The ZTE Kis runs the old Gingerbread version 2.3 of Android, which is a bit more forgiving of the type of modest processor that this handset uses. Also, ZTE has done some quite heavy modifications of the standard Gingerbread interface, which improve things substantially.
For example, when you pull down the notification screen there is a scrolling bar of scions across the top that lets you quickly do stuff like turning on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and mobile data, or lock the orientation of the screen.
The ZTE Kis's app drawer is laid out as horizontally scrolling pages of apps and the icons for these apps have a semi transparent box around them presumably to make them look more like iPhone icons.
ZTE has also added the Touchpal onscreen keyboard, which is a pleasure to use and also includes a swipe mode where you enter a word just by swiping across the letters in a single motion.
One annoyance, though, is the new lock screen. You have to press and hold a button to unlock the phone. It's just slower and more annoying than the usual swipe to unlock gesture that Android uses as default.
The ZTE Kis uses an 800Mhz ARM V7 processor, which is not exactly state of the art. However, it was much faster in Benchmarks than the rival Alcatel OT-903. For example, in BrowserMark V2.0 it scored 1010 compared to the 903's 450 (higher is better), and it completed Sunspider in 4222.7ms compared to the 903's leisurely 13788.4ms (lower is better). Sadly it refused to return a score in GLBenchmark, but in Linpack it did post a result of 17.396MFlops, which good for such a cheap handset.
The ZTE Kis can be a bit sluggish when calling up the onscreen keyboard or when switching between apps, but it feels quicker than the Alcatel OT-903 in this regard and certainly it's never really downright annoyingly slow. In fact, we'd say that performance is rather good for the price.
As it runs Android you also get access to thousands of apps on the Google Play store which is a huge advantage over feature phones, like Nokia's Asha range, that you usually see available around this price point. Most of these apps run fine on the phone's modest processor, including newer games such as Angry Birds Star Wars.
Flip the ZTE Kis over and you'll find the 3.2-megapixel camera on the rear. Unusually for a budget phone the camera has autofocus. However it doesn’t have a flash to help out in low light conditions. There's a lot of shutter lag when taking a photo and things tend towards the blurry if there's any sudden movement as the shutter fires off. Even in reasonably bright conditions there's quite a lot of picture noise and colours tend to look quite washed out. Basically, its photos are good enough for uploading to social networks like Facebook, but not for much else.
ZTE has equipped the phone with a pretty big 1400mAh battery and this really helps it when it comes to battery life especially compared to many of its budget rivals. Whereas they often struggle to last a day, the ZTE Kis would happily keep running for a day and a half. Call quality was on the whole very good too.
It may be a little more costly than competitors like Alcatel's OT-903, but the ZTE Kis more than justifies its slightly higher asking price tag thanks to its higher resolution screen, faster processor and long battery life. The price of Android phones is dropping all the time, but for now at least, this handset offers pretty unbeatable value for money.