I recently had to change phones (and carrier), and in the light of my new commitment to spend less and save more money, I decided to go the cheap route. T-mobile seemed like a great opportunity, with their $30/mo for unlimited internet and 5GB of LTE data. (spoiler: it *is* a great deal if you use your phone more for internet than for calls). To match this cheap no-contract offer, I had to get a cheap smartphone.
ZTE Zinger Review
The ZTE Zinger is probably the cheapest smartphone you can find these days. You can get it at Amazon, and other stores sometimes also have it for cheap depending on the season.
The next cheapest device (with 4G support) I could find cost more than twice the price of the ZTE Zinger at the time of thins writing (coincidentally, I got that one for my wife who was in need for a change too, and I felt some of the limitations of the Zinger would frustrate her, I also felt it would be good for the sake of experiment to buy a different one. I’ll try to review it shortly).
So is there a catch? What are you getting for such a price? Check this out in this honest ZTE Zinger Review.
First of all, let me tell you that the ZTE Zinger works perfectly fine with the $30 prepaid unlimited plan from T-Mobile. It ships with a simcard that can be used to activate the plan, so all I needed was a “refill” code, not a full activation kit (so one could say that the Zinger actually costs $33, + $6 for the sim card…).
In terms of hardware, what are we getting for $39?
The ZTE Zinger is an Android 4.x device that supports 4G (a prerequisite in my case). It has a touch screen, supports Wifi and blutooth, and you can install apps on it like any other smartphone. From the general point of view, you can do with that phone anything you can do with any other Android smartphone: watch youtube videos, install apps,…
It does come with limitations however. After using it for a few weeks, I have found the following issues:
Limited amount of space on the device
The available space on the device is extremely low (1.2 GB, with 300MB used by the OS). This means you will not be able to install many apps on it. I have about 5 tiny apps installed , and only 200MB remaining on the device. This is because many apps use lots of space for their own data, in addition to the space taken by the app itself.
And the phone ships with several “preinstalled” apps that cannot be uninstalled (TMobile utilities, Amazon, etc…). The updates for these apps tend to install “automatically”, taking even more space.
If you are fine with the default installed apps (Google Maps, youtube, etc…) you should be fine. Don’t expect a chance to install any game in there.
This is a problem because recent versions of android do not offer the possibility to move apps to the SD card anymore. So, even though the ZTE Zinger supports SD cards, you won’t be able to move the apps, and the phone can quickly run out of space.
This issue had never happened to me before this phone.
The screen on the ZTE Zinger is small and has poor brightness and color quality. This will not be a problem in most cases, but I have found that watching even short videos on youtube has been painful with this device.
Bad quality Camera, no front facing camera
The lack of a front facing camera prevents using the ZTE Zinger for video chat on services like Skype.
Additionally, the back camera is a 2MBps camera with a terrible lens. Even pictures taken in broad daylight have poor colors, terrible compression artifacts, etc…. The phone also lacks a flash so you can’t expect to take picture at a party with dim lights.
I was using the phone to take pictures of some signs on the streets (phone numbers of a store I want to call later, etc…) and it was almost impossible without getting super close to the signs, sometimes in awkward positions. Oh, yes, the camera does not have a zoom function, neither does the app give you an option to digitally zoom (which would be terrible anyway, given how bad the quality is already).
This phone can basically not be used for photos, unless you want something really quick and dirty.
A positive note, though, it can be used for videos. Ironically, the videos are “ok”, or at least feel less terrible in comparison to other phones I’ve owned.
Poor battery life
The battery on the ZTE Zinger will last roughly a day with minimal usage. This is what my previous smartphone (an HTC Desire HD) would get after 3 years of using it.
To compensate for the bad battery, the settings on the ZTE Zinger are made so that the screen will turn itself off very quickly. This can be changed of course, but at the cost of battery life.
I’ve had to restart the phone a couple times when it would fail to refresh the list of wifi endpoints. Not a big deal, but annoying.
It also is not compatible with the “Mobile Hotspot” option on TMobile, for tethering. This is a $15 a month service on T-mobile, so don’t bother paying for it if you have that phone. USB Tethering also failed for me, even with advanced apps (drivers would not work). Bluetooth tethering, however, worked, thanks to this tutorial. (you can get a tethering app that works for the ZTE Zinger on the Amazon appstore: EasyTether)
So, is this a recommended product?
Well, despite all of these issues… yes! If your smartphone is not your life, and you just need a convenient way to access google maps, the web, your email, twitter, music, the occasional video, and a few apps, this is a great cheap device.
I grew tired of trying to compete and get the latest and greatest smartphone. All this does is attract people to steal your phone. Nobody’s gonna steal that crappy phone, and even if they do, I can buy one again! This phone costs less than the majority of iPhone cover cases! Try to wrap your mind around that: some people pay more than the cost of my phone, just to protect their phone! If you want another vivid picture: I could buy this phone, new, every month, and that plus the cost of my new prepaid plan would still be less than my previous plan (let alone the phone that came with it)!
If you’re a huge smartphone user, this phone will not cut it for you. But as a backup phone, or if you spend more time on your PC or tablet than on the phone, this is a great device.
You can get the ZTE Zinger on Amazon. also check out other ZTE Zinger reviews if you’re still on the fence.
What’s your smartphone? How much did you pay for it? Are you satisfied with it?