Mobile Phone Review - Telstra F152 and F156

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Original posted : August 2007
Last Updated : 02 July 2012

This is the Telstra F156 and F152 review mobile phone - otherwise known as the ZTE F156 and F152. This article is once again a departure from the usual motorcycle topics because there's not much happening until the the I get to test the new Hayabusa.  Besides I now contribute to a mobile tech web site so the practice is required!

Being a mobile worker it is evitable that you are faced with carrying at least 2 mobile phones.  In my case and probably yours, will need to be connected to 2 different carriers. One of them for me is Telstra and my choice was the F152/F156, it is a Telstra branded ZTE mobile phone.  Personally I can't see the point of re-branding but everyone has to start somewhere.

The F156 model is the red or burgundy version of the F152 which is the Teal or green/silver model.  Both phones have identical specifications.  The face plates are not changeable thus the different model numbers.

One of the strongest selling points of this phone is price. Pre-paid the phone cost $149. (08/2007)  It's a great start when you take it specifications into account.  Mind you there are other equally good value phones.  As you know by now I love value for money purchases.

The official pictures make the phone out to be a modern and well made phone, unfortunately when you do finally get your hands on it - you will be disappointed.  It's feels a tad cheap in terms of plastics and the buttons feel like it belongs to a $2 calculator.  That is, the keys have a solid but springy action and wobbly. It does not lend its self to fast SMSing.  The keys rattle when you shake the phone.

The screen itself is it not the clearest or high definition but on par with most others in the price range.  Personally I think its bigger than the others but bigger is not always better.  Specifications say it has a 176x220 display size and 262K colours which is the norm.

It has two cameras the main one of the back the the front one for video calls. It even has a mirror for self portraits.

The speaker is loud and clear, I was surprised at the quality of the sound as the system sounds especially for the key presses where initially very flat. The other thing that I can complain about is the location of the speaker.  It is on the bottom of the phone rather than the side.  So it's muffled when resting on a desk.

Overall it's physical flaws can be forgiven quite easily because of the price.

So physically its nothing to boast but thankfully under the plastic there is a very decent phone waiting for you.  Features include:
3G HSDPA and UTMS running on the 850 or 2100mhz 3G band,
GSM 900, 1800 or 1900mhz, Bluetooth,
MP3 player, 1.3 MP camera and video recorder,
Speaker phone, voice recorder, JAVA, USB connection,
Up to 2Gig Trans-flash memory, MP3, MIDI, MMF ringtones.
On board 64Megs but only 47Megs usable.

The only thing missing is a FM or AM radio.

The headphones use a micro USB connector which is also the actual USB connector and the charging socket.  It has a nifty slide out cover too. Unfortunately the connector is on the side of the phone.  The Trans-flash memory card is inserted at the base of the phone, it too has a cover.

Software functionality is excellent for the price but expected for a 3G phone.
It's easy to activate email, MMS and SMS.  Lots of alarm features, with multiple and configurable daily alarms.  The expected calendar modes, with alarmed meetings, memos and anniversary appointments.  The calendar had all the standard view options, eg. daily, weekly and monthly.  A stopwatch, calculator even world time clock!  There is also a feature called PocketNews presumably for accessing paid web based content.

The contacts function is very good with the ability to attach pictures to numbers.
The tab based contact and group viewing done very well.  As for Contact data its has all the usual inputs like multiple numbers, emails etc.. The best thing about it is that you have only one name field.  I never saw the point of separating the first and surnames - on a mobile phone.  Only thing missing is the ability add addresses which I don't regard as essential for this sort of phone.  (AT this point in time. 2007)

The screen layout and icons are nice moving 3D designs. It would be look even better if it had a better screen.

Other software type functions include a easy to use file, web browser, and phone settings.  As for phone customisation you are limited to screen time-out, background images, and brightness.

No games are included in the phone so you'll have to download them.  Since it runs JAVA you can choose basically anything.  Note that there are a few ring tones supplied some where very Asian in sound, which reflects its ZTE manufacturer.
Much like the trademark and often annoying Nokia tune.

Being a NextG or 3G phone most of the functionality is accessed via the browser.

As for speed of operation I was very surprised - it navigates and runs the various functions in a speedy fashion.  Even the web content is displayed and operated smoothly! Streaming videos work really well and download fast.  It is also very stable operating system wise.

The bulk of the phone's customisation is located under the profiles settings.  Although it has a number of profiles there isn't a flight mode.  You can adjust ring types, volume, vibration etc..  Overall there aren't that many options compared to Nokia phones but I didn't expect it for this price range either.

Overall functionality the phone works very well. It has all the basic features you need for a phone.  I can't really complain. I was impressed with the ease of use for most of the functions, stability and so forth.

Now it's all well and good that it has got all the essential features and works well but if you can't make decent calls on it you've got a problem.  So how does it work as a mobile phone?

First off, network reception is generally very good.  Like all 3G phones you really need to be close to the tower for full reception or network coverage.  However even in the 2 bar area which is a mere 20km from capital city even more surprised when I received the Function Failed message for web based content.  Not all the time but of note because the Telstra's ads featuring older celebs say they imply 100% connectivity to 98% of Australia.  Regardless of the availability of 3G content there was always voice coverage where I went.

Call quality was clear and loud which is good.  As for video calls, you need to be in a bright lit area is necessary and network coverage is 4 or 5 bars.  Video call image  streaming is pretty good but images blocky at times.  The video call is displayed on almost the full screen and there is a smaller 'picture in picture' view of the yourself! Positioning of the phone is important since you almost always get a chin view!

It comes with SymcML based software and can do Outlook and Windows file manager so you can transfer files etc...  It actually works with Vista - BUT will defer comment until I try some sync and transfers later this week. 

As for battery life they claim 200 hours standby.  Since I haven't had it for a week yet (At the time of this review) I will again defer comment until later this week.  At this point it seems entirely plausible.  UPDATE: Ok the 200 hours or about 8 days standby is not entirely correct but it's pretty close - 6.5 days.  Used daily for a few calls 3-4 days.

Conclusion

This is a decent piece of equipment.  Recommended as a phone for voice calls and 3G web browsing only on NextG.  For the price you can't argue (pre-paid) its the cheapest and entry level NextG mobile you can get at the moment (2008).  (It uses the 850mhz band which is why there aren't many phones available.)

That I guess is the selling point.  This phone is really good but only if you want the cheapest entry level NextG (Telstra) mobile.  Without the Telstra connection it does not set itself apart from other equally good cell phones.

UPDATE: As of January 2008 pressing the Bigpond button is now free so press it all you want. 
Telstra currently has the rights to Australian Idol clips and Foxtel shows so if your into that then it's a value proposition. However there is a BIG disclaimer: Telstra charges close to $2 every time you press that Bigpond button. The Bigpond button just activates the online menu so nothing special.  They say browsing is free but it is misleading - you need to pay the connection charge before its 'free'.  For genuine free 3G menu portal check out the 3 network. 

For motorcycle riders its cheap enough to not get too upset the next time you get caught in the rain or falls out of your pocket.
 




 




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