is very much a low-end Android smartphone, but despite its low specs, it still points and laughs at the ZTE Open, while kicking sand in its face. This despite being, by Android phone standards, a weedy little thing with pipe-cleaner arms, bottle-lensed glasses and an allergy to sports.

Relying on what are, fundamentally, just grids of website bookmarks for your apps is a bloody stupid idea, not just in the West, but *especially* in developing nations that this phone is apparently supposed to be aimed at. Many potential customers barely have *clean running water*, let alone access to the mobile internet infrastructure needed to use such a phone. How are they supposed to run those apps?

(Also, if the web is so full of open standards, why aren't there more apps for existing mobile platforms already? Last time I checked, even an iPhone 1 or that Samsung Galaxy Star could run such apps just as easily as this Firefox-based device. Yet nobody seems to be jumping onto that bandwagon with any alacrity.)

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Why is it so cheap?

I get that Firefox OS is going to be geared towards developing nations, but don't you want the first few phones running your new OS to be the best they possibly can be? This phone would be landfill Android with a different OS, and the Firefox Geeksphone that's up for pre-order ain't all that great either. Google's Nexus phones have always been mid to high end, the iPhones have always been desirable products, and even Microsoft knew that their first Windows 7/8 phones had to be nearer the top end of the spectrum than the bottom.

Here it looks like shoddy hardware is getting in the way of anything that might let the OS shine through, and to me that just seems a good way to make sure the whole system is DOA.

Somebody make a Firefox OS device with a similar spec to the Nexus 4, or even better a Galaxy S4, and I'm interested despite the fact it's still a beta OS. Not this tat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why is it so cheap?

Because its selling point is being a license-fee-free, open OS that provides value for both providers and users. Make it work on cheap hardware and it'll fly on the high-end stuff.

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Android comparison

Regarding the low-end Android comparison: I have a ZTE Blade (aka Orange San Francisco) - slightly lower specs than this one except that the Blade has a better screen. The ZTE Open ought to have better specs since it's around three years newer. This week I flashed Android 4.2 Jellybean on my Blade, and it works really very well - the odd crash but the hardware is more than competent to run the OS. I know that the Blade was an especially good model for cheap Android, but since both phones are made by ZTE, it seems like a fair comparison.

It's early days for Firefox OS, but this isn't an impressive start.

By the way, regarding web apps on a phone - that was the way WebOS worked (albeit packaged). On my HP Touchpad (now happily flashed with Android too) it was a really painful experience. WebOS had its good points, but the apps were dreadful.

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Facepalm

So phone 1/10 cost of Apple phone launch product & *not* built by multi $Bn corp

Is not quite as good.

I'm shocked I tell, shocked

BTW that idea of the website supplying the functionality, rather than an app running on the phones processor and memory resources. It's called WAP.

It was the whole "making a dumb (terminal) phone act smart" concept.

I still have a copy of a a $7K market project report saying how it would take over the world.

It didn't.

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Holmes

Looking forward to version 21 of this phone next year, after all it's Firefox.

In all seriousness let's see what it's like in 2015.

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"In all seriousness let's see what it's like in 2015."

There might not be any in 2015. I wouldn't have imagined it is easy to convince large electronics companies to keep on ploughing significant investment in a platform - unless you manage to attract and maintain enough initial interest. From what I see in the article - that appears to be doubtful.

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Biased but some good points in there

Yes - the constant and repeated comparison with the iPhone, as others have remarked above - is somewhat irrelevant, not fair and tedious after a while. However, I think the article has some point with its criticism (at least in between the lines, if not directly) in that:

1. It is a good number of years since the iPhone and Android have been launched. Even if some Reg readers might think that is is only "fair" for the first Firefox mobiles to have such faults - the rest of the market is unlikely to forgive them when they have plenty of other choices of far better quality for either the same or very similar price. I'm not sure they can *afford* to put out such low level of quality directly to consumers - and burn any potential initial interest they might have (which is little, lets be fair - with all the competition out there).

