ZTE Valet Android Prepaid Phone with Triple Minutes (Tracfone) Review
Opening Remarks (review is below):
First I must say cell phones are not new to me. I worked in the cell phone industry and that is why I use pre-paid service. That is all I am going to say about that and I will not respond to questions about that subject.
Pre-paid is just a way to separate money from people who don't want to commit, can't commit or want the option to quit when things turn against their favor. With pre-paid you get cut-rate service at a cut-rate price.
With Tracfone I suggest creating an online account with them on their official website. From there you can activate new phones, register the phones to your account and transfer your numbers and minutes to new phones you buy without having to call tim-buck-too and speaking with someone that does not understand you very well.
This phone is Android yes: Cut-rate Android. It is limited to 3G speed for Data on the cell network. If you are expecting state of the art you had best go straight to the service providers like Sprint or Verizon and buy a phone there. There is a wall charger and usb cable included. The usb cable can be connected to the wall charger and phone to charge the phone or the phone and computer to charge the phone or transfer files like mp3 music to the phone.
It has a single core 1ghz processor. It is not fast enough to run fast paced games or even multi-task. In fact a task manager runs in the background and closes the apps you minimize. Those familiar with Android know that on most devices apps stay open until the user "swipes" them off the screen. The app manager however will keep media apps open, like playing music in the background, while you use the device.
The GPS works fine with the Google Maps app. A little slow to update changes and position at first but I don't know if this is due to the 3G data speed or the single core processor. It became more responsive as my trip went on. I only tested it once in a Midwestern area with no tall buildings.
The Wi-Fi is fast and responsive with impressive range. It will also alert you by chime when you are in a free (unsecured) Wi-Fi area. Be very wary of using unsecured Wi-Fi as man in the middle (where you passwords and user names are recorded) attacks can happen.
On mine, it has Internal Storage (for apps and user data) of 2.34GB available to use while a tiny bit is already used from the factory. The task manager app shows 386.31 MB of total RAM, just running factory installed apps I have 114 MB free. Again those familiar with Android know that 512 MB of RAM is pretty much the minimum you would want on a device that will run more than one app at a time with 1 GB or more becoming standard on top shelf phones.
This phone comes with an SD card. Mine came with a Toshiba 4 GB class 4 card. The SD card can be used to as additional storage for ringtones, video files, etc. This ZTE Valet allows moving apps to an SD card from Internal Storage. Those familiar with android know some apps can be moved from Internal Storage to SD cards if the programmers of the app allow this and only if it is a program that does not automatically run on startup like the Facebook App, Twitter App or Outlook App do.
The camera is low end 3MP. It requires a high amount of light to get photos that are not grainy. Indoors photos looked grainy no matter what I did except for when the subject was lit well from sunlight through a window. The camera is somewhat slow to respond, I don't know if this is because of the camera app or the single core processor. I have seen slower cameras on I-phones and top end Android phones though so all in all it isn't the slowest to respond. When I held the phone really still until I was positive the picture has taken the images had the best results. The camera features a flash but no "automatic flash" option. If I want the flash to be used I have to manually turn it on. It is also not a traditional flash but simply a white LED light that illuminates the subject, at close range only, when the shutter button is pressed and continues until the photo is completely taken. In complete darkness the flash had a maximum usable range of 5 feet for me and at that distance only illuminated the center of the photo. The images of faces taken with the flash on looked white washed.
A top feature I have not seen before was an option to turn the Data (3g) on and off using the Power Control widget. A one click simple solution that makes this phone the ONLY pre-paid Android to consider. The Power Control Widget on my phone was installed on the first left screen. For those not familiar with Android, swiping my finger from left to right on the home screen reveals this screen. I removed the Android Tips widget from the home screen and moved the Power Control to the home screen to more easily use this option. This option turns off the phones ability to send and receive data over the 3g network thereby stopping any data usage when not on Wi-Fi. Of course you have the option to also turn Wi-Fi off with this widget too.
