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

Camera

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 (m.mysandbox.com) 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.

Pros:

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)

Cons:

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