X

ZTE Blade S6 looks startlingly similar to the iPhone 6 (hands-on)

The familiar-looking $250 phone, powered by a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chip, will offer Android 5.0 Lollipop on the cheap in Asia.

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
3 min read

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, is it a duck? This was the question that came to mind when I first laid eyes on ZTE's newest phone, the Blade S6.

Intended for Southeast Asia, the Blade S6 greatly resembles Apple's most successful duck yet, the iPhone 6, down to the round edges and aluminum-looking rear (it's actually plastic). It's missing only the antenna band markings. The similarities do end there, thankfully, as the phone's MiFavor software runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop, and is quite different to Apple's iOS 8.

Specs-wise, this is a decidedly midrange breed of waterfowl, sporting a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octo-core processor, a 13-megapixel camera, 4G LTE dual-SIM capabilities and a 5-inch 720p screen. It will be available online at Alibaba's shopping site Aliexpress for $250 (which converts to around £165 or AU$320) and it will soon appear in stores in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

ZTE Blade S6 copies Apple wholesale (pictures)

See all photos

Design

You've seen the iPhone 6, right? The ZTE Blade S6 has an incredibly similar curved-edge glass front. It's slightly larger thanks to its 5-inch display, which has 1,280x720 pixels. It feels lighter, though, and it's also thicker, at 7.7mm.

Similarities? There are a few. ZTE's Blade S6 (left) alongside Apple's iPhone 6. Aloysius Low/CNET

At the bottom of the device, you'll find a home button, but instead of the house icon, it's a circle with a glowing blue light. There are two additional buttons either side of it, back and menu. These are hidden when not in use, but light up in the same blue when touched. By default, the back button is on the left, but you can switch it to the right side in a settings menu.

The Blade S6's look is so similar to the iPhone I have my doubts you'll see this phone making a debut in the US, Europe or Australia, where I suspect Apple would be more likely to defend its work through the courts.

The side buttons only light up when touched. Aloysius Low/CNET

As we've seen with other familiar looking phones from Chinese makers, the copycat design will likely help it to do well in Asia. And its $250 price will give customers an incentive if they can't afford the much more expensive Apple phone.

Specs and software

The phone has a rear 13-megapixel camera -- the same Sony sensor found on the Xiaomi Mi Note. I expect image quality to be good, at the very least, but it will likely come down to the software tweaks that ZTE will have put in place to crank out the best picture.

Internally, it has a mediocre 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card slot to expand that. It's powered by a 2,400mAh battery, which is a tad on the low side these days.

Aloysius Low/CNET

The Blade S6 runs MiFavor 3.0, pronounced "my favour," which is a custom skin on top of the latest Android operating system, 5.0 Lollipop. The flat-looking interface helps give the phone some visual interest, but that's not all ZTE has up its sleeve. A software tweak called Smart Sense lets you use several gesture commands to quickly access certain features.

These aren't turned on by default, so you'll have to head to settings. From there, you can select the various features you want enabled. For example, you can shake the phone to turn the flashlight on, or raise the phone up to a landscape position and hit the volume up button to turn on the rear camera.

Some of these gestures aren't very intuitive, and don't really work unless they're done in a very specific manner. The best thing is that many of the movements require you to also hit the volume keys, so there's less chance to accidentally activate them.

Outlook

The Blade S6 is hardly the most original of devices, but it does offer a very affordable Lollipop experience for Asian markets, and it's likely to be popular with people who want the iPhone but can't afford the premium price. I wish ZTE had put more thought into the design, but perhaps emulating the best-selling phone in its home country isn't the worst idea.

Aloysius Low/CNET