Three has pre-installed the Skype and Windows Live Messenger applications on the handset, both of which worked without any problems for us. The browser isn’t bad either, and thanks to the phone’s 3G support, sites load reasonably quickly. The browser is also compatible with video sites like YouTube and you can force video to be displayed full screen to make the most of the rather cramped 2in display. Interestingly the F102 has a task manager button on the front that lets you jump between open apps, so you can have the web browser running at the same time as the Skype application, for example.
However, we do have to take issue with the phone’s music player, as it’s pretty dire. It simply presents you with a list of tracks rather than sorting them into artist and album categories. In fact, it’s little more than a file browser so navigating through larger libraries of tunes is a nightmare. Unlike many budget phones that use their USB ports for the headphone connection, the F102 does actually have a headphone jack. However, it’s a non-standard 2.5mm micro jack so you’ll need an adaptor if you want to use a normal set of headphones with it.
As the supplied headphones are pretty poor, you will want to swap them for your own cans if you’re planning on making use of the music player. And while the phone only has 128MB of onboard memory, you can boost this using microSD cards via the memory card slot that’s hidden behind a plastic flap on the left hand side of the phone.
The F102 only has a single rear-facing camera so it doesn’t support video calls, but that’s hardly unexpected on a £30 handset (does anyone actually make video calls anyway?). The rear-facing camera has a low resolution of 2-megapixels. Naturally, it’s fixed-focus only and doesn’t have an LED flash. Photos don’t stand up to much scrutiny when you transfer them to a PC, but colours are reasonably vibrant so pictures are fine for MMS messages or background wallpapers on the phone.
The F102 is pretty impressive on the connectivity front as it has quad-band GSM as well as 3G support and there’s also Bluetooth onboard, too, which you can use for transferring music tracks or photos to and from a PC and making calls with a Bluetooth headset. The phone’s call quality was good with the earpiece delivering crisp and loud audio. The handset wasn’t bad at holding on to reception in weaker signal areas either.
The F102’s Achilles’ heel, however, is its battery life. ZTE rates it as good for around five hours of talk time, which was borne out in our tests. This is quite low by modern mobile standards, so this is not a phone you’d want to rely on if you make a lot of calls during the day.
The F102 is an impressive budget phone. It’s small and light, easy to use and looks quite attractive too. The Skype feature is an extra bonus as is the presence of the SD card slot. Naturally, there are some downsides such as the lack of a standard headphone jack, the iffy music player and the short-ish battery life. However, given the handset’s ridiculously low price we can largely forgive it these foibles.