Hands on: ZTE Grand S2

On paper the ZTE Grand S 2 should be fighting with the big players in the smartphone world. Instead the advancements made in certain areas are let down by poor build quality and cheap-feeling materials.

Shows like CES are often battlegrounds for competitors, where each tries to outdo the other in everything from the glitz of its press event or show booth, to the strength and innovation of the products it launches. This year, there’s an interesting fight going on between ZTE and Huawei, as both announced new high-end flagship phones. In Huawei’s corner it’s the Ascend Mate 2 4G, while ZTE has the Grand S2. In the past the two Chinese firms have been too close to call, but this time there is a clear winner.

The ZTE Grand S2 has a specification which puts it up against phones like the Galaxy Note 3 and the Xperia Z1. A 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor provides plenty of power, and the phone really does zip along. Android 4.3 is installed, and the chip’s serious power helps mask any slowdown created by ZTE’s MiFavor user interface. Even with the animations and flashy transitions turned on, the Grand S2 didn’t frustrate like some previous ZTE phones.

An almost-there smartphone that once picked up, doesn’t inspire you to hold it for very long

A big 5.5-inch screen dominates the front panel and looks fantastic, really crisp and bright. The resolution is 1080p, there’s a 13-megapixel camera on the back, a 2-megapixel cam above the screen, and a sensibly large 3000mAh battery inside. Based on its spec, the Grand S2 should eclipse the Ascend Mate 2, and even take on other pleasant show surprises such as the Lenovo Vibe Z.

Sadly though, the Grand S2 is let down by less than inspiring build quality. It’s serious enough to be distracting, even when playing with potentially fun applications such as the phone’s voice control. The problem lies with the rear panel, which flexes and bends in all the wrong places. You can feel it’s not right when holding the phone in your palm, and even the edges don’t appear to sit flush with the body.

We tried each phone on display, plus a phone provided by ZTE which wasn’t out on the show floor, and all were the same. It’s not something limited to a single color either, as they were all different. It’s a real disappointment, as from the front the Grand S2 is quite attractive, particularly its curvy corners. Turn it over and it’s like a different phone. It looks cheap, and worse, it feels cheap. After putting in all that effort to bump the spec and improve MiFavor, it’s a shame the physical package hasn’t had the same level of attention.

Ultimately then, the Grand S2 is more of the same from ZTE, an almost-there smartphone that once picked up, doesn’t inspire you to hold it for very long. It’s bad news too, as Huawei has made considerable strides in quality and desirability with the Ascend Mate 2, which impresses despite being a phone we’d normally find too large and ungainly. One nil to Huawei at CES 2014.

Not that this may be a problem for the U.S. and Europe, as ZTE still can’t provide any information on whether the Grand S2 will be sold outside of China and other parts of Asia. For once, regrettably, we’re not all that bothered.


  • Large, crisp and bright 1080p screen
  • Fast Snapdragon 800 processor
  • Improved MiFavor Android user interface


  • Less than impressive build quality
  • Unpleasant plastic rear cover

Huawei can make superb phones, but the Y7 Prime isn’t one of them

We've adored some of the recent Huawei smartphones, including the excellent P20 Pro; but the firm also makes some cheaper hardware. We've been using the $220 Huawei Y7 Prime to find out if it's similarly tempting.

The Huawei Mate 20 may come with a massive 40W charger

Huawei is no stranger when it comes to big phones. And this year it plans to go even bigger with the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. Here's what we think we know about the new range.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Product Review

The Xperia XZ3 is the slick Sony smartphone you’ve been waiting for

Can Sony compete with the best by adopting OLED tech in the Xperia XZ3? Find out how its latest flagship measures up to the competition, and precisely what it’s capable of in our Sony Xperia XZ3 review.

Check out our handy step-by-step tips for the awesome new Sony Xperia XZ3

This slick, stylish new Sony smartphone has hidden depths, and we’re here to help you unlock them with our Xperia XZ3 tips roundup. We’ve got advice on how to get the best picture, sound, and more in this easy step-by-step guide.

Verizon's newest deals can net you $500 off the LG V40 ThinQ

Looking for a new LG flagship? The LG V40 ThinQ is here, and it's bringing a familiar style, two more camera lenses, and upgraded specs. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the LG V40 ThinQ.
Product Review

Hotter than a Dot? Google's Home Mini outsmarts, doesn't outperform Amazon rival

With voice match and improved artificial intelligence capabilities, the $49 Google Home Mini is a voice assistant that seamlessly puts the Google platform on the tip of your tongue.

The news is stressful, but easier on the eyes with new Google News dark theme

Being blinded at 6 a.m. when you wake up and check the news will soon be a thing of the past, as Google is rolling out an update that adds a much-needed dark theme to Google News.

Pocket transforms articles into podcasts with an assist from Amazon

Read-it-later app Pocket is adding an option to turn articles into easily navigable podcasts with its new app redesign for iOS and Android. The feature relies on Amazon's voice-to-text service Polly.

Here’s our guide on how to get ‘Fortnite’ on your Android device

'Fortnite: Battle Royale' is one of the biggest games in the world right now, and it's finally on Android, even if getting set up is a bit long-winded. Here's how to play 'Fortnite: Battle Royale' on an Android device.

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.

Save up to $1,000 with the best smartphone deals for October 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $1,000.

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

If you weren't already aware, USB-C is quickly becoming mainstream. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone.

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…