The market is chock-full of Android phones you can pick up for less than $100. But what can you get for just $20 (with mail-in rebate)? Sprint's ZTE Fury offers a nice soft-touch finish along with a 5-MP camera. Read on to find out if this 3G-only handset is worth the two-year commitment.
Click to EnlargeAt 4.7 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches and weighing 4.9 ounces, the Fury is lightweight and easy to grip, thanks to its soft-touch back and rounded corners. The polished silver that rings the phone adds a bit of flair, as does the radiating dot pattern on the back cover.
Up top are the Fury's power button and headphone port, while the lower right corner is home to the phone's camera button. The volume rocker is on the top left corner and a micro-USB port sits on the lower left.
The 3.5-inch display, surrounded by glossy black plastic, dominates the front of the phone. At the bottom of the screen you'll find four capacitive Android buttons. Unfortunately, ZTE chose to outline the buttons in gray rather than bright white, making them hard to read when the backlighting isn't on.
Display and Audio
Click to EnlargeThe Fury sports a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 display with IPS technology. It should come as no surprise that the Fury's visuals aren't as sharp as more expensive smartphones. While watching a trailer for "The Avengers," we noticed slight distortion along the edges of Iron Man's suit. Colors, however, were rich, with explosions and laser blasts appearing crisp. At 278 lux, the Fury's screen is fairly bright, only about 20 lux lower than the smartphone average.
Audio quality from the phone's rear-mounted speaker was disappointing. Metallica's "Sad But True" was almost unbearable, with guitars and drums sounding garbled and bass notes nearly indistinguishable. However, the device functioned much better as a speakerphone.
In addition to the standard Android keyboard, the Fury comes loaded with Swype. While the standard keyboard was responsive, we found Swype better for one-handed typing. The light haptic vibrations offered satisfying feedback.
Software and Interface
Click to EnlargeThe Fury runs Google's Android Gingerbread operating system (2.3.6). Turn the phone on and you'll get the usual five-screen Android layout with only slight modifications applied by Sprint, including the Sprint ID button, which sits next to the call and applications buttons on the bottom of each screen. Beyond that and a smattering of Sprint-branded apps, the experience is basic Android--unless you take advantage of Sprint ID.
Click to EnlargeSprint's ID app lets you download ID packs, each of which features apps, wallpapers and ringtones based on specific themes. Looking for a set of business apps? Download the business ID pack. Sports? Try the Health and Fitness ID.
There are a host of options available to users depending on their interests. The problem with Sprint ID is the lack of overall customization. Sure, each ID pack will set you up with a series of apps that may interest you, which you still have to download through Google Play, but you'll also get a ton of other apps that you may not want on your smartphone.
For example, downloading the Health and Fitness ID, will give you Run Tracker, but also include the Express Horoscope app. Luckily, most of the apps aren't actually installed on your device when you apply a Sprint ID. Instead, what you get are thumbnail links to the apps' download pages in the Google Play market.
Click to EnlargeThe ZTE Fury comes loaded with the aforementioned Sprint ID Handango Apps, Sprint Zone and Docs To Go (pictured). The Sprint Zone app gives you all of your latest account information and tells you when you are due for an upgrade. The app also provides Sprint news, suggested apps and device tips. Sprint also touts the fact that you can download its Sprint Music Plus, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile and Sprint TV apps through the Sprint Zone.
The Fury's 1-GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 processor and 512MB of RAM cranked out the kind of performance numbers we've come to expect from a budget Android phone. During the Benchmark CPU test, the Fury scored 2,232. That's lower than the Android average (2,391) but faster than the LG Marquee (1,601). The 1.2-GHz Qualcomm-powered HTC EVO Design 4G scored 2,541 on the same test.
On the An3DBench test, the Fury pulled down a 7,437; that's higher than the category average of 6,944, as well as the LG Marquee's 4,897 and the HTC EVO Design 4G's 5,975.
During our real-world use, the Fury proved to be a capable smartphone. Scrolling through apps and swiping across the system's five home screens was smooth and snappy, while opening the camera app took 1.5 seconds. We did notice a slow transition from the home screen to the app screen, but it was tolerable.
The Fury packs 4GB of internal storage and comes complete with a 2GB microSD card. Users looking for a bit more storage space can always upgrade to a 32GB card.
As a budget phone, the ZTE Fury operates only on Sprint's 3G network. When we tested its connection speeds using Speedtest.net the Fury's average download speed was 910 Kbps. Upload speeds were expectedly lower, notching 630 Kbps.
The Fury was able to load the mobile version of NYTimes.com in an average 4.2 seconds. The mobile version of ESPN.com took an average 6.3 seconds. Laptopmag.com, meanwhile, took a lengthy 40 seconds to load. Once loaded, gestures such as scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were quick and seamless.
Camera and Camcorder
Sporting a 5-megapixel camera, the Fury produced clear photos with crisp colors. A picture of a freshly bloomed flower looked particularly exceptional. Its bright pinks and yellows showed no signs of color bleed, and the alternating greens of its stem and leaves provided a sense of depth to the picture.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the Fury's camcorder. Video of a suburban street on a bright spring day was encumbered by stray artifacts. The video also became pixilated rather frequently, meaning you probably wouldn't want to rely on the Fury as you lone camcorder.
Calls made using the Fury were generally clear and distortion free. There were times, however, when voices sounded tinny through the phone's earpiece, although this was far from the norm. Likewise, callers said we sounded clear, but noted that voices tended to sound distant on occasion.
The speaker phone performed well, providing loud, although not especially clear, audio. Callers on the other end of the line said voices sounded better over the speakerphone than the standard mouthpiece.
The Fury's 1,500 mAh battery is rated for 7.8 days of standby time and 7 hours of talk time. During our LAPTOP Battery Test, which includes continuous web surfing over 3G, the Fury lasted 6 hours and 40 minutes. That's about an hour longer than the smartphone average and the EVO Design 4G (5:46 and 5:25, respectively), and worlds better than the LG Marquee's 3 hours and 40 minutes.
It's important to note, however, that the EVO Design 4G ran the test over its 4G connection, which generally drains power faster than a 3G connection.
Data Plans and Value
Considering that 4G phones, such as the Pantech Breakout on Verizon and the Pantech Burst on AT&T, are available for less than $50, why would a 3G phont on Sprint be attractive?
Sprint's unlimited data plan with 450 minutes of talk time costs $69.99 per month. Over 24 months, that's $1679.76. By comparison, similar plans on AT&T (450 minutes plus a 5GB 4G data plan) and Verizon Wireless (450 minutes, unlimited text, 4GB of data) will cost $89.99 per month, a total of $2,159.76 after two years. That's a savings of $480.
Click to EnlargeFor less than the price of a night at the movies, Sprint's $20 ZTE Fury is certainly affordable, and will last you through a double feature, too. But without 4G and a lackluster camcorder, it doesn't exactly live up to its fierce name. Overall, we prefer the Nexus S 4G on Sprint (free for a limited time) or the LTE-capable Pantech Burst for AT&T ($50). But if you're in the market for a low-price smartphone and want unlimited data for a cheaper price than the bigger carriers, than the Fury is a solid choice.