ZTE Blade V9 and V9 Vita put larger screens on budget phones
Android Oreo 8.1, 18:9 displays, and lower-light improved cameras aim to make the new Blade a better buy, but competition could be fierce.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
ZTE's midrange phone line, the Blade series, wasn't that memorable when CNET reviewed the Blade V8 Pro last year. But it did offer a low price and good battery life.
The newest Blade V9 and Blade V9 Vita, announced in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, may not blow you away either. But the overall feel and specs are better, and the Blade V9 now has a 5.7-inch 18:9 display that comes closer to what premium phones offer in size-to-screen ratio. They'll be released in Europe, Latin America and Asian markets, but not in the US. Instead, expect ZTE to release some sort of carrier-based variants to these phones later in the year.
Watch this: ZTE's low-priced midrange Blade V9 phone could hint at carrier deals to come
We looked at both the Blade V9 and V9 Vita in a brief hands-on opportunity. They felt reasonably lightweight, and looked sharp, particularly the Blade V9. From a distance, it has the look of a premium phone.
The Blade V9 edges out the V9 Vita in specs. Key stats include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 octa-core 1.8 GHz processor, Android Oreo 8.1, 32 or 64GB of storage, and a dual rear 16-megapixel camera that's supposed to be better at taking lower-light shots.
Keep in mind that the Blade V9's second rear camera is only 5-megapixels, though: It's used to collect some picture data and also help with AR applications and depth sensing. The Blade V9 starts at €269 (equivalent to £235, $330 US, or AU$420).
The smaller Blade V9 Vita has a 5.45-inch 18:9 display, a Snapdragon 435 processor, and a 13-megapixel/2-megapixel dual rear camera and less onboard storage (16 or 32GB), starting at €179 (equivalent to £160, $220 US, or AU$280).
Depending on how affordable these can get, they could end up being good budget phone picks. But the right price might be everything.
By the way, ZTE promises that these phones will run AR apps, but they are not compatible with Google's ARCore apps. Instead, I tried a few AR tricks on the included camera app, including a pop-up T-Rex which didn't stay put very smoothly on a table. Don't expect much. If you're actually interested in augmented reality, I'd hold out for an ARCore phone instead.