Ever heard of ZTE Corporation? The answer -- unless you happen to have ties of one sort or another to China -- is probably no, as locally they're hardly the equivalent of a Nokia or a Motorola, although they do have an Australian office. According to the ZTE Web site, they're "China's largest listed telecommunications equipment provider specializing in offering customized network solutions for telecom carriers worldwide." A big sentence to essentially say that they make, amongst other things, mobile phones, and in this case, the Telstra F850. We're not sure if it'll be the case with the final retail units, but our review sample of the Telstra F850 still had plenty of ZTE branding upon it; given Telstra's liking of total rebrands this strikes us as a little unusual. In terms of where it sits in the Next G product offerings, this is the entry level model, with a price point and feature set to match.
The F850 itself is a fliptop mobile phone in black plastic, measuring in at 98 by 49 by 18.6mm and weighing in at 125 grams. That practically defines "average" in terms of fliptop phones, and given the market's swing towards making fliptops that are, in one way or another clones of the Motorola RAZR design, it's even arguably a little large. The specifications for the display are rather hard to come by, save for the fact that it's a 262K colour display -- the pixel size would suggest that it's 320x240, but neither the product manual or Telstra's Web site for the phone reveals such details. The one upside to the slightly larger holding size is that the dialling buttons, and especially the selection pads at the top of the phone are slightly larger than normal, which may suit some users very well indeed. A small camera sits in a rotating socket in the middle of the top hinge, just below the screen itself. The power socket sits beneath a rubber flap on the right hand side, and it's irritatingly a custom design; we'd much prefer a mini-USB socket in every phone, if only because it doesn't leave you high and dry if your charger dies. Given the paucity of other ZTE phones on the market, that's a particularly relevant point in the F850's case.
The F850 is a tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900MHz) and WCDMA 850MHz mobile phone, making it suitable for use both on the existing slower GSM network and Telstra's much-hyped network. There's a catch here, however, as while it'll connect to Next G services, it's actually only a 3G-capable data phone. There's no data service built into the phone -- and it took us a call to Telstra to confirm this, as both Telstra and ZTE's local sites are a little coy about this particular detail.
Given its budget price point, it's not surprising to see that the feature set of the F850 is rather meagre. It runs on a 146MHz processor with 64MB of internal memory, which can be expanded via microSD memory card. The inbuilt camera is a 1.3-megapixel model with two -- count them! -- additional scene modes, B&W and Sepia. It supports MP3 playback and polyphonic ringtones, and as a Next G branded phone, it's also possible to access Next G services such as Foxtel Digital, video calling and the raft of Telsta add-on services such as email and mobile blogging.