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With a 64-bit processor, Android 5.0 Lollipop, nice front and rear cameras, the ZTE Blade S6 is a great deal at less than $250. It’s clearly an iPhone 6 copy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in terms of design.

In the budget smartphone race, it manages to cram a lot of specs into a low-priced device, but it’s definitely not perfect. Let’s take a look at this budget Chinese smartphone.

At the end of the review, we’ll be giving it away to one lucky reader.

Specs

  • CPU: Octo-core 64-bit 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
  • GPU: 550MHz Adreno 405
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Cameras: 13MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing (Both wide angle)
  • Size: 144mm x 70.7mm x 7.7mm (5.67in x 2.78in x 0.30in)
  • Weight: 134g (4.73oz)
  • Screen: 5.0″ IPS LCD 720px x 1280px
  • Expansion: microSD card slot
  • Battery: 2,400mAH
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 2G GSM (850/1700/1900), 3G UMTS (900/2100), 4G LTE (Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20)
  • Operating System: Android Lollipop 5.0
  • Extra Features: Dual-SIM, Motion Controls, FM Radio

The ZTE Blade S6 is available to purchase through GeekBuying.com for just under $250 and you can get $20 off using the promo code “20ZTES6”.

Hardware & Design

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The simplest way to explain the physical design of the ZTE Blade S6 is to imagine a plastic iPhone 6. ZTE really didn’t make any attempt to hide the fact that this is a blatant copy of Apple’s design.

A unibody plastic back wraps the entire device in a shiny silver. It has a 5″ screen with curved glass at the very edges for a smooth feeling when swiping out to or in from the edges (though that’s pretty much nullified if you put a big case on it).

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Along the bottom, there’s an obvious circular button in the center for the Home button, but there are two other hidden buttons on either side. To the left of the Home button is the Options button, and to the right is a Back button (those these can be swapped in the settings). It’s unfortunate that they went for an Options button rather than a Recents (multitasking) button, but you can still access the Recents by holding down the Options key, just as you can access Google Now by holding down the Home key.

The Options and Back keys are invisible until you press them, at which point they glow blue. It should be noted that the three capacitive keys glow blue whenever you have a notification or are charging the device. That’s actually a pretty cool alternative to an LED, but it’s not customizable, and if you charge your phone while you sleep, it will be brightly glowing blue on your bedside table. Ironically, they also glow constantly once you pass 15% battery to tell you that you’re low on battery.

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The power button and volume rocker are on the right side of the device, the headphone jack is up top, the microSD card slot and nanoSIM slot (that’s right, not a microSIM) are along the left, and the microUSB charging port is along the bottom. Due to the unibody build, you need a small pin to pop out the microSD or nanoSIM. Additionally, those two slots don’t line up quite flush with the device, giving it an unpolished feel along the left side.

As far as plastic bodies go, this one isn’t great. It looks nice, but it has quite a bit of squeak when you grip it in certain places. The plus side, however, is that it doesn’t collect fingerprints at all.

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There’s a tiny speaker along the back with a small bump next to it to keep it elevated when resting on a table, but it’s extremely quiet and tinny sounding.

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Overall, it’s not going to be winning any design awards, but it is a sleek and iPhone-esque device (so much so that several people mistook it for an iPhone as I was using it).

User Interface

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ZTE’s Android skin Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More is called MiFavor 3.0, and it screams iOS. The icons are colorful and rounded, and you can swipe up from the bottom to customize it. There is no app drawer like with stock Android; instead, all your apps are out on the home screen like in iOS. You can sort them into groups, of course, and it’s a pretty good experience.

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Aside from that, though, you’re mostly getting a stock Lollipop 5.0 Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but only on Nexus devices. What exactly is new about this operating system, and when can you expect it to arrive on your device? Read More experience. The lock screen shows notifications and allows quick access to the phone and camera apps. One annoying aspect is that because it’s a dual-SIM device, if you only use one SIM, it will constantly display a “NO SIM” message at the top for the second slot.

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Overall, it’s a pretty nice experience. If you don’t like the iOS-style home screen, you could always download an alternative launcher Which Android Launcher Should You Use? We Compare The Best! Which Android Launcher Should You Use? We Compare The Best! Given the huge number of launchers available, there's something for everyone. Here are the best app launchers for particular needs, depending on what kind of user you are. Read More .

Lastly, there are the motion controls. I found them more a hindrance than anything and ended up keeping them off, but maybe others out there would like them. Air gesture allows you to play music by holding the volume down button and waving your phone in a V or O shape. You can also silence calls by moving your hand over the screen or turn on the flashlight by shaking your device.

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Several others exist under the motions tab like flip to mute, quickly activating the camera by holding the volume button and raising it horizontally, and a few others. It feels like the same type of gimmicky stuff that Samsung tries to cram into their Galaxy S line.

Bloatware

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There are lots of extra bits of software loaded onto this device, but the good news is that they’re mostly either useful or can be uninstalled. There’s a Task Manager app that reveals information about your CPU, RAM, and storage.

