The ZTE Tania will be unveiled at an exclusive party in London tonight, but Mobile Choice was privileged to check out this budget Windows Phone 7 smartphone ahead of launch.
We won't blame you if you've never heard of ZTE, even though it's the fourth biggest global vendor of mobile phones - the Chinese manufacturer hasn't produced much own-brand kit, preferring to craft handsets for the likes of Orange to rebrand (such as the Orange San Francisco II). The ZTE Tania aims to change this, and as a cut-price Windows handset it certainly stands up.
The ZTE Tania has a curved, slightly chunky build that fits well in the hand. At 158g the Tania feels hefty, and surprisingly is even heavier than the stainless steel BlackBerry Porsche. It's still comfortable to hold however, and at least that weight means it won't get lost in your pocket. A rubberised grip on the back keeps it stuck to your palm no matter how sweaty you get.
That rubberised rear section can be prised apart from the face to reveal the innards, but you'll need decent fingernails (or a conveniently placed screwdriver) to do so. Once inside, the battery can be removed and the SIM card slipped into place. There's no memory card slot and you only get 4GB of internal storage, so media fans will have to rely on streaming and the built-in FM radio.
Hold down the Power button and the ZTE Tania starts up in around half a minute. After the ZTE logo flashes and crackles its way across the screen, you're presented with the usual Windows Phone desktop, looking as bright and slick as ever.
While the 4.3-inch TFT screen uses the same 800x480 resolution of the dinkier Lumia 800 display, we found images and text were pleasingly crisp. Even when mostly zoomed out of text-heavy sites such as BBC News, our knackered eyeballs could still clearly make out the tiny words. Our photos appeared vibrant and lifelike, with good colour clarity for a budget phone.
Top brightness levels impress, even when you're stuck under the harsh glare of office lighting. We kept the brightness set to medium to conserve battery power, which obviously made everything look more washed-out and dull. However, we could still happily browse the web and email friends while strolling to work, without having to squint.
With a 1GHz single-core processor running the show, backed up by 512MB of RAM, the ZTE Tania obviously lacks the raw power of premium upcoming handsets such as the Sony Xperia S and the Huawei Ascend P1 S. However, it's a step up from the San Francisco II's 800MHz CPU and we didn't notice any kind of performance issues. Even when we hammered the Tania by running several intensive apps at once, it seemed to cope admirably. With a circus of background tasks going, the Maps app found and honed in on our location in around 10 seconds. Transition to satellite mode was seamless, and zooming was just as smooth.
We tried a number of web searches, which almost always returned a page of results instantly. The Mobile Choice website loaded up in two seconds and was stutter-free when we zoomed in and out like a crazy person. Scrolling around was a stress-free experience thanks to the responsive touch-screen, which deftly measures the eagerness of your finger flicks.
The 5five-megapixel camera lens juts 1mm or so out of the back of the ZTE Tania. You can bring up the Camera app by holding down the dedicated shutter button, even when the phone is locked - great news if you take lots of spontaneous shots.
The camera usually auto-focuses and shoots a second after tapping the screen or pressing the shutter button again. You've got a typical host of settings to play with, including image effects and white balance control, for those arty shots of your spouse/dog/chosen lunch. However, like the Lumia 800, we found that low-light shots were a little grainy.
ZTE Tania, meet Piccadilly Circus
The bright lights seem rather dull
Mingling with the crowds
A close-up of breakfast
After fully charging the ZTE Tania, it comfortably lasted a full 24 hours on medium brightness. That's despite extensive testing, including texting, emailing, web browsing, taking pictures, playing with apps and a couple of short phone calls. Call quality is excellent, and we never had any problems finding a signal. Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth support are included.
The ZTE Tania is a well-constructed and highly usable Windows Phone handset, which should prove popular on budget contract deals. We'll hit you with our full ZTE Tania review after the official launch.