I set out in early May in search of a lowly placed Android smartphone which could offer me better performance; a relatively sharp display and a slightly larger screen size. Those were my major interests and having checked out at various network service providers dealing with the sale of smartphones, I decided to settle at Orange shop and my choice was ZTE Blade, or as it popularly known around, ZTE San Francisco. It is network locked to Orange only but that can be easily dealt with.
Here is a summary of its specifications:
- 2G GSM Network 900/1800/1900
- 3G HSDPA Network 9000/2100
- LCD/AMOLED Capacitive touchscreen, 480 x 800 pixels, 3.5 inches display (267 ppi pixel density) – that screen is as big as that of an iPhone 4S. iPhone 4S, no kidding (only difference is the ppi, the 4S has a retina display you know)
- 512MB of RAM, 512MB of ROM, 150MB onboard memory.
- 3.12MP camera with autofocus (yes, autofocus if you doubt that)
- 600MHz ARM 11 processor
What I like about the phone is its sharp display that is not offered by many low end Droids and a better camera. And that RAM is impressive too and is evidently seen when running multiple applications/multitasking.
The display is also big enough, and looks so enormous if you are used at seeing the 2.8” screen of Huawei IDEOS U****.
Sadly, the phone comes bundled with Android 2.1 or Éclair. Yes. I know many of us haven’t experienced this version of Android since the Droids that flood the Kenyan market at the time the power of Android descended on us ran Frozen Yoghurt (Froyo). This forced me to root the device and flirt with the hundreds of custom ROMs available for ZTE Blade.
Rooting ZTE Blade is needlessly easy but you have to convert the phone from Gen 1 to Gen 2 before rooting lest you run the risk of bricking your device. To know if the Blade is either Gen 1 or Gen 2, you need to download an app from Google Play Store called Ask Mr PigFish and it will inform you the generation which the phone falls in. If it is in Gen 1, then there is a 16MB zip file that does some magic to turn your phone to Gen 2, after you which you can safely root it and run any custom ROM of your choice.
Rooting mysteriously increased my onboard memory to 204MB and I don’t know how. Gave me reason to blush, because we all know how vital that space is.
My first ROM was CyanogenMod 7 for ZTE Blade. I personally love this ROM because of what it does for me. I have ever since returned to it but I did install Android 4.0.3, Ice Cream Sandwich, on it, still from the talented CyanogenMod ROM developers.
Okay. It was buggy. The camera had 999 issues. It took photos, yes, but couldn’t display a thing during photo shooting, just a dark screen. That sucked. The FM radio wasn’t there too. And performance was a bit sluggish. I’m not going to lament more about those bugs so I downloaded an improved ICS ROM, still from CyanogenMod. This was sexy; amazing UI; working camera; additional settings; much improved Wi-Fi, and many more but no sweep panorama in camera, no radio!
Ice Cream Sandwich is great for those who haven’t used it, and it actually requires a user to handle it to see what it can do. Just by long pressing the home button, you gain access to the task manager and kill running applications by just swiping your finger across the app you want to kill. The overall performance is great, since CyanogenMod gives you the ability to change the processor speeds of your device to suit your preferences (clocking), which can be maximally clocked at 804Mhz. Sounds great, huh? Also, the improved ICS is fully experienced here on this low end device, and slightly boosts your ego and relatively puts you at the same level with holders of the big boys like Samsung Galaxy S III or HTC One X, if you get what I’m talking about…
Like I stated earlier, I chose to stick to Gingerbread because it is fully developed, unlike ice cream sandwich which is still experimental for this phone. I’m patient though to see the release of a fully developed CM 9 ICS rom that doesn’t have bugs at all…and hey, they got to fix that SIM toolkit app that completely doesn’t work at all, but it doesn’t concern me because I hardly visit the MPESA menu anyway, but it can be important for you.
I have so far tested many custom ROMs. There are so many out there. Swedish Snow (Gingerbread) is the best; CM 7 is the most stable. Our preferences are different, but I can advise one to take Swedish Snow. Yeah. Yet I know several friends who have chosen to stick to ICS and things are going well for them.
The phone retails at Ksh
10,999 9,999 at all Orange shops. You might want to give it a try if you don’t have Ksh 60,000 or slightly less for the Galaxy S III or your tweets with #SamsungS3 hashtag mentioning @SamsungMobileKE didn’t count enough for you to win that device, made for humans, though I’m yet to confirm how.