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ZTE Fury (Sprint) review: ZTE Fury (Sprint)

ZTE Fury (Sprint)

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
8 min read

When I first heard word of the ZTE Fury from Sprint, I wasn't too excited about its name. Maybe Sprint was trying to convey intense excitement with "Fury," but I thought it sounded more like the carrier needed anger management. I was also skeptical of its low $19.99 price (after you send in a $50 mail-in rebate and sign a two-year service agreement), since 20 bucks usually doesn't get you very far.

ZTE Fury (Sprint)

ZTE Fury (Sprint)

The Good

The <b>ZTE Fury</b> comes with a decent camera and a snappy internal processor, and it isn't plagued with bloatware. Also, the quality design makes it seem more expensive than you'd expect from its bargain price tag.

The Bad

Despite taking passable pictures, the Fury records disappointing video, and call quality is mediocre. It's also equipped with the unpleasant customization feature Sprint ID.

The Bottom Line

The ZTE Fury is a great entry-level 3G phone. It comes with all the bare-bones smartphone specs you expect and it performs well. And at just 20 bucks, you can't go wrong.

Surprisingly, however, the device features a lot of goodies, including a Snapdragon CPU, Wi-Fi hot-spot functionality, and a decent 5-megapixel camera--all from something that costs the same price as half a tank of gas.

While almost anyone can use it, the Fury's inexpensive price makes the phone perfect for children. If the handset gets lost or damaged for example (curse those meddling kids!), at least it won't infuriate your wallet.

At 4.65 inches long, 2.46 inches wide, and 0.47 inch thick the ZTE Fury is petite. Still, although it weighs only 4.23 ounces, it feels pretty heavy in the hand at first. It fit comfortably in my jean pocket, though, and when I held it against my cheek or pinned it between my head and shoulder to talk, the weight of the device didn't bother me.

Aside from a thin chrome strip that runs along the edges and top, the phone is made from a gray, soft-coated plastic. I'm a fan of this material because it gives the handset a more luxurious feel than just plain plastic. Also, it doesn't trap fingerprints like other glossy surfaces.

On the bottom left side of the Fury is a Micro-USB port and above that is a volume rocker. Up top and dead center is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Next to that is the sleep/power button. On the right side of the device is a shortcut camera button. When you hold it down for a few seconds while the display is on and unlocked, the camera application will open.

The back of the phone is patterned with a concentric circle design made out of tiny polka dots. You can slightly feel these circles if you run your fingers across the back, but I wouldn't exactly call the phone "textured" since it feels very subtle.

The back has a polka dot pattern that you can faintly feel.

At the top left corner of the back are an LED flash, a camera lens, and a tiny reflective square for vanity shots. Two small grid openings for the output speaker are located on the back down below. A small indent in the bottom center of the handset allows you to pop off the backing easily. Once it's removed, you can access the microSD card, which is expandable up to 32GB, and the 1,500mAh lithium ion battery. The Fury's 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen has a resolution of 320x480 pixels, and is made out of Corning Gorilla Glass. Above the display is a small metal accent for the in-ear speaker. An LED light is located below that. You can choose to have it blink on and off for notifications. Below the display are the four usual home, menu, back, and search buttons, which unfortunately do not light up when you touch them.

The screen was responsive and snappy. I didn't notice any lag when transitioning between apps, going back to the home screen, or texting with Swype (which the device is equipped with). However, sometimes the resolution wasn't so hot. I didn't really notice the problem until I opened the camera app and saw that menu items like "share, delete, and more" were fuzzy. In addition to that, default wallpaper images were grainy.

Fortunately, when I fussed with other apps, text looked better. Even words in Android Play, which features both sans-serif and notoriously hard-to-display serif fonts, did not look as blurry. YouTube videos played in HQ appeared pretty smooth, and graphics in Fruit Ninja, although a bit pixelated, looked even for the most part. Colors were bright and vibrant, as well.

The ZTE Fury runs on Sprint's 3G network and is powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

Since it operates on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, it's stocked with your standard number of Google apps: Google Books, Search, Plus, Latitude, Music, Maps with Navigation, Places, Talk, and YouTube. There are also two Sprint-specific apps. One is SprintZone, for checking your account online and staying updated with carrier promotions.

The other carrier app is Sprint ID, a customization feature that I don't love. You can tailor the phone's five home screens with certain preselected apps, widgets, ringtones, and other items depending on which ID profile you install. There are 42 available packs so far, and they cater to a number of interests like music (CMT and MTV have a Sprint ID pack), sports (ESPN, Fantasy Football), and even colleges like University of Notre Dame and UC Davis (go Aggies!)

