ZTE Fury (Sprint)

The ZTE Fury  offers fast performance, plenty of features, and good battery life, all for less than $20. The tradeoff is a poor camera and call quality that is just okay. It’s an inexpensive, reliable Android smartphone for Sprint users on a budget—just make sure to take a close look at the sale rack before buying.

Design and Call Quality Plain and simple, the ZTE Fury measures 4.7 by 2.5 by .5 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.9 ounces. The phone is encased in a thick layer of soft-touch black plastic, with silver accents running along the edges and a pattern made of tiny gray circles on the back. It isn’t rugged, but it feels like it can withstand more abuse than average, fragile smartphone. there are four capacitive touch buttons below the Fury’s 3.5-inch, 480-by-320-pixel display. while the screen looks sharp and bright enough, that resolution is on the low side. The phone’s on-screen keyboard is a little small, but still usable.

The Fury is a tri band EV-DO Rev. A (800/850/1900 MHz) device with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. It can also be used as a mobile hotspot to provide a 3G connection to up to five different devices with the appropriate service plan. Reception on the Fury is average, though call quality is slightly below. Voices are nice and loud in the phone’s earpiece, though somewhat fuzzy and harsh. Calls made with the phone showed average noise cancellation, but voices were muffled and distant. The speakerphone sounds fine and is just loud enough to use outdoors. Calls also sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars), and voice dialing worked well. Battery life was good at 8 hours and 6 minutes of talk time.

Processor and AppsRunning Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread), there’s no word yet on an update to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) for the Fury, so I wouldn’t count on it in the very near future. ZTE has done almost nothing to the version of Android running here. There’s not much bloatware or preinstalled apps, aside from Sprint ID, which allows you to install “ID packs” on your phone that include applications, ringtones, wallpapers, and widgets. this lets you keep your phone looking plain Jane if you prefer stock Android, or jazz it up with something a little different. Interestingly, the phone also has a setting for Emergency Alerts, where you can choose to be notified of Amber alerts, extreme alerts, and severe alerts.

The Fury is powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8655 processor. this is a faster CPU than you’ll find in many other budget smartphones, though still no match for dual-core. even so, the Fury turned in rather good benchmarks for a single-core device; credit the lower screen resolution and lack of UI modification.

All of the standard Android apps are here. you get Google Maps Navigation for free voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions. The phone syncs email, calendars, and contacts for Gmail and Microsoft Exchange accounts, and works with many other popular email accounts. and the Fury’s solid performance means you shouldn’t have trouble running most of the 450,000+ apps available from the Google Play market.

Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions The Fury comes with 2.59GB of available internal memory. There’s also a 2GB microSD card preloaded in the slot beneath the battery cover; my 32GB and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine as well. The standard 3.5mm headphone jack means you can use the Fury with just about any pair of wired headphones. Music sounded fine over wired earbuds as well as through Altec Lansing BackBeat Bluetooth headphones ($99, 3.5 stars). The music player is stock Android, and I was able to play AAC, MP3, OGG, and WAV files, but not FLAC or WMA. The Fury was also able to play back all of our video test files at resolutions up to 720p.

The camera is a big disappointment. It’s a 5-megapixel shooter with an LED flash. Shutter speeds are agonizingly slow, at an average of 2.1 seconds to snap a photo. and after that wait, photos look dim and somewhat soft. The video camera is worse. Recorded videos max out at VGA (640-by-480 pixels) resolution, and play back at a choppy 13 frames per second.

Camera aside, the ZTE Fury is a good choice for first-time smartphone users, but be sure to look at your other options carefully. right now, you can get the HTC EVO 3D (3 stars), LG Marquee (3.5 stars), or Nexus S 4G (3 stars) for free. all of those phones are a step up from the Fury, with nicer displays, better cameras, and comparable, if not faster, processors. But the phones on sale chage often, while the Fury will retain its inexpensive price tag, making it a reliable bet for buyers on a budget. The Samsung Conquer 4G ($49.99, 4 stars) is another good option, and gets you a better camera and faster 4G WiMAX data speeds than the Fury for just $30 more.

Benchmarks Continuous talk time: 8 hours 6 minutes

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