ZTE Comes Back to the U.S. with Two Phones Under $200

ZTE is launching its U.S. comeback not with a new flagship device but with a pair of sub-$200 phones that you'll be able to buy unlocked.

ZE Blade Max View (left) and Blade Max 2S (right)

ZE Blade Max View (left) and Blade Max 2S (right)

The Chinese phone maker unveiled a pair of 6-inch phones today (Oct. 31) that offer a handful of features you normally wouldn't expect to see in handsets with budget price tags.

Both the $199 Blade Max View and the $179 Blade Max 2S feature edge-to-edge screens with minimal bezels and 18:9 aspect ratios. (ZTE says that will be true of all its phones from this point onward.) The more expensive Blade Max View also includes dual rear cameras and dual Dolby speakers.

Phone
ZTE Blade Max View
ZTE Blade Max 2S
Cost
$199
$179
Screen (Resolution)
6 inches (2160 x 1080)
6 inches (2160 x 1080)
CPU
Snapdragon 435
Snapdragon 435
RAM
3GB
2GB
Storage
32GB
32GB
Rear Camera
16-MP, 2-MP
13-MP
Front Camera
8-MP
5-MP
Battery
4,000 mAh
4,000 mAh
OS
Android Nougat
Android Oreo
Compatible Networks
AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile

With the release of these two phones — both of which are now available at ZTE's website, B&H and Newegg.com — ZTE is hoping to turn the page on a period in which it found itself in the news for reasons other than its smartphones. A fight with the U.S. government over ZTE selling equipment to Iran and North Korea led to a denial order blocking ZTE from importing components built in the U.S. that it needed to make its phones. For a time, ZTE even suspended operations.

The denial order has since been lifted, and ZTE is fully operational again. It even unveiled a new flagship phone, the Axon 9 Pro, in August, though that device isn't coming to the U.S. Instead, ZTE's U.S. strategy is built around offering these two new budget Blade devices as unlocked phones, with plans to resume launching phones through U.S. wireless carriers next year.

MORE: Best Unlocked Budget Phones

ZTE's two new phones do have an advantage over unlocked devices that can only work on GSM-based cellular networks — which make up the majority of unlocked phones. The Blade Max View is certified to work on Verizon's network in addition to the GSM networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. The Blade Max 2S is compatible with Sprint as well as AT&T and T-Mobile.

The Blade Max View is the more feature-rich of the two phones, as its higher price tag would suggest. That's largely because of the 16- and 2-megapixel cameras on the back of the phone as well as the stereo speakers. But ZTE has also augmented the Snapdragon 435 processor powering the Blade Max View with 3GB of RAM. You'll also get 32GB of onboard storage, which you can augment with a microSD card, and a 4,000 mAh battery.

Perhaps the biggest trade-off you'll make with the Blade Max View is its operating system. The phone ships with Android Nougat, a two-year-old version of Google's operating system. ZTE plans an update to Oreo in December.

The Blade Max 2S will ship with Android Oreo installed, but it makes do with less RAM — 2GB — in support of the same Snapdragon 435 chipset. It features a single 13-MP rear camera, while its 5-MP front camera isn't as powerful as the 8-MP selfie cam on the Blade Max View. Otherwise, the Max 2S has the same 32GB of onboard storage and 4,000 mAh battery as its slightly more expensive sibling.

Fall flagships from Apple, Samsung and Google get the majority of attention from the tech press, but there's definitely a demand for low-cost phones that still manage to deliver high-end features. We're eager to see how ZTE's latest devices fit into that space, so we look forward to providing full reviews of both the Blade Max View and the Blade Max 2S shortly.

Image Credits: Tom's Guide