Aside from the fact that the packs are just sort of ugly, deleting an ID package won't uninstall the apps that you've downloaded. Instead, you'll have to manually remove the apps. Also, you can't remove the Sprint ID app from the home screen's dashboard, so you'll just have to ignore it.

Additional apps include several basics like an alarm clock, a Web browser, a calculator, a calendar, a world clock feature, a music app other than Google's, a news and weather app, a notepad, a sound recorder, a video player, a voice dialer, and voice search. Otherwise, the handset is pretty light on the bloatware. The only other app is Docs To Go, a Microsoft Office-esque suite that lets you edit or view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, and other files.

The camera features numerous photo options. Along with flash, geotagging, and autofocus, it has five exposure options ranging from +2 to -2; five picture sizes; three picture quality choices (super fine, fine, and normal); four color effects (none, mono, sepia, and negative); five ISO options (auto, and then a range from 100-800 ISO); five white-balance options (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, and cloudy); an antibanding feature; five levels of saturation, contrast, and sharpness; three shutter tones; and a timer.

If you want to record video, you can choose from the same four color effects and white-balance options. You can also decide the quality you want (VGA, CIF, QVGA, or QCIF), how your video will encode (MPEG4, H263, H264), how your audio will encode (AMRNB or AAC), and how long your video will be (up to 30 seconds, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes). If you're not sure about any of these options, you can choose "video mail" or "long video" before recording and the device will choose appropriate settings for you.

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) ZTE Fury in San Francisco using Sprint's network. Unfortunately, call quality was mediocre. Though voices were audible and I could understand what my friend on the other line was saying, the sound was muffled--as if she were talking underneath a thin sweater or cloth. Putting her on speakerphone yielded similar results. During both scenarios, the volume was fine and quite loud on the maximum level, but it still sounded stifled. On the upside, when I used the phone indoors and outdoors, there was no extraneous buzzing or static.

ZTE Fury call quality sample Listen now:

The camera's photo quality was surprisingly decent, again, given the price of the device. Objects did not appear as bright and vibrant as they were in real life, both in scenes taken indoors and outdoors, but images were quite clear, save for some graininess. However, the autofocus and shutter speed on this camera are slow. After you click to take a photo, you have to hold the Fury still for a couple of seconds. What's more, you can't make the camera focus anywhere but the general center; choosing individual objects to focus on in other areas of the photo is not an option.

In this outside shot, some parts of the background are underexposed, but the foreground is well in focus.

Aside from the washed-out lighting and the underexposure on the left, this indoor shot is decent.

In our standard still life, the white balance was great, but colors did not appear as vibrant as in real life.

Video quality was subpar. The default settings give you 30 seconds maximum to record, and during my shooting time, images were heavily pixelated and blurry. Colors were muted and grainy, as well. Feedback lagged a little, but wasn't too bothersome. Audio pickup, however, was admirable--the low humming of a train or a baby's cry could be distinguished during playback. Since there's no focusing feature, lighting was over the place. Some objects were washed-out while other dark objects were hard to make out.

For the most part, Sprint's 3G network (EV-DO Rev. A) was reliable, and the phone got demoted to 1X only once during my test period. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 25 seconds, while loading our full site took 55 seconds. The New York Times' full site took a shorter time on average, clocking in at 33 seconds, and its mobile site took a mere 6 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 11 seconds, and its full site loaded in 21 seconds on average. The 18.34MB game Fruit Ninja took 11 minutes and 52 seconds to install. Ookla's Speedtest app, which is 2.99MB, took a minute and a half to download, and showed me an average of 0.68Mbps down and 0.75Mbps up.

The phone's reported talk time is 7 hours. Although I haven't finished our battery drain tests, anecdotally, battery life is satisfactory. I still had about a third of the available battery power left at the end of the day, after I surfed the Web, played games, and watched YouTube videos. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.14W/kg.

Although I don't know what's got the ZTE Fury so upset, I doubt it will make anyone angry. The device is cheap as they come, and it doesn't skimp on the specs. Setting aside the disagreeable Sprint ID feature and disappointing call and recording quality, it has a zippy processor, a responsive touch screen, an adequate camera, and all the apps you want without all the ones you don't need. If you're looking for a handset to give to your child, I recommend this. It has a nice amount of features so your kid won't feel duped, and it could be our secret that you bought it for less than you spent on that pair of jeans you're wearing.

ZTE Fury (Sprint)

ZTE Fury (Sprint)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7