This is a feature sadly lacking in other cell phone companies, so much so that people resort to putting their phone in Airplane mode (all data flow and calls are stopped) when apps like email, twitter and facebook start using too much of their Data plan. I've gotta give it up to Tracfone for this feature. A+ on this! So, if you leave Data in the off position in the Power Control and only turn it on when you want updates on you accounts (email, twitter, facebook etc.) you can minimize how much data you use. Again I cannot stress how useful this feature is. If you are coming from another pre-paid or traditional cell phone company you may have found yourself exceeding your data plan when your phone was updating your accounts around the clock. On other phones it was possible to positively turn off your data for most apps by turning off Sync but this was often overridden by some apps and also stopped updates from coming through on Wi-Fi.
Voice calls are fairly clear with a little bit of an "overdrive" or clipping on louder setting. The rear facing single internal speaker produces loud and relatively distortion free rings and music. It is however somewhat easy to block the speaker when placing it down on its back cover (like you normally would) especially on softer surfaces like seat cushions.
The issue of "Minutes": Those familiar with Tracfone know that most newer standard phones give the buyer triple minutes. That is if you buy a 60 Minute card you get that tripled to 180 Minutes. Text messages on these phone were billed at .3 and more rarely .5 minutes per text.
I have only bought my minutes for my ZTE Valet online via the Tracfone website and this is what I can tell you from that transaction. My 60 Minute card got me 180 Minutes of talk, 180 Text messages (incoming and outgoing) and 180 Mb of 3g Data. So, as you can see Text messaging is being billed not out of the Minute pool with Valet Android but instead out of its own Text pool. For me this is not welcome. I currently work where I am not allowed to take voice calls or make voice calls. I can text. I use about 20 texts a day. On my old Tracfone that was 6 Minutes that were deducted per day. Now it is 20 texts that are deducted from my text pool. So for me a 60 minute card will last about 9 days of texts at 20 texts a day (180 Texts divided by 20 Texts per day = 9 days) but I will still have 180 of voice minutes and 180mb of Data. With my older triple minute phone a 60 minute card would have lasted 30 days of text only at 20 texts per day (180 Minutes card was = to 600 Texts and 600 texts divided by 20 per day = 30). :-/
I cannot give 5 stars to this product because its single core processor, its small amount of RAM and its current price (as of October 14th 2013). Virgin Moble pre-paid (a Sprint company), StraightTalk (a Tracfone and Walmart company) as well as Net 10 pre-paid (a Tracfone company) currently have Android phones with similar tech specs for under $50. Virgin has a $35 a month plan for Android with 300 minutes of talk and "unlimited data" a month, StraightTalk has a $45 "unlimited everything" a month plan and Net 10 has $50 "unlimited everything" a month plan.
I did not deduct any stars for the new Minute/Texting pricing model. This phone is not using GSM carriers like previous Tracfones and instead is activated using CDMA carriers. CDMA carriers play by a whole different set of rules than GSM carriers and Tracfone has no control of that. I am almost sure they are the ones moving Tracfone to this different pricing model for Android on the ZTE Valet.
There is not Minute bank display on this or any Android on Tracfone. You must open a web browser like Chrome (via Wi-Fi or 3g) and go to: mobile.tracfone.com You will be asked to enter your phone number. You do not need your serial number. You will, after about 45 seconds, get a text message that does not seem to count against your text balance, giving you your remaining Minutes, Texts and Data. Of course if you are on 3g and not Wi-Fi this counts against your data balance. Don't forget to close your browser and turn of your Data on the Power Control widget when you are done with this or you it will continue to use 3g and it will count against your data balance if not on Wi-Fi. I have even been able to access this website on my home computer and receive the text message on my phone, thereby not using any data on my phone.
Also install Norton Security from the Google Play store. This app is currently free for its basic mode and works very well. It works better with a Norton account (access to one additional feature) and the Norton company says it even works better in the paid version but I have not tried.
If you are giving this phone to a child Install and configure Norton Family parental control. It will block websites based on your childs age and send you an email when they try to access websites that Norton deems inappropriate. I have not used this on the ZTE Valet but do have it installed on my children's Android tablets and fine it does quite well.
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ZTE Valet Android Prepaid Phone with Triple Minutes (Tracfone) Features
- Android Phone for Tracfone Service
- Triple Minutes for Life; Separate Balance for Minutes, Texts and Data (Example: Add 200 Minutes and Receive 600 Minutes and 600 Texts and 600 MB of Data)
- Android 4.1
- 3 MP Camera with Video Recorder
- 3.5" Touchscreen
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