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First Look: ZTE Reef

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First Look: ZTE Reef

3:39 /

You can take Virgin Mobile's ZTE Reef for a swim, but its low-end feature set and uneven performance are all wet.

Hi, I'm Kent German, Senior Managing Editor here at CNET, and I'm gonna give you a first look at the ZTE Reef for Virgin Mobile. Now, with this phone, Virgin Mobile is getting a couple of things it doesn't have before. One, it's getting a water-resistant device. It's also getting a phone made by ZTE which is, of course, a Chinese company that's still growing here in the United States. It started out with really basic phones, but now, it's getting the smartphones like this. Unfortunately, what the ZTE Reef doesn't bring to Virgin Mobile is a handset with 4G LTE which Virgin Mobile now has and you don't get the latest Android operating system. So, we'd all be disappointed in both of those fronts, but the water-resistant thing is nice. The only weird thing is, when you look at this phone, you don't really think it's water resistant. You know, a lot of water-resistant phones, they have rubber on the outside, they have a lot of closed ports that they come heavy or sturdy. This just doesn't feel like that at all. It's had plastic back. It feels really light in the hand, not that light is a bad thing, but just doesn't feel like a water-resistant phone as I said. Up top, you see the 3.5-millimeter headset jack. It doesn't even have a cover. The micro-USB does. Now, there's a couple of reasons for that. While this is a water-resistant phone, so you can dunk it in water, you can do it for up to 30 minutes in a meter of water, it's not designed to withstand elements like dust and salt fog and all the other things you might see on, you know, like a little Nextel phone or the G'zOne Commando. So, not that device but it is water resistant, so you could leave it by the pool, maybe at the beach, and it should be fine. Overall, though, a pretty standard Android design, a plastic Android rectangle as some people like to say. There is a pretty nice display, pretty bright and colorful. All the usual customization options as adding folders or icons or deleting them. You can go back and forth to the five home screens. At the bottom of the display, you see there's that standard app tray that fits up to five app or four apps. One is there is the menu right there. So, you can't change that one, but it has four apps that you can swap out that stays constant in all the screens as you cycle through. Down below are three touch controls. There is a back button. There is the settings, the submenus also and then there is a home key. There is a 5-megapixel camera. We'll start with features. Photo quality is fine, nothing to scream about, but you know, it gets you by. It also shoots video. There's a big speaker down there, which actually gets pretty loud on the speakerphone. I was pretty surprised. Behind the battery cover, you'll find the microSD card slot. You also have to remove the battery too. It's not under the battery. It's just kind of beside it. Like I said, the phone isn't hot on features. It does have Android 4.1. It is not 4G LTE. Virgin Mobile doesn't operate that network. It has a couple of phones out there that use it. It is on 3G and I notice that even the 3G speeds that it has run kind of slow. Of course, Virgin Mobile does not operate its own network, remember that. So, this is running on Sprint's network. Sprint actually owns Virgin Mobile. So, it's using the big network. It's using something that has a lot of coverage, but just didn't really like the 3G speeds. And they have all the usual Google apps, some productivity features, organizer options, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS. So, pretty standard, midrange really in features. Virgin Mobile stacks it with some bloatware, like there's this feature which is Virgin Feed which shows you sort of popular music, news stories, and sort of useful [unk]. There's a lot of icons it stacked with like Wikipedia. They have BuzzFeed. They have Twitter. They have Instagram, but there's also the Mobile ID Packs which then you can sort of give your phone different identities and it downloads certain wallpapers and other-- other apps to go with it. Call quality was pretty good. I didn't have any major complaints, but overall, a pretty mid-range phone. I just was disappointed that it's not stacked with a couple more features, but it is nice that Virgin Mobile gets something that you can take in the pool. I'm Kent German and this is the Virgin Mobile Reef.

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