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printed July 23, 2014
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Review: ZTE Anthem 4G for MetroPCS

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Media

The Anthem is all about the Google Play Store and other Google content apps. The Play Music, Play Movies, and Play Books apps are all on board, as are the stock MP3 and video player apps. These apps all work just as they do on other Android handsets. Rhapsody is on board, too.

The Anthem is preloaded with Kung Fu Panda 2 (on the microSD card). You lose access to the movie if you swap out the microSD card, though. The Anthem also has a link to the Yahoo movie recommendation web site. It helps pin down movie listings and play times.

If you're looking for Slacker, Pandora, or other media apps, feel free to download them yourself from the Google Play Store.

 

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Camera

The Anthem uses the stock Android 2.3 camera interface. The camera itself can only be launched from a home screen shortcut, as there is no dedicated camera button on the device.

As far as camera software goes, it's not bad, but it's not great, either. The viewfinder provides plenty of room for composing images, and the settings tools (found floating in the viewfinder) are self explanatory and fairly robust at fine-tuning the Anthem's behavior. I hate, though, that the flash can only be set to on or off; there's no auto setting.

Taking pictures takes time. There's a noticeable delay after you press the shutter button before the camera focuses, takes the image, and then stores it. The process lasts a few seconds, and flashes a review screen at your for 1 second before going back to the viewfinder. (This review screen can't be turned off.)

 

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Photos

The Anthem's 5-megapixel camera is no good. Nearly all the photos I took were a disaster. Even though the Anthem has autofocus, few, if any, of the images I captured were clear and sharp. The flash never seemed to do anything other than blow out all the detail by dramatically overexposing each photo, and noisy, awful grain is everywhere.

I didn't take one picture that I'd be happy to share with friends and family -- at least as far as the quality is concerned. (My crummy picture-composing abilities are an entirely different matter.)

 

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Video

The Anthem's 720p HD video camera doesn't do any better. Grain alone ruined most of the video I captured. Add to that soft focus, improper white balance, and wavy smearing, and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. When panned about, the Anthem produces nausea-inducing video. On a bright and sunny day, you might get lucky with some nice video, but I wouldn't count on it.



Gallery

The Anthem uses the stock Android 2.3 gallery application. Sharing options are good, but editing options are not. You can send photos to pretty much any social network you want to, but images can only be cropped or rotated. There are no other controls for manipulating the photos.

 

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Apps

The Anthem ships with the usual amount of bloatware from MetroPCS. Most of the apps that come loaded on the Anthem can't be deleted, but there's adequate space (2.3GB) on board to store your own apps. The Anthem also includes a MetroPCS App Store, which is a selection of additional apps suggested by MetroPCS.

 

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Bluetooth

The Anthem's Bluetooth radio had no problem connecting to anything I paired with it, including my car, speakers, and other devices. Unfortunately, calls sent to my car's hands-free system were, for the most part, unintelligible. However, music sounded really good through Bluetooth speakers.

Browser

The Anthem has the stock Android browser and a “browser” labeled "MetroWeb." MetroWeb is really just a bookmarked web site and not a browser unto itself. The Android browser itself performs fine, and does a good job of rendering both full HTML web sites and mobile-optimized sites -- when using Wi-Fi. Under even the best MetroPCS LTE coverage, the browser was only OK and never very speedy. The browser was useless when under 1X coverage thanks to the Anthem's poor signal-collecting skills.

 

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Clock

Need to check the time? Press the lock button, and the large, digital clock is visible on the lock screen. The clock is large and thick. It's easy to see inside, but not outside thanks to the dim display. The lockscreen clock itself can't be customized.

GPS

The GPS radio of the Anthem was OK. It took close to a minute to find me most of the time, and was accurate to within about 25 feet. Google Maps is the only navigation software on board. It is as feature-rich as ever. When used out in the real world with the Anthem, I noticed it was a bit laggy due to the overall network performance of the Anthem.

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