About the ZTE Whirl
The ZTE Whirl is a compact entry level device priced at $79.99. This is a GSM device so Straight Talk will activate it with either AT&T or TMobile. The Whirl is a fairly basic device without a whole lot of bells and whistles. If you have looked at the Straight Talk website, you may have noticed a similar phone to this, namely the ZTE Valet. The main difference between these two phones is that the Whirl is GSM while the Valet is CDMA. As such, Straight Talk activates these with different carriers.
The main highlights on the Whirl is the compact size. Keep in mind that this is a 3.5″ screen so it is fairly small. This is a good phone for us pocket carriers. The next highlight is the 1.0 ghz processor which performs great with the Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean OS.
For an entry level phone, the specs are excellent on the Whirl. As previously mentioned, the spec highlight is the 1.0 ghz processor. Used to be most of these entry level phones were of the 800 mhz variety, many still are, but since ZTE is what you would consider an “off brand”, they have to make things stand out. This phone performs great for the price, streaming services such as Netflix opperate without a hitch. Suffice it to say, the Whirl will run just about any app you can download.
Next is the 3.5″ screen which makes for a compact phone. One item of note here is that the resolution is not the best. Because of the size, it can be a little grainy at times. Another item of mention on the screen is that the top is slightly darker than the rest of the screen. It could be that this is just the case in my example but I kind of doubt it. This is something to keep in mind when thinking about this phone. It doesn’t bother me any as it doesn’t affect anything, videos still look fine but it is there.
My main gripe on the specs is the camera, not so much because if its relatively low 3mp resolution but because the lack of led flash. Not a big deal in and of itself but the Valet which also costs the same does have an led flash and a dedicated camera button. The Whirl does not have said camera button.
Android Jelly Bean OS
Android 4.1.1 on the Whirl is fairly typical for an entry level phone. That is to say, there aren’t a whole lot of extras to be found, other than the regular Android items such as GMail, Google Maps, Navigation and Google Play store. The phone comes with 5 home screens which are numbered by small round icons just below the main screen.
Performance is quite good as is usual with Jelly Bean. This phone will handle most apps you can throw at it. Peformance from screen to screen is good. That said, you need to wait about 30 secs or so after you reboot it for it to operate smoothly. You may find it to be a bit slugish just after it reboots but that goes away shortly thereafter.
The Google Play store works flawlessly and is open to you to download any free or paid app. Of course you will need a Google account to do so because the Play app store is not tied to the Straight Talk service which is good because nothing is restricted.
Design & Look Feel
The Whirl is somewhat basic in the look feel department. As expected, it is all plastic construction in an all black finish. The bezel around the screen has a textured flat black finish to it. There is a shiny black trim going around the perimeter of the phone in between the screen bezel and battery cover. As with the other Straight Talk ZTEs, the Whirl has the 3 capacitive touch buttons just below the screen. The buttons have a light sensor at the top of the phone so they only light up under low/dark light conditions. This helps to preserve battery power somewhat.
The remainder of the phone is straight forward, on the bottom you find the charge port. The left has the volume buttons and the top the headphone jack/power button. Looking at the back, you find a real basic looking camera and a plastic battery cover. Finally, you will find the micro SD card under the battery. It does have a locking mechanism which you flip down then pull forward to gain access to the card. This is a bit of an annoyance particularly if you change cards often.
For the $79.99, the Whirl is not a bad phone. All things being equal as far as cellular coverage in you area goes, I would opt for the ZTE Valet because it has a few extras that the Whirl does not have. That said, the Whirl is probably the best entry level GSM device for Straight Talk. So if you have better AT&T or TMobile coverage, the ZTE Whirl is probably the way to go.