When you think about popping to the shop for a new phone, your probably thinking you need a fair bit of cash behind you, however ZTE and Virgin Media have one option for those that are budget-minded and looking for a brand new handset to fill your very early Christmas stocking (maybe an Easter stocking?). The ZTE Blade III is available for the extremely low price of £80 with £10 credit included on the Virgin Mobile.

Packing a 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, this phone certainly doesn’t have the best specs on the market, but you can’t argue with that when you end up getting a phone with even mid-range specs for what might as well be £70.

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The build of the phone itself, is actually quite impressive and feels extremely solid. Most of the phone is covered with the same black plastic you will find on most smartphone today  with a silver bezel, and what closely resembles a chin at the button, marking when you reach that point of the phone, which is really handy when your trying to look for the capacitive buttons in the dark.

The buttons include a menu button, home button, back key and a search key lined above the “chin” of the phone.

On the top of the phone you will find your usual placement of the headphone jack and power button, there’s also a volume rocker switch at the left hand side, with a microUSB connector on the bottom. If you take off the back, you will then find the SIM-card slot, 16000mAh battery and a space for your microSD card.

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Across the front of the screen, you will find the 4″ TFT display, on which videos look spectacular good and text is crisp and clear. Sound is pretty good too, with Dolby Mobile technology, you will find clear and great sounding audio pumping out the headphones (I advice using your own, the included headphones are a bit rubbish), however when you change to the speaker it becomes quite muffled and can be easily covered when holding the phone, due to the fact it has been rear-mounted.

Above the display, you will also find an LED notification light, which will flash to tell you when you have a notification or the phone needs recharging.

However playing a HD video on the phone will soon show some of the reasons this phone is as cheap as it is, but with 5.1 sound, at least you will be able to hear it with good quality.

The cracks seem to extend when you look at the phones connectivity, with only HSDPA/HSUPA data access, reaching an average of only 7mbps download and 6mbps according some stats we seen for the phone on the web, however the phone does include 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity.

At 4GB, the in-built storage also shows some of the cutbacks, with only 2.5GB usable after you take the storage space needed for the OS and tweaks, however there is a microSD card slot, allowing you to expand this space up to 32GB.

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Running Android 4.2, most of the time you will find an experience similar to most other Android phones on the market, but from time to time, you find a nice little tweak that has been added by the company, one of my favorites being the lock screen, with the quick to access buttons.

 

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The specs for this phone also reveal that it includes a 5Mp sensor, but don’t be fouled by this, as once (like us) you actually try out the camera for yourself, you will soon notice it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The app is pretty shoddy and doesn’t respond well to quick snaps, with a ton of shutter lag.

Once you do finally take a picture however, they don’t look too bad, and are exactly what you would expect for a phone at this price. I found that, as you may notice in the image below, the camera tended to work well with close-up shots, and things that were generally closer to the sensor, however when you look at the images background, you start to notice the quality fading away.

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With a 1600mAh battery, the phone won’t last too long if you’re a power-user however if you’re an occasional it should get you through a couple of days without charging again.

And that’s just it, this phone is not for those who want a power-phone. It’s not for syncing your e-mails throughout the day whilst playing games and tweeting, all whilst way too many apps are open. The ZTE Blade III is made for the occasional user, and that’s why it’s so perfect.

You will find the main use of this phone, being to use it as an actual phone, for which it works great, phone calls are clear and the phone is actually quite nice to hold, only weighing in at 130 grams, the phone is very lightweight and will be great for those late night phone calls.

However the keyboard can be a bit of annoying to use, with a poorly laid out UI that forces you to press a weirdly marked arrow to go back from the numerical entry, alongside this the TouchPal keyboard can be a little weird to turn on, you swipe the on switch from the space bar, but what this actually results in, is you press the space bar numerous times until you actually flick the switch.

However when it works, it does work quite well, predicted what you are going to type next.

You can pick up the ZTE Blade III from the Virgin Mobile on Pay As You Go for £80, or on Pay Monthly from free for as little as £18 a month with 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB of data.

Product Shots:

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[showphones handsetid =’ZTE Blade 3 black’ number=’3′]

Disclosure: Virgin Media sent us this phone for review purposes.

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