Unless you're a MetroPCS customer, it's likely you haven't yet heard of ZTE in the United States. Until the Chinese manufacturer launched the ZTE Salute with Verizon Wireless, it had never cracked the U.S. market with a top-tier carrier. The basic tools and lackluster display won't make the entry-level Salute a memorable debut effort, but the slider phone's interesting design details and budget price make it a redeeming value. If you're entering a new two-year agreement, you can pick it up for $19.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate either online or at Verizon Wireless stores.
The Salute stands to attention at 3.94 inches tall, 2 inches wide, and 0.54 inch thick. It's a little fat in the hand and pocket, but comfortable on the ear. The Salute easily fits into a purse or bag, and at 3.53 ounces it has a heft in line with that of a smartphone.
An attractive handset, the Salute sports a glossy black face with matte silver accents, black and silver sides, and a silver backing. The 2.4-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) screen supports 65,000 colors. Navigation is straightforward, but unfortunately, the Menu screen looks dull and fuzzy around the edges.
Below the screen are two triangular soft keys, a circular navigation array with central select button, and the Talk and End keys. At the very bottom is a Clear key. Slide up the phone to reveal an alphanumeric keypad. The keys are slightly raised above the surface, but on the whole feel fairly flat.
The dedicated camera button and 2.5-millimeter headset jack are on the right spine; the volume rocker, speakerphone button, and Micro-USB charger port are on the left. A 1.3-megapixel camera and accompanying vanity mirror are on the back. We appreciate ZTE's attention to detail, which shows up in the Salute's rounded corners and visually interesting angles and textures on the spines, dialpad, and phone face.
The Salute has a small 500-person phone book with room for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, and a note. There's also space for an instant-messaging screen name, a picture pairing, and calling groups. You can also choose to pair a contact to one of the Salute's 25 polyphonic ringtones. The phone also has a silent mode.
A full complement of basic tools resides on the Salute, including a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, and a notepad. Slightly more sophisticated are the Verizon voice commands (powered by Nuance), Bluetooth 2.0, and assisted GPS. Verizon's VZ Navigator is a convenient feature for those who sign up for the $9.99-per-month subscription.
The Salute's WAP browser is accessible through the Media Center or Settings menu. Internet isn't very speedy over 2.5G; it took about 35 seconds to load CNET's mobile-optimized site. You can also download AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo instant-messaging apps.
The Salute's 1.3-megapixel camera isn't going to replace your digital camera, at least not if you enjoy crisp images. The Salute produced a high percentage of overexposed and blurry photos. You'll need to be stock-still to get sharp edges, and you may want to dive into the camera settings to improve image quality. The Salute has four resolutions (1,280x960; 640x480; 320x240; 160x120), six white-balance options, four color effects, four self-timer modes, and four shutter sounds. You can send a photo via text or Bluetooth and save it as your wallpaper or assign it to a contact. There's 62MB of internal memory for storing photos and other media.
On the customization front are the multiple portals to the Verizon store, which sells games, ringtones, and wallpaper art.
We tested the CDMA (800/1900) ZTE Salute in San Francisco on the Verizon Wireless network. We experienced so-so voice quality. We noticed a fuzzy quality to voices, with indistinct edges and a slight echo, but we didn't experience breaking up or background noise. On their end, callers sometimes found us difficult to understand and noted that our words tended to run together. There was no static, however, and volume was strong; most of the time we didn't have any problem carrying on a conversation.
Speakerphone quality is rarely impressive, and indeed, the Salute's speakerphone sounded typically distant and often produced echoes. Callers seconded the impression of distance.
The ZTE Salute has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and 9.16 days of standby. According to our tests, it has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 52 minutes. FCC tests measure a digital SAR of 1.52 watts per kilogram.