Windows Phone hasn't really taken off in a big way for Microsoft, and it isn't exactly helping Nokia out of its financial doldrums either. Windows Phone is the only mobile phone operating system Microsoft has, and when it announced an update to version 7.5 (also known as Mango) the company also announced its new hardware partners.
Among the new partners was ZTE, the company that's well known for making budget priced handsets. Up to that point, Windows Phone had only been something of a premium product, but the ZTE partnership suggested that might change.
And, it has indeed done so, with the ZTE Tania coming in SIM free for £210, including VAT. What you can't do at present, is get the ZTE Tania on a contract. Virgin Media has said it will stock it on contract, as well as SIM free, by this weekend. So far, it's not made it to any of the big operators.
From the outset, the Tania looks much more expensive than it actually is. While made from plastic, the build is quite solid, we couldn't make it creak or bow in our hands - without applying an awful lot of pressure and even then, it barely moved. Its rubbery back helps with grip. Yes, the Tania is a bit thick, at nearly 11mm, but it's not a monster. There's nothing about the build that shouts ‘budget', to us.
The screen is enormous for a low-cost handset. It measures 4.3in and delivers 800 x 480 pixels. Microsoft doesn't allow Windows Phone screens to be a resolution any lower than that.
Anyone who remembers the Orange Monte Carlo or its non-operator branded twin the ZTE Skate, will already know that ZTE can produce big screens on a budget. When we spent time with the Monte Carlo we found the screen let us down outdoors, in bright sunlight. The same is true of the ZTE Tania. When we took it outside, the TFT panel faded and it was often difficult to read.
There's an issue too, even when the screen is used indoors. As you sweep through menus and move around in content - for example in web pages - there's a bit of blurring. This all settles down when the screen is static, and if you are in the right location, it is bright and easy to read. Just don't expect it to be top notch, all the time.
That's an exhortation that can be made of the camera too. The Tania doesn't have a front camera, but the main five-megapixel shooter that can be started, by hitting a side button, even when the phone is locked. This, is a standard feature of Windows Phone. It is also standard that you can set the camera to automatically upload, whatever it shoots, to the free storage space at SkyDrive. Just register for a Live account soon, to get your quota.
The camera shoots 720p video, and the quality is pretty good. We did find our test videos were a bit jerky, even when we were doubly careful to be smooth in moving the phone around. Stills aren't bad, but whites can take on a rather pinkish hue, when shot indoors. If you want super-duper photography, this probably isn't the phone to choose.
Nor is it the handset to opt for, if you want lots of storage capacity. There's just 4GB internally and of this, just over 2GB is available for user storage. Microsoft doesn't allow microSD card support, so there's no way to add any more storage to this amount. Be sure you can live with this, if you decide to buy the phone.
Windows Phone has been around for a while now, but it still doesn't have the draw of third-party developers that iOS and Android does. You may find some apps you want, simply aren't here. In a perverse way, that might help you keep the storage space that's on board for your own data, of course.
If Windows Phone draws you, the good news is that the version of Windows Phone Mango you get here, is the same as on any other Windows Phone. Microsoft doesn't provide a ‘budget' version of its OS.
That means you get the standard tile based interface, and the ability to drop application and other links into it, including things like locations from Bing Maps (no Google Maps here, folks). We have found this feature useful in the past, but it has to be said that the two-column design incorporating double width tiles can make for a fair bit of vertical scrolling, if you like a lot of links. It's not a patch on iOS or Android for the link-hungry.
The single-core 1GHz processor doesn't seem to have any problems either. Transitions between screens are smooth, and there was no slow down during our test period.
The ZTE Tania, then, turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag. As a budget phone it is well made and its processor is up to the task: the two things that can often let lower costing handsets down. It has a large screen, albeit one that can fade severely in the great outdoors. It runs a full blown Windows Mobile OS, but lacks storage capacity and the apps market isn't as well populated, as its rivals. If you want Windows Mobile on a budget it is currently your only choice, but it does have some annoying shortcomings.
The ZTE Tania is a low cost Windows Phone that shows its budget nature in several respects. It does carry full Windows Phone, though, and that might be enough to draw some people in.
Cons: The ZTE Tania is well build and has a large screen.
Pros: The screen fades in bright sunlight, and the phone is very short on internal storage.
Manufacture: ZTE Tania
Price: £210 inc VAT SIM Free
Network: HSPA 900/2100, GSM 900/1800/1900
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 8255 1GHz
Memory expansion: none
Display: 4.3in 800 x 480 pixels
Main camera: five-megapixel
Front camera: No
FM radio: Yes
Size: 128.6 x 67.8 x 10.7 mm
OS: Android Windows 7.5 Mango