Review: ZTE Force for Sprint
Sprint has been really great about shipping devices with stock Android or near-to-stock Android. The Force ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and very few Sprint-branded apps/services on board. The basics of the operating system fall in line with what we all expect from Android 4.0. The presence of Sprint Zone and Sprint iD are all you have to tip you off that this is a Sprint device.
Sprint hides all its branded apps and services in the Sprint Zone, which is its own App Store. The great thing is Sprint leaves it up to the user about what they install and what they ignore. Don't care for NASCAR? No worries, don't install it. Love NBA Game Time? Awesome, it's there in Sprint Zone, so download away! Sprint iD is of course Sprint's customization tool. Sprint iDs are essentially app/theme/widget packs that can be installed onto most Sprint Android devices. Each iD pack has its own collection of content based on the theme. There are several dozen from which to choose. The only bummer is most iDs also download stuff you might not want.
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The rest of the operating system behaves just like stock Android from Google.
In terms of performance, however, the Force is a bit lacking. The processor and RAM combo in the Force don't always provide enough horsepower to get things done. The Force often ran slow, or felt bogged down when performing some tasks. Hopping from app to app was stuttery from time to time, and screen transitions lagged here and there. This is, unfortunately, a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for.
The phone and contact apps work on the Force just about the same as every other Android 4.0 smartphone. In-call options run the norm, and include speakerphone, mute, send to Bluetooth, and add a line. There are the usual home screen widgets for direct contacts, as well as the a nice widget for a collection of your favorites. The bigger widget lets you access your top nine contacts and gives you a cool UI for interacting with them on the home screen.
I do have one complaint, though. The software keypad is way too small. The app wastes tons of real estate on a blank page. Granted, few people dial phone numbers any more, but just the same, the keys should be a bit bigger.
Owners can also choose to download the "Qualcomm Enhanced PTT" app, which gives the Force access to Sprint's Direct Connect service. We were unable to test this feature, however.
As far as messaging goes, the Force has the stock Android tools on board and nothing else. The SMS app offers nice, threaded conversations; the Gmail/email apps are great ways to manage your inbox; the Google+ and Google+ Messenger apps are good for keeping up with your G+ activity; and the Google Talk app is as powerful as ever for IM and video chats.
Neither Facebook nor Twitter is pre-installed, so you'll have to download them from the Play Store yourself.
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