ZTE is a little-known brand in the U.S., but the Chinese manufacturer is slowly but surely making its presence felt in the U.S. cell phone market. It kicked off its U.S. debut earlier this year with a couple of entry-level phones, such as the ZTE C88 for MetroPCS, and now it has released a slightly more advanced phone for MetroPCS, the ZTE C79. The C79 is a slender flip phone with multimedia features such as a 1.3-megapixel camera and a music player, but aside from that, there's nothing special about it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though; the C79 is still a solid midrange handset for people who want a simple multimedia phone. The ZTE C79 retails for $159 without a contract.
Aside from the striking red border around the perimeter of the phone, the C79 has a pretty simple flip phone design. Measuring 4 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the C79 is a slim and attractive phone with a glossy black front and a nice soft-touch cover on the back. It's lightweight at only 3.7 ounces, and yet it feels solid.
On the front of the phone is a 1-inch external display that supports 64,000 colors and a 96x64-pixel resolution. It displays the usual date and time information, as well as the battery life and signal strength. Even though it has caller ID, it does not support photo caller ID because the address book doesn't let you add pictures to contacts (More on that in Features). You can't adjust any settings of the external display, and we weren't able to use it as a viewfinder for self-portraits, either.
To the right of the external display are the music player controls, which consist of the two track shuttle keys plus a Play/Pause key arranged in a vertical line. Pressing the Play key prompts the music player to load, and it will start to play a paused song immediately. The music player control keys have a bubblelike tactile feel and are significantly raised above the surface of the phone, which we liked quite a bit.
Rounding out the exterior of the phone, there's a camera lens above the external display, while a volume rocker and dedicated camera key are on the left spine. The right spine is home to a microSD card slot and a charger/headset jack.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a decent 2-inch diagonal display with support for 262,000 colors and 176x220-pixel resolution. We quite liked the bright and vivid display, especially how the colorful certain images appeared. We wish the phone had a more vibrant menu interface, but that's a little nitpicky. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the clock format, the menu style, plus the size of the dialing font.
Under the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a circular toggle, and middle confirmation key, a dedicated music player key that also doubles as a speakerphone key during a call, a Back key, plus the Talk and End/Power keys. The circular toggle also acts as shortcuts to the Contacts list, the @Metro store, the Messaging menu, and the MetroWeb browser. Underneath the navigation array is the number keypad. With the exception of the circular toggle, we found the keys were a little bit flat to the surface of the phone. The keys had a slightly cheap feel to them as well. That said, there are clear delineations between each key, and they all have a nice give to them when pressed.
The ZTE C79 comes with an AC adapter, a USB cable, and a wired headset.
The ZTE C79 has a 500-entry phone book, which seems a little small, but each entry is able to hold four numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can also assign each entry to a caller group and you can personalize each contact with one of 21 polyphonic ringtones. Unfortunately, you cannot assign a photo to a contact, thus you're not able to use photo caller ID. This is a shame, since the ZTE C79 has a pretty decent color external display. Aside from that, other basic features include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, and a voice memo recorder. More advanced features include stereo Bluetooth, and a wireless Web browser. We were disappointed to discover the C79 does not have a voice command or voice dial feature, especially since it appears to be a pretty basic cell phone feature these days.
Though the C79 has an MP3 player, it's pretty generic in its look and feel. It has all the basic music player functions, such as play/pause, fast forward, rewind, and the capability to create, edit, and delete playlists. The C79 has 60MB internal memory, but it can accommodate up to 2GB microSD cards for additional storage.
The C79 comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, and you can take pictures in six resolutions (1280x960, 1024x768, 640x480, 320x240, 176x144, and 160x120), three quality settings, five white balance settings, and three color effects. Other camera settings include brightness, contrast, up to 5x zoom, a self-timer, and two shutter sounds (with a silent option). Photo quality was not bad. Colors looked good if a little overcast, and pictures didn't appear too blurry as long as you kept the phone pretty still.
You can personalize the C79 with a selection of graphics and sounds for wallpaper and ringtones. If you wish to buy more, you can get them from MetroPCS's @metro data services portal. The C79 comes with a free copy of Sudoku, and you can download more games from @metro, too.
We tested the ZTE C79 in San Francisco with the MetroPCS service. We encountered admirable call quality--callers sounded loud and clear and vice versa, with very little static interference. Callers could tell we were on a cell phone, and said we sounded a tad robotic, but it wasn't a big deal. Call volume was quite loud, and we couldn't ask for better clarity. Speakerphone calls were good as well, though as with most speakerphone calls, callers sounded a bit more muffled than usual.
The audio quality from the music player was decent. Music sounded a little light on bass, and the speakers were on the tinny side, but it was otherwise pretty good. Of course, we recommend using a headset for better sound quality.
The ZTE C79 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 7.5 days standby time. According to the FCC, it has a SAR rating of 0.869 watt per kilogram.