ZTE just made its latest flagship Grand S LTE official here at CES 2013, and we've got our hands on it. This is definitely the top of the line model for ZTE right now, joining in on the 1080P display game. As for the specs, they're all top of the line as well. We're looking at a 5-inch 1080x1920 display, a 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (SDcard expandable,) 13MP / 2MP cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and support for both DLNA streaming and MHL displays. This thing certainly checks all the boxes.
The external hardware is pretty high quality, with a nice unibody plastic construction that covers the entire back all the way up to the screen bezels. The 13MP camera is set in a piano black finished area that's slightly raised from the rest of the back plate. At just 6.9mm thick the Grand S LTE feels paper thin, but the curves around the sides make it still comfortable to hold. There are capacitive buttons -- back, home, menu -- on the bottom bezel, but they don't seem to light up very brightly. The display is quite nice, but it's really hard to judge in terrible trade show lighting conditions.
The one potential complaint after spending some time with it is that some of the devices were very glossy, which may turn some people away. Thankfully some of the other colors had more of a matte finish to them. Speaking of colors, ZTE has gone all-out with the selection here. From our count, there's light pink, dark pink (nearly red,) mint green, light grey, bright yellow, black and white colors of the Grand S LTE available.
Stick around after the break for a quick run-through of the software, as well as many pictures and hands-on video of the device from the show floor.
For the software side, we're looking at Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with some quite-noticeable changes done by ZTE in the interface department. The UI has been redone to convert to a black/green/tan color scheme that generally works pretty well, but is far from stock. ZTE adds some lower-level customization as well, with quick toggles and settings shortcuts in the notification bar, as well as customization options in the app drawer. There's also a feature that will overlay a navigation key on the UI anywhere you want, letting you quickly access home, back, menu and multitasking without reaching to the bottom of the device.
The software seemed pretty smooth overall, but we felt some lags that shouldn't be there on a device that is based on Jelly Bean. We'll assume that's an issue with tradeshow demo units that have been messed around with by way too many people, as the less-used unit carried by a ZTE representative was much more consistent. We just hope the final shipping software is just as smooth as we've come to expect on devices running Android 4.1 and above.
ZTE is aiming for a Chinese launch to start, and hopefully will continue that rollout to other countries as well. The representatives we spoke to simply said that ZTE is in talk with U.S. carriers, but didn't have any details available. This model supported GSM/UMTS/LTE, so depending on the radio frequencies it could be purchased unlocked and used in the states -- just don't count on LTE working.
We've got a whole bunch of pictures of every color of the device below, as well as a hands-on video from the CES 2013 show floor.