2. I agree with the concept of cheap of cheerful in general. But I would have preferred they stuck to a limited set of functions and done them well to begin with. Trying to do pretty much everything other smartphones do - and failing pretty badly at even simple stuff (contacts searches, general usability, touch sensitivity etc.) - well, I don't think that's the way to the hearts and minds of whatever niche of consumers they were hoping to woe.

3. To those who say this is "just" version 1.0 - there was a time when version 1.0 meant just that - not "beta". I would have been fine with it if half of the expected functionality was missing completely - but for half of the *present* functionality *not* to work properly or at all - that is a completely different matter.

I personally don't like much either iPhones or Androids - for a combination of technical and philosophical reasons - so some healthy and different competition would have been welcomed. But so far, I am not convinced that Mozilla stand much of a chance if that's how they are trying to impress those few consumers not corralled into the competition's (by now) entrenched camps.

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Bah!

...aaaaaand the Voice Communication Quality? This *is* a "phone", right?

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I bought one, mostly because I wondered how the hell any browser in the year 2013 can run usably on less than a gigabyte or two of ram and dual cores. Well, the answer was that it doesn't.

My 2009 Nokia N900 with its 2010 gecko-based browser and 600MHz cpu loads websites (those that still work on 3 year old browsers) faster than the Zte Open..

Try load theregister in landscape mode on ZTE Open. You get notice about cookies splattered on the bottom half of the screen, and attempts to tap "I agree" just opens whatever link is underneath the "I agree" button. Usually some ad.

I couldn't agree more about the keyboard. Comparing it with the N900 again (it might be unfair to compare with 2009 $600 phone), its unpredictive onscreen keyboard on 3.5" RESISTIVE screen is more usable than the ZTE Open keyboard... that's quite an achievement..

I wanted a simple device just for web browsing in bed after laptop and tablet become too heavy to hold up over my head, and thought that even if firefox os has no apps, atleast it has a browser that should be good.. Too many websites don't work in it, and there's no way to disable the broken "mobile" websites, atleast firefox for android has such an option, and even an extension that makes it default..

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Silver badge

Android Cupcake was pretty crap too

But it's gotten better in the last couple years.

Personally I think the Mozilla devs suck large planetoids through a millipore filter, from having to use Firefox every day and looking at some of their code and UI design decisions, so I'm not really holding out much hope.

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"And that's the thing about Mozilla building a smartphone OS based solely on web technologies: we've been there already, and we didn't like it. Remember in 2007 when Steve Jobs told developers that all they needed to build apps for the iPhone was the Safari browser? They all scoffed. Just four months later, Jobs admitted Apple was working on a native app SDK, and the entire industry has been moving that direction ever since."

This is what I see as the main problem. Once again, IPhone was by no means the first to try this. Devices have come before and after the iphone that were straight up just a browser, or support some kind of "web apps", and it always turns out to not really be enough. Sounds like this phone is no exception.

Firefox is also a nice browser but (last I saw), the Mozilla Foundation's main method of getting firefox to run on lower-RAM systems was to turn the image cache and other RAM caches down, and turn the garbage collection thresholds down too. This works, but then when you DO try to run some web app, javascript will be going crazy with the garbage collection, becoming sluggish.

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Boffin

It's an entry phone

Hard as it may be to believe, there are still millions without smart phones. Why? Simple. Price.

Then there's the folks who have a smart phone... from 5 years ago. Again, hard to believe, I know, but they hang on to them for multiple reason, the 2 biggest reasons being they still work and moving the personal data to a new smartphone is still rocket surgery for most people. (no insult intended, it really is too hard for the average person)

My first smartphone was a ZTE 500. Why? Simple. Stop me if you've heard this before, but.... price. My pain/price threshold is +/-$100. I found the 500 about to be discontinued and paid a whopping $50 for it new.

See, I'm that person who needs just a smartphone, not a fashion statement and the reality is, that's all I can afford anyway. And guess what? It does everything I want and some things I didn't think about before I owned it.

So what we have here is THAT phone. The one for people with a budget, who just want to move up from their old smartphone a little ways and still have some of the old, and still useful, familiar hardware features their old phone had or was lacking.

But yeah, the screen could have been a BIT bigger. I can get an LG with a 4" screen and 4G for just a little more.

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