With its colourful squares and bouncy demeanour, Windows Phone should be right at home on a cheerful budget blower. The ZTE Orbit is one of the most affordable Windows Phones yet, and while it's not record-breaking it could bring smart phone smarts to any who doesn't fancy the price of an iPhone or the confusion of an Android phone.
ZTE is previously best-known -- or rather, unknown -- for making budget phones that are branded with someone else's logo, like the Orange San Francisco 2. But this year the Chinese company wants to blast off into orbit under its name, and the ZTE Orbit is one of the first to take off.
Like the ZTE Tania, the 4-inch Orbit is a wallet-friendly take on Windows Phone, Microsoft's colorful software for mobile phones.
Design and camera
The Orbit is a rounded phone with a bit of heft to it. The back is patterned with a series of dots. A 5-megapixel camera with a flash sits at the top left, where there's a danger of your finger creeping into the shot.
Even in my brief testing of the phone, I found myself having to adjust my grip on the phone to keep my fingers clear, a precious second delayed that could cost a a blink-and-you'll miss it snapshot. There is at least a dedicated camera button so firing up the camera takes just a moment.
The Orbit sports a decent-sized 4-inch screen, although the 480x800-pixel resolution is nothing to write home about -- it's standard for current-generation Windows Phones.
Inside the Orbit is a 1GHz Qualcomm processor with 512MB of RAM. That's pretty respectable, and the phone certainly hasn't traded in any of the Windows Phone software's signature zip and bounce. We'd like to see how it copes with tougher tasks such as fast-paced games or videos.
You can store 4GB of movies, music and photos on the phone. Listen to music with the built-in music player or download your own music app -- Spotify is a recent addition. And there's an FM Radio to catch up with your favourite easy-breezy sounds over the airwaves.
All the usual connections are present and correct, including GPS, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You can also wirelessly connect to a TV via DLNA, or Wi-Fi Direct to quickly connect to another device without the hassle of complications like passwords and such.
NFC is also on board, but as yet this is a technology in search of a use. In future, we expect to be able to transfer files by tapping two NFC phones together, or paying for things by waving an NFC phone at a special till, but as yet there isn't much call for it.
Windows Phone software
Onscreen, the Orbit is powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone software. It looks nothing like Windows on your computer, based instead around large colourful squares called 'live tiles'. You tap a tile to open an app, but you don't even need to open the app to see the latest information right there on your home screen.
Each tile comes alive with the latest headlines, the weather, your friends' messages and social network activity, your next appointment, and so on. The camera tile, for example, cycles through your pictures, while the address book tile flips up pictures of your friends, pulled in from Facebook. It's a playful, fun and easy-to-grasp way of absorbing the latest information at a glance.
You can pin as many apps to the home screen as you like, so your favourite apps are right at your fingertips. Or swipe right for a full list of all your apps. If you're an app fiend, the list could quickly grow out of control -- it's nowhere near as handy as the grid layout of the iPhone or Android app lists -- but then again, the current paucity of Windows Phone apps means this phone's probably not for app fiends anyway.
The number and quality of apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace lags behind the number in the Apple App Store or Android Market, but one area that Windows Phone does well in is games. You can access your Xbox Live account through your Windows Phone, contact your button-bashing buddies, see your avatar dance about, and play specially designed cut-down versions of big name Xbox games.
The ZTE Orbit is set to be one of the most affordable Windows Phone so far. The colourful, peppy Windows Phone experience could find favour with those who want a fun phone rather than shelling out for an overpowered smart phone.