There’s also a Clean Master app that allows you to clean out junk files and bulk uninstall apps. App Master: A Simple, Clean, Friendly Way To Bulk Uninstall Android Apps App Master: A Simple, Clean, Friendly Way To Bulk Uninstall Android Apps What if there was a bulk-uninstall tool that was focused just on that one task, making it as easy as possible? Read More  It has the ability to “boost your memory,” but as we’ve discussed before, RAM boosters and task killers Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More tend to do more harm than good.

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The basic built-in apps like Notepad and Calendar have rather, ugly skeuomorphic designs, but there are much better options out there What is The Best Free Calendar App For Android? We Compare The Best What is The Best Free Calendar App For Android? We Compare The Best Keeping a calendar on your Android phone or tablet is great, but what is the best app to use? Join us as we examine the best of them. Read More for those kinds of tasks anyway.

Other preloaded apps include: UC Mini, AliveShare, Mi-POP, Backup, WPS Office, Camera360, Chaatz, and Navigate. Most of these are available on the Play Store anyway, but Mi-POP is pretty unique, and it allows you to have an onscreen home or back button for easier one-handed use.

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AliveShare works pretty well if you have another user download the app. It can be used to locally send videos and pictures, play multiplayer games, or transfer phone data (all without using your 3G/4G data plan).

Thankfully most, like UC Mini and Chaatz, can be uninstalled, which is a bonus for anyone who has had to deal with bloatware What You Need to Know About Removing Android Bloatware What You Need to Know About Removing Android Bloatware Lots of phones come with annoying pre-installed software, but you can remove it. Here's how. Read More .

Cameras

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The Blade S6 is equipped with a 13MP wide-angle rear-facing camera, while the front has a 5MP wide-angle camera. Both take pretty good photos, in my opinion — and the camera interface is actually decent.

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For 16×9 photos, the max resolution you’re going to get is 9MP on the back and 4MP on the front, but it’s still worthy of some praise. And in my testing, I felt like both cameras had significantly better low light performance than other smartphones I’ve used. That could be helped along by the f/2.0 aperture on the back and f/2.2 aperture on the front.

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The camera interface has a simple mode (indicated by the red circle on the left) and an expert mode, which allows for tinkering with the ISO, white balance, and all of that.

In the rainbow settings icon (why rainbow? We may never know), you’ll find options for different shooting modes including a “beauty mode” for your selfies and a “straighten mode” for photographing text or documents.

Battery Life

Overall, one of the biggest weaknesses of this device is the battery life. With only a 2,400mAh battery, it was barely able to make it through a full day with regular usage. Under heavy usage, it wouldn’t make it anywhere near that (and that was only on 2G, mind you, as we’ll discuss later).

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I never got more than about 3 hours of screen time, as the phone seemed to drain pretty quickly even when I wasn’t using it. That being said, this is about average in the realm of smartphones, so I wouldn’t call it bad battery life — it just won’t exceed anyone’s expectations.

Performance

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Before I got started, I thought there was no way that the Snapdragon 615 in this device could compare with the Snapdragon 801 in my OnePlus One (a device that has its own unique pros and cons Top Six Best Features Of The OnePlus One -- And One Drawback Top Six Best Features Of The OnePlus One -- And One Drawback I've been living with the OnePlus One for a few weeks now, and it's amazing, but it's not perfect. Let's run through some of the best features -- and one downside. Read More ). I was wrong.

I rarely encountered lag when using the Blade S6. Moving between screens, switching apps, and playing games — none of that ever introduced lag, even with apps updating in the background. I was more than impressed. Using the device was a quick and fluid experience, and I found myself reaching for this phone more often because of that.

The most noticeable bit of lag I encountered on a regular basis was the delay between hitting the power button and the screen turning on. It’s a tiny delay, but it’s enough that you have to wait an instant before the device is functional. Considering how often most people turn on their screens, it could get annoying.

My only other complaint would be that the phone could get quite warm while multitasking, but again that’s a problem on most phones. With a 64-bit processor, it is at least future-proofed for apps that will support the additional processing power.

Data & Support

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Here’s the biggest caveat of all: as an imported device, the ZTE Blade S6 has very specific 3G and 4G bands, and therefore can only get 2G speeds in the United States. Internationally, you should check with your wireless carrier to see if they’re compatible with UMTS 900Mhz and 2100Mhz bands for 3G, or the FDD-LTE bands 1, 3, 7, 8, or 20 for 4G LTE speeds.

This wasn’t much of a problem for me since I’m connected to Wi-Fi 90% of the time, but not even being able to access 3G really makes this phone unappealing to the American market.

To add to that, when the phone arrived, I thought it might be compatible with 3G, and I contacted ZTE support to understand if it could get 3G speeds. I was told over the phone that my model, the Blade S6, did not exist in their database, so they gave me an email address to send my question to. I did. I heard back later and was told to contact AT&T. So I went to an AT&T store and was told that the phone isn’t compatible with their 3G network.

