Are great call quality and solid construction what users really want in a 4G phone? Will that be enough to overlook the lukewarm data speeds provided by Metro PCS? And should anyone be buying an Android 2.3: Gingerbread phone in the year 2012?
As far as phone calls go, the ZTE Anthem 4G offers up some of the strongest call connections we've heard in a long time, on both ends. The solid construction and noise cancelling microphones work well here. It's also a phone that feels like a hefty piece of equipment, which sometime causes us to instill more trust in it.
The inclusion of Google's standard bevy of apps is always a nice touch, and the Anthem plays nice with all of them, including our favorite Navigation app that offers up turn-by-turn navigation easily. Including HDMI out and a micro SD card is also a nice feature, especially when it includes a feature film about a butt-kicking, kung fu panda.
We were really annoyed that the Anthem 4G doesn't include a more updated and robust OS. We're not asking for the latest, Android 4.1: Jelly Bean, but budget devices like the LG Motion 4G are rocking Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich.
By now, we've become more than accustomed to drop-down notification screens that give us real options, and the ability to view our home screens in landscape mode. The Anthem 4G may have a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, but with Gingerbread, that's like putting a V8 engine in an old Honda. That OS omission feels like it hobbles nearly every experience on the phone, from browsing the web to adjusting your personal settings.
The camera was also a large disappointment in a time where capturing video and photos while mobile has become increasingly important and social. With both the older OS and the unflattering camera, the Anthem feels like it should have come out a few years ago, rather than rather new offering.
It's hard to recommend ZTE's Anthem, despite the 4G connection and solid call quality. The main reason is the older software and the camera, but the price also is an enormous factor. With a mail-in rebate coupon, the phone prices out at $219 plus tax. But Metro has long prided itself on affordable monthly plans, which could attract budget buyers who need to keep their plan costs down.
We would recommend looking at other phones in a similar price range, because you can find cheaper (and more expensive) options that offer you a much more robust OS. If you're willing to settle for 2.3: Gingerbread, the Samsung Exhibit II 4G isn't a bad option. Even Metro PCS has plenty of options that can keep you within a budget, while getting a bit more cutting-edge. Even Metro PCS has said that this phone will only be available for a limited time, which makes it sound more like it's headed for the bargain bin, not a collector's shelf.