A phone need not have every premium extravagance for it to be a good device, and the ZTE-made AT&T F160 illustrates that point beautifully. Sure, as a simple midrange handset, it certainly isn't recommended for power texters or multimedia geeks and with its matte black appearance, it's far from showy.
What it does, however, is competently deliver on features and design with a light, slim, and comfortable body; a responsive keypad; good call quality; and useful usability touches. Best of all, the AT&T F160 is free with a two-year contract, making it an ever more valuable no-fuss phone for callers. The AT&T F160 costs $149.99 without a contract. For ZTE, which has produced several clunkers (like the maligned ZTE Agent), the F160 is a welcome step in the right direction.
ZTE's shadowy AT&T F160 is a nondescript, mostly matte black chassis with subtle design features--slightly rounded corners and a couple of silver accents. Like many ZTE phones, it's tall and lean--4.8 inches tall, 1.9 inches wide, and 0.4 inch thick. We can't think of many pockets or purses too shallow for its lanky profile. The F160 also is light, just a hair under 3 ounces, but without feeling wispy or fragile. Easy to grab up with a soft-touch backing, the F160 feels comfortable in the hand and on the ear.
The 2.4-inch screen seems a good size for the phone's thin face. Its 240x320-pixel QVGA resolution is standard, but with 262,000 colors, it also looks bright and colorful. Navigation is straightforward, with a grid menu that pops up when you press one soft key, and a very handy list of shortcuts for the camera, calling history, and so on that pops up with a press of the other soft key.
Settings let you change the wallpaper, backlight duration, and screen brightness, plus set a boot screen greeting. We just hope you're happy with the font style and size, because it doesn't appear that you can change them.
Below the screen are the two soft keys, the Send and End buttons, and the Clear and Shortcuts key. The latter makes it easy to toggle between screens, like your Menu and the Home screen. A four-directional navigation toggle also is present, along with its central select button. We had no complaints getting around.
The alphanumeric keypad buttons are wide and rather short; however, they're gratifyingly responsive and the domed centers make them easy to press and to dial by feel. Two multifunctional buttons preside over three tasks: locking the screen, turning the phone to vibrate mode, and changing the text mode. Sure, phones with full QWERTY keyboards are better for accomplished texters, but the F160's congenial keypad and easy automatic predictive texting make composition manageable.
As for the other external features, the spines hold the volume rocker, a camera shutter button and Micro-USB charging port, and a 3.5 millimeter headset jack. On the back is a 3-megapixel camera, and beneath the back cover is the microSD card slot that can take up to 8GB external memory. Unfortunately, it's only accessible once you've removed both the back cover and the battery.
Despite the F160's unassuming look, it has more goodies than you'd anticipate, thanks in part to AT&T's bundled services. There's room in the F160's address book for 500 contacts, and each entry can host your contact's name, multiple phone numbers, multiple e-mail addresses, a street address, and a ringtone. Twelve ringtones come on the phone, but you can sub in your own via the microSD card, or buy ringtones in the AT&T store. Ringback tones, while a separate purchase through AT&T, are another option. Unfortunately, attaching a photo ID to your contact isn't--an odd omission for a camera phone.