Long story short: don’t expect 3G or 4G in the US, and ZTE support isn’t the best in my experience.

Should You Buy It?

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Despite the squeaky plastic back, the low-quality rear-facing speaker, and the slightly less than average battery life, I actually really enjoyed using this phone. It’s light and responsive and just a joy to use. If you’ve got a charger nearby most of the time and don’t mind a plastic phone with mediocre speakers, it’s certainly worth the $250. And not to mention, it’s only $250 unlocked!

But the biggest downside here is really the limited 3G and 4G bands, which is disappointing because it’s such a tiny issue that really affects what countries you can use this phone in. Because of that, we really can’t recommend this phone for the American market.

Our verdict of the ZTE Blade S6:
Buy it. If you’re in a country and have a carrier that supports the correct 3G and 4G bands for this device, it’s a great deal at $250. You get the fluid, responsive experience of much more expensive phones for a fraction of the cost, all wrapped into a nice iPhone-like package. The real concessions are in battery life and speaker quality, but they’re basically average for a smartphone.
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ZTE Blade S6 Android 5.0 Smartphone - 4G, 5 Inch 1280x720 Screen, Qualcomm MSM8939 64 Bit Octa Core 1.5GHz CPU, 2GB RAM ZTE Blade S6 Android 5.0 Smartphone - 4G, 5 Inch 1280x720 Screen, Qualcomm MSM8939 64 Bit Octa Core 1.5GHz CPU, 2GB RAM With its crystal-clear, U-shaped curved display and 7.7mm ultra-thin frame design, the Blade S6 is truly stunning. Buy Now At Amazon $269.00

ZTE Blade S6 Competition

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Arthur
    May 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    It took my son nearly two years to save for his iphone. I can do it in 4 months. I think it is a great buy.

  2. Tim
    May 2, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Seriously, I just want to know, are you a man or a woman? I cant determine from the pic

  3. stewart w
    April 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    4mp

  4. Cheri
    April 18, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I would love to have this phone.. I work at a zoo and taking pictures of the animals would be awesome

  5. lee webster
    April 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

    top phone

  6. trupti dave
    April 17, 2015 at 9:33 am

    4MP

  7. Sunny Narvekar
    April 17, 2015 at 2:10 am

    I would love to win as I’d like to do the project I’ve planned but I think any one of us deserves to win as we’ve all got great ideas to use the gadgets

  8. dal
    April 12, 2015 at 2:04 am

    great phone

  9. Helen Mueller
    April 11, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I would be very happy to own a phone like this for 2 reasons. One, I'm in Canada and only occasionally travel to/through the US so the limited 2G wouldn't really bother me and besides for travelling purposes it's for emergencies only otherwise I am incognito and unavailable.....that's what a trip is for. Two, being that winning it would mean I got it for free I would be grateful for having it and overall it's features would be compatible for my needs. So, I'd still love to win it. Thanks.

  10. Edmond
    April 11, 2015 at 2:39 am

    Wow, prize phone is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. Pick me, pick me!

  11. Helen Iddenden-Smith
    April 10, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    It would be good to see the faces of my grandchildren. They tease me for only having a basic mobile.

  12. Alfred Chan
    April 10, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    5inch are just nice for me and it come with dual sim, avoid me to carry two phone around.
    Thanks. Good Luck!! :)

  13. pamela gossage
    April 10, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    4MP

  14. baldo
    April 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

    liked and shared

  15. Prabhath Kaushalya
    April 10, 2015 at 8:27 am

    would love to have this

  16. jeanette
    April 10, 2015 at 4:34 am

    would like one of these for myself

  17. Ashik
    April 9, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    I have used a similar phone like this and would love to have this as a gift to my wife

    • Eric W
      October 28, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Mostly good review with one exception:
      Do a little research... Verizon users would have wonderful 4G LTE service just fine on the channels supported.
      Have you never used Google before? It is really easy to look up channels supported by cell carriers. Wikipedia has very comprehensive information too.

      Just because AT&T doesn't support the channels the phone offers doesn't mean nobody else does either.

      I suggest you print out a chart of frequencies each US carrier supports.

      Please edit your article to indicate that the phone does have 3G or 4G support on some carriers, and that users should check if their carrier uses supported channels... This applies to any phone and carrier combination.

      Thanks for accepting the constructive criticism for not doing a little basic research before making claims for ALL of the US Carriers when AT&T is the only one you have researched.

      Just 5 minutes to search and learn and you could have written a more informative and accurate article.

      Hope you take this to heart and become a better journalist because of it.

      Eric

      • Riley J. Dennis
        October 29, 2016 at 3:42 am

        first of all, why did you post this as a reply to a completely unrelated comment?

        second, the phone is GSM, not CDMA, and therefore can't even be activated on Verizon.

        third, chill. relax. it's a phone review. there's no need to be so rude and aggressive. there are nicer ways to suggest corrections for things you think might be wrong. I really suggest you work on being a kinder person in the future; it could serve you well in life.

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