The ZTE F012 is currently available from Three in the UK on Pay As You Go for just £30, which makes it the cheapest 3G handset on the market at the moment. Given that rock bottom price you wouldn’t expect it to include much in the way of extra frills, but the F102 actually has some surprising features tucked up its sleeve including Skype support and a microSD memory card slot.
The phone doesn’t exactly feel luxurious, but design-wise it's actually relatively attractive. The handset’s chassis may be completely hewn from plastic, but the glossy black finish looks stylish and is lifted nicely by the chrome effect added to the central D-pad and the two buttons that flank it. The F102 is quite small too, measuring just 106mm tall and a mere 12mm thick, plus at 80g it’s light so it can be easily tucked away in a shirt pocket. Also, although you can hear the keypad rattle a bit when you shake the phone, the keys do actually feel like they’ll stand up to a bit of abuse and the chassis is less prone to flexing than some budget handsets from more illustrious names like Sony Ericsson and Nokia.
Obviously to keep the price low some corners have been cut and this is most obvious when it comes to the screen. The F102’s 2in display is rather small and it uses STN technology rather than the newer TFT type found on handsets that are more expensive. The viewing angle of STN displays is much narrower than TFT ones, but the display on the F102 performs better in this regard than some STN displays we’ve seen on budget Nokia handsets. However, the narrower viewing angle does become obvious when you’re holding the handset horizontally to view pictures or videos in landscape on the screen. Nevertheless, the display is reasonably bright and although we wouldn’t exactly describe the colours as vibrant, they’re not washed out either.
The F102 menu system is also quite basic, but at least it’s easy to use. The home screen has softkeys to take you to web favourites like Google, Yahoo and Three’s Planet3 web service, while pressing the button in the centre of the D-pad opens the main menu. This is laid out in a grid so it looks similar to the menus found on budget Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets and is easy to move around using the responsive D-pad. The phone’s numerical keypad might be quite small, but the keys have a decent amount of travel so you can get up a decent typing speed when using them for texting.