Even though ZTE is one of China's largest cell phone manufacturers, most of us here in the United States aren't aware of the brand. However, ZTE is attempting to make some inroads in the U.S. with its first-ever U.S. cell phone, the ZTE C88. The C88 is a fairly average handset and appears to be tailor-made for mainstream appeal; with a traditional flip-phone design and midrange features like a camera, music player, and stereo Bluetooth, the C88 will please most people. That said, the C88's designated carrier is MetroPCS, which is only available in selected regional markets. It's available for $139, with no contract required.
The ZTE C88's design is nothing new. With its wide and slim flip-phone look, the C88 looks a lot like all the other skinny Razr clones we've seen in the past few years. Measuring 3.9 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.66 inch thick, the C88 is flat all the way around and is thin enough to fit comfortably in a back or shirt pocket. And at less than 3.5 ounces, it won't weigh you down, either. The hinge mechanism felt solid as we were opening and closing the phone, and the phone itself fits comfortably in the hand.
Like with most flip phones, we're glad to see a 1-inch diagonal external display on the C88. It is a color display, but unfortunately it can neither be used as a camera viewfinder nor as photo caller ID, which we think is a shame. It does display the usual date, time, status, and battery information, though, as well as regular caller ID. Above the display is the camera lens, but there's no flash or self-portrait mirror, which is a double shame since you can't use the external display as a viewfinder. A dedicated camera key plus the volume rocker sits on the left spine and the charger jack is on the right.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a 2-inch-wide 262,000-color display. Though images were saturated with color, we would've preferred a sharper look. We also weren't fans of the blue-washed default menu screen. You can adjust the backlighting time, the menu style, the clock format, the dialing font size, as well as the wallpaper.
Underneath the display is the C88's navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with middle OK button, a speakerphone key, a Back key, plus the Talk and End/Power buttons. The toggle also doubles as shortcuts to the contacts list, MetroPCS's @metro download portal, the messaging menu, as well as the Web browser. The whole keypad, including the navigation array, felt quite flush to the surface of the phone, with only the tiniest of grid lines for tactile difference. The two soft keys and side controls of the navigation array felt especially crowded. We definitely wouldn't recommend dialing by feel because of that.