The Boost Warp 4G is a prime example of the rising bar for inexpensive smartphones. This ZTE-made handset costs $199.99 on Boost Mobile—and that’s an unsubsidized, contract-free $199.99. Better yet, the Warp 4G supports Sprint’s growing LTE network and uses a high-quality 720p IPS display that belies its entry-level tag. It easily outclasses some similarly priced options and even gives the $400 Samsung Galaxy S III a run for its money. The midrange performance isn’t going to floor you, but it gets the things that matter most right. Dollar for dollar, it’s undoubtedly one of the best values on Boost Mobile.
Design, Features, and Call Quality
There’s nothing all that notable about the Warp 4G’s design. You can feel the flex and creaks in its all-plastic body, but I wouldn’t call it flimsy by any stretch. At 5.24 by 2.6 by 0.4 inches (HWD), the Warp 4G is a good size for single-handed use and feels light at 4.76 ounces. There are Volume buttons along the left edge, a Power button on top, and a camera shutter button along the right. The latter launches the camera when the phone is on, but I wish the button could also power the phone on straight into the camera app. The back panel has a rubberized, grippy texture and is easily removed to reveal the SIM card slot, microSD card slot, and 2,070mAh removable battery. We’re testing the Boost 4G’s battery life now, and will report here when we get our results.
Front and center is the excellent 4.5-inch, 720p IPS LCD. Affordable phones typically use lower-quality panels that might tout high resolutions, but fall flat when it comes to viewing angle, brightness, and color reproduction. Not so with the Warp 4G, as its display looks very sharp (326 pixels per inch) and has a nice and wide viewing angle. The panel gets more than bright enough for use outdoors and colors definitely pop. Below the display are capacitive Back, Home, and Menu navigation buttons. Holding Home summons recent apps, but I wish manufacturers would stick to Google’s standard setup, as this deviance necessitates an extra step to access Google Now. Admittedly, it’s a minor quibble.
The Warp 4G supports CDMA (800/850/1700/1900MHz) and LTE (1700/1900MHz) on Sprint’s nationwide network. As we found in our annual Fastest Mobile Networks survey, Sprint’s LTE coverage in the U.S. is still pretty weak, but having a 4G radio here ensures your phone will be future proofed as the carrier builds out its coverage areas. And in our tests, Sprint’s LTE network flew when we could find it, averaging 13Mbps down and 3-4Mbps up at a few locations in midtown Manhattan.
Call quality, though, was a bit of mixed bag in our tests. The earpiece is a bit too quiet, and a raised, somewhat sharp edge around the phone’s bezel can dig into your ear when you hold the phone against your face, which you’ll likely have to do in louder environments. Transmissions through the mic sounded full with plenty of gain, but voices had a distinct robotic quality and a harsh treble edge. Noise cancellation was solid, blocking out a good amount of loud street sounds, though it did seem to add some static to the beginning and ends of phrases. I also noticed a faint clicking and voices dropped in and out a bit when making a call on the move. The back-ported speakerphone is also pretty weak; I could barely hear it outdoors without holding the phone close to my head.
You also get dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. The Warp 4G easily connected to a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and voice dialing worked without issue.
Performance, Android, and Multimedia
The Warp 4G utilizes a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8930 processor and 1GB RAM, which is pretty common for entry-level devices. As such, you can only expect so much from the Warp 4G. It struggles with graphically intensive games like Asphalt 8, struggling to maintain smooth frame rates and rendering backdrops as you zoom by. Web browsing is fairly swift, though you’ll definitely experience some choppy scrolling. For the most part, you won’t notice the middling specs in normal usage, but I did notice a few minor annoyances. The software keyboard can hang for a moment before launching, and there’s occasional lag between pressing an icon and launching an app. Switching between multiple running apps can cause the Warp 4G to stutter, but only when you’re really pushing it. With reasonable use, everything works swimmingly and looks great on the sharp display.
A lot of that smooth performance can likely be attributed to ZTE’s very light Android skin. The Warp 4G runs a pretty clean version of Android 4.1.2 with a modified lock screen that lets you launch into the camera or change sound profiles directly. At first glance, it might appear as though Boost added a fair amount of bloatware, but closer inspection reveals a pleasant surprise. Home screen icons for MTV, CNN, Univison, BET, and E! are thankfully just browser shortcuts that can be easily removed. On top of that, the carrier includes a shortcut to install the Boost Music Store instead of foisting the useless content stores on its users.
The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera offers a pretty typical midrange shooting experience. Shots outdoor look serviceable for Web uploads, though its poor dynamic range makes shooting in anything but ideal, even lighting a crap shoot. Indoors under low light, images exhibit a fair amount of grain and color speckling. You can capture 1080p video, but frame rates hover around 15 frames per second indoors and 24 frames per second outdoors, with waxy details and jelly-like motion.
For audio, the Warp 4G supports AAC, FLAC, MP3, OGG, and WAV, but not WMA files. Video support is lacking, though, as the Warp 4G could not play DivX, Xvid, or AVI files. Audio sounds fine over wired headsets and was in sync with video when listening over Bluetooth. Out of the box you get 5.44GB of storage, and our 64GB SanDisk microSD card worked just fine.
Pricing and Conclusions
Boost Mobile has always offered competitively priced plans, but they were typically tied to Sprint’s slower network with limited coverage. Sprint’s coverage could still use work, but it’s clear that the company’s LTE network can hang with AT&T and Verizon’s networks where it’s available. And Boost phones like the Warp 4G have the same access to fast LTE speeds as Sprint’s own phones. Boost plans start at $55 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data, though that last part only includes 2.5GB of high-speed data, after which you’ll be throttled to slower 2G speeds. That alone is an attractive deal, but when you factor in Boost’s unique shrinking payment plan that rewards you for paying on time, you’re looking at potentially paying only $40 a month for that very same plan. If you live in a Sprint coverage area, especially one with LTE, this is an unbeatable deal.
The Boost Warp 4G is a testament to how far low-cost phones have come. It doesn’t have one true standout feature, but it nails the core smartphone experience while keeping the price completely reasonable. And when you consider Boost’s affordably priced plans and Sprint’s promising LTE network, the Warp 4G looks even better. It goes toe to toe with the $299.99 LG Optimus F7, and comes within striking distance of the $399.99 Galaxy S III. If you want the fastest and best experience, the Galaxy S III is still the phone to get on Boost, but the Warp 4G is definitely worth a look.
|Phone Capability / Network||CDMA, LTE|
|Screen Resolution||1280 x 720 pixels|
|Dimensions||5.24 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches|
|Video Camera Resolution||1080p|
|Available Integrated Storage||5.44 GB|
|Processor Speed||1.2 GHz|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8930 Dual-Core|
|Total Integrated Storage||8 GB|
|Screen Type||IPS LCD|
|Operating System as Tested||Android 4.1.2|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP Rear|
|1 MP Front-Facing|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||326|
|Bands||800, 850, 1900, 1700|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Screen Size||4.5 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc