ZIP 188 – the little phone that could

Zip188 Review

“No more excuses not to be online”

Product Description

(from the Smart Shop website) Surf the web wherever, whenever at broadband speeds of up to 5.8 mbps, powered by SMART’s HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) network. Get the new Zip 188, SMART Buddy’s most affordable HSDPA phone. Includes a SMART Buddy SIM Card. Available color: Silver

Handset Specifications:

– Frequency HSDPA/UMTS 2100/850MHz
– EDGE/GPRS/GSM 1800/ 900MHz
– Chipset MSM6260
– ID Bar Type, Internal Antenna
– Dimensions 108mm x 48mm x 12mm
– Data Speed UMTS 384KBPS UL
– Display 176 x 220 pixels, 262 K color TFT Screen, 2.0″
– DRM, OMA1.0 UMB, PIM, Video Streaming
– Memory T-Flash Slot
– 72 Polyphonic ringtones
– Multimedia Support MP3/AAC+/MPEG4/H.263/H.264
– USB V 2.0 FS
– Messaging MMS, WAP2.0, JAVA MIDP2.0, Email
– Battery performance talking Time/Standby Time:200min/200h
– 2 megapixel camera

Package Content:

1 pc       Transceiver
1 pc       Charger
1 pc       Earphone
1 pc       Battery pack
1 pc       User Manual
1 pc       Warranty Card
1 pc       Data Cable
1 pc       CD (PC Suite)

First impressions:

“Another unbranded phone from SMART” was the first thought that crossed my mind when I heard about the new Zip188 phone.  Being a brand snob, didn’t expect much from this phone after finding out that it was from ZTE.  Still, the premise of a well-priced HSPA phone enticed me.

The Box:

The kit comes in a nice white and green motif box, with interesting graphics, and some call outs that says it’s Sandbox ready, HSPA powered, 2MP camera.  That got me hooked. (photos  1 and 2)

Zip 188 Photo 1

Zip 188 Photo 2

Unraveling the goodies inside, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the accessories that comes with the phone.  A well written manual, CD installer (more on this after), the phone, charger, micro-USB plug, and headphones – this pack is ready to go! (photos 3, 4 and 6)

Zip 188 Photo 3

Zip 188 Photo 3

Zip 188 Photo 4

Zip 188 Photo 4

Zip 188 Photo 6

Zip 188 Photo 6

ZTE has a warranty card inside, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to submit this for validation or if SMART will honor this.  After sales service might be an issue, but for now let’s go through the goods. (photo 5)

Zip 188 Photo 5

Zip 188 Photo 5

The Phone:

The Zip188 is a standard candy-bar type of phone, that isn’t spectacular looking nor will catch phone-snobs attention.  That said, it’s not a bad looking phone at all.  The keypad setup looks like it was lifted from Sony Ericsson, with a committed key for delete/cancel and a return/back key.  Tactile feedback is positive, and you get a very nice “click” when you press the pad.  You might want to turn-off the default key tone as it is very annoying.  When you try to SMS you sound like you’re composing your own ringtone as the keys are arranged musically – do re mi anyone?

The phone is made of average plastic parts, but there are some very thoughtful details that will help prolong its useful life.  For example, instead of having a flimsy cover for the USB/charge port, they installed a slider cover.  You won’t lose it, and you won’t break it, and it protects the port from dust and grime. Well done.

Installing the battery is just like any phone – slide off the back cover, insert the battery and you’re done.  However, the batter prevents  you from pulling out the SIM card (which is just so) and the T-Flash card – which means that you’ll have to power-down and remove the battery every time you have to remove/replace the memory card.

Fully loaded, the phone is about the size of a Nokia 2630 (photos 7 and 8) albeit slightly thicker.  But this added thickness is welcome in exchange for HSPA!

Zip 188 Photo 7

Zip 188 Photo 7

Zip 188 Photo 8

Zip 188 Photo 8


Looking at the rear of the phone, we have a standard 2 Mega Pixel camera. It works fine, but is far from what we consider “good” out there.  There is an annoying lag between clicking on the shutter, hearing the shutter, and actually taking the photo.  This will result in a lot of blurred shots.  Perhaps a future firmware update can speed this up.

Screen and Interface

The screen is a generous 2 incher, with vibrant colors and a neat menu.  It’s not cryptic nor archaic and even without going through the manual, practically anyone can navigate the menu.  The only real difference here is how the directional keys are mapped to open different menu items. Standard phone settings, which is usually buried underneath several menu clicks, is just a right click away from the home screen – which is both good and bad. (photo 12)

Zip 188 Photo 12

Zip 188 Photo 12

Texting is a three-click affair.  Click on the center button, click it again to go to messages and then click again to create a new message.  I’m not so sure if you can create shortcuts or reassign soft keys, but for now, it’s 3 clicks away.

Mobile Internet

Ah, now here is when things begin to get exciting.  Smart has recently invested in a kick-ass HSPA network that already allows subscribers covered by the signal to access the internet (on good days) at DSL speeds.  On a personal note, I’m already very happy with my Smart Bro plugit because it averages upwards of 1Mbps when I access the ‘net – what more with a dedicated HSPA enabled phone like the Zip188?

Accessing the ‘net is easy thanks to the dedicated Sandbox key.  One click and it takes you to the Sandbox mobile portal ( and from there you can already do your social networking, blogging and chatting – FOR FREE!  I understand that the Sandbox Mobile Site is free to browse if you’re on the Smart network.   For some reason though, Sandbox doesn’t look to good on the Zip188. I’m not too sure if it’s because of the smallish screen or if it’s because the site doesn’t recognize the wap device signature of the Zip188.

Next stop was Facebook, and it was good.  The site loads up really quickly with no hitches at all.

Zip 188 Photo 13

Zip 188 Photo 13

USB Modem

If you have a laptop, you might want to take a good look at the capabilities of this phone as your modem.  The bundled software (cryptically named “Join Me”) is a breeze to install and it really unlocks the potential of this phone.  From the menu, you can easily manage your contacts, messages, and connect to the internet with one click.  You probably won’t need another dedicated USB dongle once you get the hang of the software.

Just for fun, I tried downloading a torrent file of a 700MB movie, and guess what? I completed the download under 2 hours, with the average download speed hitting 2.2Mbps! (photo zip speedtest)

A pleasant surprise here is that since the phone connects via USB and the charger cable is based on USB, you get to charge your battery while you use the phone as a modem.

Conclusion and Recommendation:

The Zip188 is one amazing phone for its price.  The SRP is Php3,995 and if you buy it in the smart shop, you can get it even lower at Php3,795.  In absolute terms, the phone itself is dated, with a so-so interface, three-click message access, two-inch screen and a sluggish camera.  However, considering the cost and value, as well as the bundled software and HSPA capabilities, this phone is a very good buy.  It’s far from perfect, but for people wanting to try mobile internet either via phone or hooked up to a pc, this phone can’t be beat.


Fast mobile internet (in areas with good HSPA coverage)
Very good bundled software
Easy to use, though subjective
Generous kit with accessories
USB Charging  (and you get to charge your phone while connected to the internet via USB cable)


Phone feels and looks dated
Poor camera
Lack of Bluetooth
System tones not customizable

For people interested in mobile internet:  8.5/10

For people NOT interested in mobile internet: 6/10

my zpdee now hitting 1mbps

This is a very geek post for me, but I’m just stoked that my two-year old Zpdee connection suddenly gave me a speed boost, up to 1mbps.

We’re paying about 900 bucks initially for around 380++kbps two years ago. About a year ago, the speed went up to 512kbps while maintaining the price. Zpdee didn’t email or announce anything then, so I was really impressed with that.

About a week ago, I noticed that was redirecting me to the sky cable internet site, and the site was offering insane speeds of up to 12mbps. Went through the site and really, nothing was said about existing Zpdee clients and connections.

The past two weeks have been internet hell though. Speed was really inconsistent and torrenting was a pain.

Well, I just hope that this speed boost will be permanent and will be the norm for my internet connection of choice.

Things I want, 2008 edition

Last year, I posted this on my multiply site:…_alteratively_titled_as_things_I_want
“…  I decided to make a list of the stuff I think I need and not just want…

1. a nice dell/acer/hp laptop with at least a pentium core 2 duo at 1.66ghz (up to 2.0ghz) at least 1gb ram (2 better) about 120gb hdd, 128mb nvidia card, 4x usb 2.0 ports, firewire etc…
2. iPod video 30gb or bigger
3. 1 or 2gb flash drive (perhaps this can be a freebie when i buy the laptop?)
4. 250gb external hard disk (the big one)
5. 120gb external hard disk (the pocket sized one)

and since we’re at it… ”

Luckily, most of the things I lusted after, I actually got!

I now have a kick-ass laptop
a 160gb portable hard disk drive
a 500gb external drive
over 10GB worth of flash drives (who would have thought that they’d cost a little more than 2 starbucks coffees now??)
We now have a Wii back in sydney (with all the fun games and the Wii fit)
I got a free iPod video and a shuffle
a real fender strat
a real gibson les paul
several kick-ass amplifiers (marshall, line6, peavey)

these things aside… here are the things I want for this year:

minimum 32″ LCD TV
non-overheating xbox 360
a good condition playstation 2 (yep, i still love my old games)

hmmm. that’s not a very long list, ain’t it?  being 30 has been good to me 🙂

Wireless in the Philippines – leadership versus influence

Talk about wireless and mobile anywhere in the world and invariably, the Philippines will pop up as a model, a case study or a hot-bed of sorts. With 63 Million mobile subscribers (out of about 91 Million total population) and all sending over a billion messages per day, we still are the Text Capital of the World.

Being the leader of this massive wireless tribe is really an accomplishment if not a Herculean feat – so kudos to Smart for being the clear leader in sheer numbers, in ARPU and in total business. Globe isn’t a laggard either, with their excellently packaged 24ever campaign, their iconic iPhone 3G and their die-hard influential post-paid subscriber base.

But credit is due to what I sincerely believe as the most INFLUENTIAL player here in this field: Sun Cellular.

These guys are the true mavericks in the arena. Sure, they haven’t really brought in any new technologies or new products, but for some reason every move they make warrants either massive paradigm shifts or tectonic pricing movements across the industry.

They seem to have a knack of knowing what people *actually* want from their telcos – unlimited bucket pricing for calls and text (check)
call all you want promos for off-peak usage (check)
easy subscription plans (check)
less red-tape to get subscriptions (check)
bottomless 3G mobile broadband (check)

Sure, their GSM offering was years behind Smart and Globe’s, but the way they priced it was light years ahead of the curve – they effectively turned mobile telephony into the landline of old – Telebabad was back!

Again, there’s nothing special about their post-paid plans – in fact, purists complain about signal quality, dropped calls and other generation-one problems – but the fact remains that for people and companies who shift their telco requirements to Sun, they experienced massive savings on telephony.

Lastly, this bottomless 3g mobile broadband offering is so tempting – even Smart lowered their Smart Bro dongle cost. Globe did one even better and really dropped their prices to less than 50% of original price.

Market leaders and brand innovators are supposed to lead the pack in technologies, pricing and products, but why is it that the smallest reputable telco here is the one causing shifts in pricing and in consumer behavior?

Leadership versus Influence.

I imagine both Smart and Globe following suit by offering simple one-ID subscriptions, uber-cheap per minute calls, 3G rate cuts among others just to counter Sun’s offerings. Which is just fine and dandy for the much beleaguered Filipino consumer.

With that, hurray for Sun, hurray for Smart and for Globe. Thanks for taking care of the Filipino mobile customer. Keep up the good work

Showing off the MSI Wind 100XP

Well, I’ve finally taken the plunge.  After almost a month of internal deliberations, countless websites visited, over 20 reviews read, 15 computer shops, 5 demos and hours of milling around Greenhills, Park Square and God knows where else, I’ve finally decided to get the…


Honestly, it really wasn’t a difficult choice.  It’s just that I made it difficult for myself.  

4 weeks ago, it was the ATOM N270 1.6ghz that made it compelling (same as the aspire one and the eeepc 1000h.)

3 weeks ago, it was the “free upgrade” offer that made the hardware specs even yummier – 2gb RAM and 160GB HDD – though asus lowered their prices a bit.

2 weeks ago, after seeing all the netbooks side by side, the aspire’s smallish LCD screen let it down.

Last week, it was the realization that the asus eeepc’s keyboard was just awful and something that will be a painful stone in my shoes in the long run that made the wind the ONLY viable choice.

Then my much beloved Compaq Presario 2400 laptop finally crashed last Friday very early in the morning (when I forgot to bring home my Dell’s charger when I had to finish a friggin pitch presentation) – and that was the final straw.

Which version to get then??  The 100LX with DOS selling for 20K was really enticing while the 100XP with XP, 2gb RAM and Bluetooth seemed a bit expensive.  After chatting with a few laptop techs and sellers, I decided to get the all-in 100XP.  why?
Simply because I was too lazy to do some things that *could* have saved me money.  Like purchasing cheaper licensed windows (i know i could get away with pirated stuff, but i’m too old to be like that hahaha.)  Like having to purchase an external optical drive.  Like having to spend a good 2 hours of installing the OS… and the drivers… and downloading updates.

The toughest thing then was choosing the color.  White, Black, Pink or “love.”

Let the pictures do the talking…


Netbooks on my mind

MSI Wind
Acer Aspire One
HP Mininote

All amazing machines, weighing in at less than 2kg, powered by relatively weaker processors, meager ram and storage, but still managed to spark a new mobile computing revolution.

the past two weeks of my life has been about Netbooks… particularly about which one to get!  These buggers cost anywhere from 12K for the eyesight damaging 7″ asus 4g eeepc, up to almost 30K for the uber cool looking HP Mininote.  They come in several sizes, processor flavors, os, hard drive/ssd configurations, and it’s more than enough to drive anyone absolutely bananas.  

having done my net homework and actual hands on, here are my findings (in case anyone is interested)

For the best keyboard – HP Mininote. They keys are big enough to be really comfortable for long-use, and HP did not have to invent a sucky keyboard configuration to fit everything

Weight/Mass – hands down, the small 7″ screen asus EEEPC (but it’s horrible) so for something more humane, the EEEPC 900 for 9″ and the MSI wind for 10″

Pure computing power – MSI wind wins by a whisker.  You get the Intel Atom N270 running at 1.6GHz with Hyperthreading, you get a generous 2 GB Ram.  this is even better than my 5 year old Compaq Presario laptop running a Centrino 1.6Ghz +512ram (and i still use often for nostagia’s sake.)  Sure, the wind shares the same specs as the EEEPC 1000, but online reviews point out that the wind still wins in computing benchmark tests.

Storage – I’d give this to the asus eeepc.  you can install a “regular” 2.5″ hard disk if you want to.  though the wind offers a mouth watering upgrade for this month.. your 80gb hard disk can be upgraded to 160gb this september.  But still, I prefer the user-upgradable configuration of the asus.

Value – Oh boy.  It only gets tougher and tougher.  Here are the specs that i’m looking at:
MSI Wind 100XP – 10″ Screen, intel Atom 1.6ghz, 2GB Ram, 160gb HDD, Bluetooth, 3-cell battery, wifi (abg), Windows XP Home

ASUS EEEPC 1000H – 10″ Screen, intel Atom 1.6ghz, 1GB Ram, 80gb HDD, Bluetooth, 6-cell battery, wifi (abg-n) , Windows XP Home

finally, the coolness factor.  now this is a toughie.  Asus has always been a Taiwanese brand for me as I still remember the days when these guys didn’t sell assembled computers and they only offered parts.  MSI is a relative newbie player and still has to establish itself as a *reliable* hardware provider.  HP is a step above both brand-wise, but HP is still HP, and is devoid of any personality (hehehe)

You might want to ask why I find these netbooks interesting…  simple.  There were a bunch of people happily typing along with their netbooks during the recenly concluded SEMCON.  These guys only had to bring small bags with them to be productive, and I had to lug around this monster 15.4″ dell laptop and it’s equally massive bag (earning me a sore back after 2 days.)

Gadget envy. nothing more, nothing less.  

But i still want to choose well.  What do you guys think?