The $99 ZTE Obsidian sports 4G LTE and Android 5.1, will hit T-Mobile airwaves on August 13

ZTE Obsidian
Not everyone wants a bleeding-edge smartphone. Whether it’s the price tag, ostentatiousness, or complexity that accompanies the very highest-end handsets, some folks are perfectly satisfied with more utilitarian devices. Problem is, phones on the low end typically compromise in one major area or another — BLU’s Studio C omits 4G LTE, for example, and Alcatel’s OneTouch Mini ships with Android 4.2 (a version behind the newest, 5.1). But every once in a while, a respectable smartphone at a palatable price rolls around, and the ZTE Obsidian sounds like it fits that description.

The Obsidian, bound for T-Mobile airwaves later this month, will retail for an affordable $99. Its internals are mostly par for the price point’s course — a 4.5-inch FWVGA display, a 1.0 GHz Mediatek quad-core processor, and a 5MP rear and 2MP front-facing camera, and 1GB of RAM — but the Obsidian sports Android 5.1 and 4G LTE connectivity. That last point’s notable — even the Motorola 4G Moto E (normally $99), widely considered one of the best budget phones around, carries a $30 premium.

That’s not to say the Obsidian’s the ideal budget phone, or even a great one. The battery capacity’s a disappointingly low 1,800mAh (ZTE pegs talk time at a mere six hours). Storage is extraordinarily constrained at 4GB (expandable via MicroSD slot). And the processor and display don’t necessarily measure up to the identically priced competition — for the sake of comparison, the Studio C packs a 1.3 GHz processor and 720p display

Plus, the Obsidian’s not necessarily the cheapest smartphone on the block right now. If you’re willing to put up with rebates and mail-in vouchers, you can do better. But if T-Mobile’s the only carrier you’ll entertain, you’re unwilling to stray from Android, and your spending limit is a hard $99, you could almost certainly do worse.

The ZTE Obsidian will launch in T-Mobile stores and online on August 13. It’s $99 full price, or $0 down and 24 payments of $4.17 if opt for an installment plan.

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