ZTE Merit – Another Android Phone for Straight Talk and Net10

by pbushx2 on

Straight Talk and Net10 have introduced yet another new Android phone, and this one adds another little wrinkle to the mix. The ZTE Merit 990g phone is the first Straight Talk- and Net10-branded phone to use the AT&T network. The “bring your own phone” plans from both carriers already offered customers the option of using AT&T’s network, but this is the first AT&T-based phone that is officially branded as Straight Talk or Net10.

I’m not too familiar with the ZTE brand name, as I have never owned one of their phones before and in fact have only even heard of it a few times prior to learning about the Merit. The company seems to specialize in lower-end phones, especially those to be branded by prepaid providers.

ZTE Merit for Net10 and Straight TalkThe price tag on this one is $129.99, from both Straight Talk and Net10. As always with Android devices on these carriers, you’ll need to use the “unlimited” monthly plan for the ZTE Merit with either Straight Talk ($45 per month for unlimited) or Net10 ($50 monthly, or $45 if you enroll in auto-renew in your online account management at Net10.com).

The specs aren’t overwhelmingly positive on this one – the 600mhz processor in particular jumps out at me as an unappealing stat. Aside from that, here’s a brief rundown on what to expect from this phone:

  • 3.5” touch screen
  • 5 MP camera w/video
  • GPS
  • 3G & Wi-Fi
  • Gravity Sensor/Tilt and Shake
  • 2 GB microSD card included, upgradable to 32GB

I will be trying this one as well, as I think it will be a very interesting comparison to the Samsung Galaxy Proclaim that I’ve been working with for the last week or so. In particular, I’m interested in running some benchmarking tests on each phone, which will provide an interesting comparison of the speed of each phone.

Another thing I plan to test is whether I can activate the ZTE phone, then switch the SIM to a different phone I had previously used with the “Bring-your-own-phone” plan. I’m assuming this should work, but I think it is less likely that the reverse will be true – that you’d be able to use the Merit on a different plan without some kind of modification first.

In the next day or two I’ll be setting up yet another site to host my review of the ZTE Merit. Once I get that up, along with an introductory video and a bunch of pictures, I’ll post about it here along with a link to the review site. Until then, you can check out more details about this phone at either Net10 or Straight Talk using the links below:

Check out the ZTE Merit from Straight TalkCheck out the ZTE Merit for Net10

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas May 31, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Did you see the LG Optimus Black special at $329
5/25-6/17, while supplies last.
http://www.shopstraighttalk.com/bpdirect/straighttalk/PhoneDetails.do?action=view&productVariantExtensionId=14785430

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Gary June 19, 2012 at 12:47 am

The phones available seem to depend on where you are and which carrier they want to give you.

I did this on just Net10 on 6-18-2012:

If I put in a zip code for AT&T only (76825), I get a code of “GSM4″ (AT&T);
and the only Android phone available is the:
ZTE Merit (990g) at $130.

If I put in a zip code for my area (90755) which should have about every carrier (Long Beach, CA), I get a code of “GSM5SPR” (T-Mobile and Sprint); and the Android phones available are:
HUAWEI Ascend II $100 (for T-Mobile)
and the LG Optimus trio of Net $100, Q $180, and Black $330 (for Sprint).

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Gary June 19, 2012 at 1:43 am

Made a mistake above for the HUAWEI Ascend II.
It is apparently a CDMA phone. So it should be:

HUAWEI Ascend II at $100 (U.S. Cellular, CDMA (probably from Sprint))

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Gary June 19, 2012 at 3:21 am

Quick feature list of the ZTE and HUAWEI phones:

ZTE Merit Z990G at $130 (AT&T, GSM)
# ANDROID 2.3
# 3.5″ Touch Screen (TFT capacitive)
# 5 MP Camera / Video Recorder
# 3G/Wi-Fi Connectivity
# Bluetooth Wireless Technology
# Instant Messaging
# GPS Capabilities
# 2GB microSD

A quick look for ZTE Merit reviews showed it’s OK for the price, with relatively good specs for an entry level Android phone.

http://www.zteusa.com/device (AT&T Avail Z990)
http://wwwen.zte.com.cn/endata/mobile/USA/USA_Instruction/201205/P020120510627564186558.pdf

HUAWEI Ascend II M865C at $100 (U.S. Cellular, CDMA (probably from Sprint))
# ANDROID 2.3
# 3.5″ Touch Screen (TFT capacitive)
# 5 MP Camera /Video Recorder
# 3G/Wi-Fi Connectivity
# