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Review: ZTE Max for Boost Mobile

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The Max runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with only light user interface customizations from ZTE and Boost Mobile (as long as you don't count the bloatware).

The lock screen includes the time and three buttons. Press and hold the large, center button to unlock the Max. Two smaller buttons flank the lock button: a shortcut to the camera and a button that either sets the phone to vibrate or turns on the ringer. Other than choosing the type of password you might wish to use, the lock screen cannot be customized.

Lock Screen  

The home screen panels - of which there are five - are crammed with Boost Mobile apps and widgets, but these can all be deleted. As per usual, there's a permanent dock at the bottom of the screen that holds four app shortcuts plus access to the main app menu. The main app menu behaves more or less like you'd expect. The large screen fits 20 apps per page, but is maddeningly fixed as an alphabetical grid.

The notification shade is fairly typical for an Android device. There are toggles along the top for turning on/off select functions, as well as a button that takes you to the main settings menu. The main settings menu looks exactly as it does on any other Android 4.1 phone and is easy to use for controlling the phone. Customizing aspects such as wallpapers, sounds, and other behaviors should be no trouble for most people.


The one neat trick the Max offers is what ZTE calls the Smart Viewer. Like Samsung's Galaxy Note series of smartphones, the Smart Viewer lets users run two apps on the screen at the same time, each separated by an adjustable bar. Most apps on the device can be used in Smart Viewer mode. It can be a powerful multitasking tool if that's how you roll.

Smart Viewer  

If you're not content with the Max's out-of-the-box experience, you'll be happy to learn that it is a Mobile iD device. Devices compatible with Sprint's Mobile iD system allow you to download feature packs that often change the appearance, look, and feel of the device dramatically. The iD packs are available in a dedicated app. There are dozens of them, and each includes wallpapers, apps, widgets, and other items most often centered on a theme, such as NASCAR, or Mobile Professional, etc. The one annoying aspect of the iD packs is that they often include unwanted bloatware.

Boost iD  

In terms of performance, the dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor provided plenty of motivation for the Max. The lower-resolution screen likely helps the 400 manage the display without requiring too much processing power. Screen transitions were smooth and I didn't experience any odd behaviors or app crashes.

Calls and Contacts

The phone and contact apps on the Max function similarly to just about every other Android Jelly Bean smartphone. In-call options run the norm, and include speakerphone, mute, send to Bluetooth, and add a line.

There are Android's usual home screen shortcuts for direct access to contacts of your choice. The Max doesn't have a widget for contacts, though. The contact app itself is the stock Android contact app. It is very white, but offers plenty of tools for managing and accessing your peeps.

Calls and Contacts  


As far as messaging goes, the Max 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+ app is good for keeping up with your G+ activity - if you have any Google+ activity worth caring about. The Hangouts app (formerly Google Talk) is as powerful as ever for SMS, MMS, IM, and video hangouts. The old-school Android SMS app is on board, too, if you want to separate your texts from your IM chat in Hangouts.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter is pre-installed, so you'll have to download them from the Play Store yourself.



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