• My Review of the ZTE Open



    Before anything else you need to know that the ZTE Open, the first widely-available phone running Mozilla's Firefox OS, is a cheap piece of crap. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

    Any mobile operating system that's not called Android or iOS is struggling right now, and anything that's not BlackBerry or Windows Phone isn't even on most users' radar. But there are other would-be contenders out there, and Firefox OS, with its promise to deliver the open web to mobile devices, is at the very least a compelling idea.

    Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth went big in promoting Ubuntu as a smartphone OS. Their campaign to raise $32 million USD for a limited run of the Ubuntu Edge very famously failed over the summer. Mozilla and ZTE have an altogether different scheme for Firefox OS; for just $79.99 USD anyone in North America or the UK can purchase an unlocked ZTE Open via eBay.

    That's how I got mine. I didn't get in on the first batch as they sold out in a single weekend. The second run added Canada as a shipping option, with extra fees. My grand total was $100.38 CAD.

    So what to expect from an $80 phone? As you can imagine, not much.

    The Open's "unapologetically plastic" casing has a metallic orange finish, with a matte feel that won't easily slip out of your hands. But this is no Lumia, that's for sure.

    The screen is a mere 320 x 480 pixels. There is no Gorilla Glass here -- depending on your point of view it's either durable or cheap. At about 165 pixels per inch I wouldn't exactly call it pleasant to look at, but it gets the job done. Ditto for response to finger actions; haptic feedback helps out a lot.

    I also have to say that I was somewhat dismayed to find a stuck pixel in the lower left quadrant of my screen -- something I haven't had to worry about since, well... forever.

    One thing this ZTE has over any iPhone is a removable battery and a microSD card slot. Unfortunately to get at it you have to pry off the phone's flimsy back and worse, get it on again. I used to dread detaching and re-attaching the back of my Galaxy Nexus; this phone is worse. It's like cracking open the shell of a lobster only to be told that you have to put it back together again.

    The Open also has a camera. For photos it's not terrible; bright light and the proper focal length will deliver results like this:



    For video, however, it's pretty much useless. 352 x 288 pixels at 20 frames per second? I won't even bother posting a sample of that.

    If all of this seems underwhelming it is, yet somehow I can't seem to put the damn phone down. This idea of introducing a new operating system via cheap hardware that almost anyone can afford is pretty clever. There's a simulator available for the Firefox desktop browser, but it's just not the same as using it with your fingers.

    There's actually a lot to like about Firefox OS; more on that in a future post.

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    This article was originally published in forum thread: My Review of the ZTE Open started by acurrie View original post
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Ten Four's Avatar
      Ten Four -
      So, how well does it work as a phone?
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      Voice calls, you mean? Is that still a thing?

      I'll pop my Koodo SIM in when I get a chance...
    1. AahH's Avatar
      AahH -
      for just $79.99 USD anyone in North America or the UK can purchase an unlocked ZTE Open via eBay.

      That's how I got mine. I didn't get in on the first batch as they sold out in a single weekend. The second run added Canada as a shipping option, with extra fees. My grand total was $100.38 CAD.

      So what to expect from an $80 phone? As you can imagine, not much.


      Sorry but I do not agree with this...
      This turd should be $20

      Let us look at the other options...

      Huawei Y300 prepaid = $70 CAD (plus taxes) and unlock codes are $5
      Dual core Android 4 front face camera led flash Futureshop / Bestbuy

      Lumia 520 OR 620 for $99 prepaid at Futureshop/BestBuy (although I think WIndows Phone stinks the hardware is sound

      This thing is a turd.
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      Unfotunately none of those other devices come with Firefox OS, which is what I was after.

      Not that I don't agree with you -- I just wanted to get the crappy hardware out of the way so I could focus on the OS in a future post.
    1. Ten Four's Avatar
      Ten Four -
      Yeah, does it work OK making and receiving calls and texts?
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      So I forgot that I've a microSIM in my Nexus 4, which won't fit in the ZTE.

      You can hear an audio sample on page two of this CNET review, and the second commenter here seems pretty happy with the sound quality.
    1. yyz123's Avatar
      yyz123 -
      Thanks for the review, I didn't even know there was such a thing as Firefox OS!

      Although the build quality, performance, or specs may be lacking. The price is really cheap so I think it's actually pretty decent value for your money.
    1. tigerwolf's Avatar
      tigerwolf -
      I love Firefox, so naturally I've been interested in Firefox OS.

      I actually dig the phone's ridiculous looks. Just seems like branding almost for what's sort of a test phone.

      Hmm, I don't have any mini-sims though. Micro and Nano, but no Mini.

      Specs are sort of hilarious. An A5? I've never seen anything that's shipped with an A5. It's basically the ARMv7 version of the ARM 11, like so that you have code compatibility with the other v7 CPUs. 1GHz is fast at least though.

      Man, if it was effortless to switch back and forth between my phone and this, I'd pay the $80 just to try it out.

      If nothing else, the OS *looks* really nice from pictures. Not sure what it can do though.

      Heck if it inexplicably had awesome podcast support it would be the best mobile OS to me, though I seriously doubt it has any at all.
    1. adam917's Avatar
      adam917 -
      I'm curious - is the 352x288 @ 20 fps worse than a VHS EP recording? Imagine if it were. ;-)
    1. futurephone's Avatar
      futurephone -
      This is great to hear of! I like how it looks, sort of retro like the old giant Orange amplifiers. When I have a bit of spare cash I want to get one.

      Did you write your review of Firefox OS yet?

      Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk 2
    1. Macrosiny's Avatar
      Macrosiny -
      I am surprised by its price. Definitely goes with it when arriving in my country. Cheers