Nov 05 AT 1:36 PM Brooks Barnard 8 Comments

ZTE nubia 5 first impressions

ZTE nubia 5 feature

If I didn’t blog about Android I probably wouldn’t really have noticed ZTE, let alone know who they were or that they were manufacturing Android devices. ZTE is a Chinese phone manufacturer who recently began releasing unlocked phones in the US. Get this, according to Wikipedia, ZTE is the fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer measured by 2012 unit sales. So if you haven’t heard of ZTE before, you may want to take notice. The ZTE nubia 5 is the highest-end device ZTE has released thus far in the US and I get a chance to play with it for a few weeks. It’s an unlocked US device and can be used with any US GSM carrier. I’ve been playing with the ZTE nubia 5 on AT&T since for a few days and these are my first impressions on the device.

ZTE nubia 5-2If you pick yourself up a ZTE nubia 5, you’ll immediately be impressed with ZTE’s presentation of the nubia 5. The box the nubia 5 comes in is the coolest box I’ve seen in regards to mobile tech packaging. It’s also the biggest and heaviest I’ve seen for a phone, but that’s obviously not what makes it awesome. When you open the box, there are two more boxes inside! One box, made of plastic which I don’t bring up because I think plastic is cheap, but because it’s unique and makes me feel like there’s something more important inside compared to just a carboard box. Inside, the nubia 5 sits on a red metal tray. The second box it a clear plastic box containing the other typical things that come with a phone: the wall adapter, the micro-usb cable and headphones.

I guess what I’m trying to pass on to you is that ZTE is trying to create an experience with this phone. The nubia 5 comes in a box that took some extra time and thought. ZTE wants you to feel like the device you have in your hands took some extra time and thought.

ZTE nubia 5-1What about the phone? As far as the look of the nubia 5, once again I think ZTE put a lot of thought into it. As you look around the device, one of the first things you’ll probably notice is the camera. The 13 MP camera on the back significantly protrudes from the non-removable back, and has a metallic red ring around it, similar to the HTC EVO series. Then, as you use this device, you’ll notice this red-ring is a theme that ZTE has incorporated throughout the device. The home button, which also acts as the notification light, is a red ring. To unlock the device on the lock screen, you need to press and hold a red ring. In the nubia name on the back of the device, the ‘a’ has a red ring in it.

Again, I feel like ZTE has done a great job at creating an experience with the nubia 5. It makes me feel like I’m using a high-end device.

Other notable features that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed is the 5″ 1080P IPS LCD display. This is the first 5″ phone that I’ve used for an extended ammount of time and I’m very much enjoying the size. The 441 ppi image is crisp and beautiful. Comparing the display to a Galaxy S4, the display is much more washed out and much less saturated. I wouldn’t call myself a videophile, but I enjoy the brightness of the LCD display. Additionally, I’ve had a great experience with battery life thus far with the phone easily getting me 13+ hours of life which significant use.

What has unimpressed me? A few things.

  1. I feel like the attention to detail all went into hardware and was lostwith the software. ZTE is a Chinese company, so many things likely needed to be translated into English through the software. But there are many misspellings throughout the software which leaves me with the feeling that the software designers lacked attention to detail. It seems like an easy thing to have someone check and correct.
  2. The launcher that the nubia 5 uses doesn’t have an app drawer, similar to iOS. All the newly downloaded apps are placed directly on the homescreen. This isn’t my issue perse, but this launcher often has to think hard when populating the home screen and has already force closed on me several times. A launcher is something that is easy to fix by downloading a custom launcher, but the phone’s stock launcher should work well. The phone should function well out of the box.
  3. This issue I’m actually currently discussing with our ZTE rep, but I’ve noticed an issue with display sensitivity or responsiveness on the right edge of the display. I haven’t noticed the issue as significantly on the left side if at all, and I’m still trying to determine how significant and repeatable the issue is. But on the right side, when I’m playing Candy Crush Saga for instance, if the playing area goes to the edge of the screen I have a very difficult time swiping a candy from the right to the left. It doesn’t work maybe 80% of the time and I have to end up swiping left to right. I’ve also noticed this when trying to select buttons or check boxes on that side of the display, it often doesnt work. This may just be a one-off issue. I really hope it is. All my other issues with the device could basically be fixed with a new launcher. This one feels like it’s a hardware issue.

ZTE nubia 5-3So what’s the bottom line? I am in general very much enjoying the ZTE nubia 5. It’s a great looking and feeling device. I think most of my issues with the device will be over when I’m done reviewing the stock launcher and install a custom one. I’m excited to get to that point with this review.

I’m going to be reviewing it for another week+ and will continue to put it through the paces. Is there anything specifically that you want to make sure I cover in the full review? Be sure to let me know in the comments. Can this device compete with the just-released Nexus 5? We’ll have a full review of the nubia 5 up in a couple of weeks. If you’re interested in checking out the device for yourself, head on over to Amazon. They are exclusively being sold there and it seems like the price may be fluctuating day-to-day. Yesterday the phone was $437 and today it’s up to $444. So, it might be something to watch out for. Let us know your thoughts on the device and be watching out for the full review.

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • Vance

    What processor does it use? How much RAM? Hard drive size? Bands supported? What version of Android comes on it? What is Nubia’s version of Android called? Why do I feel like I know more about the box than the phone after this review? You’ve piqued my curiosity, now fill in the blanks!

    • Brooks Barnard

      All good questions! And I was definitely planning to cover those in my full review. My intention in a first impressions post is to shed some light on the experience of the device, something you can’t necessarily google and find out. I only get two weeks with the device so I don’t like to write the full review about the device until I’ve used it for a bit. But I can definitely answer those questions now and let me know if you have any others:

      CPU: 1.5 GHz Quad-Core APQ8064
      RAM: 2GB
      Storage: 16gb, with a little over 9gb usable, 2.63gb for apps
      Supported bands:GSM 850/900/1800/1900 UMTS 850/1900/2100 with HSPA+, no LTE
      Android version: 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
      nubia’s version of Android? I wasn’t given a name, but they’ve definitely made a few tweaks to the launcher experience.

  • renyo

    Looks like an HTC phone…

    • Brooks Barnard

      I agree. Like the EVO series, right?

      • nivekkev

        Yeah, the EVO series with a dash of Thunderbolt

  • donger

    what the..

    • Brooks Barnard


  • Mama kamena

    oh her is the best. all day we went seen the new android.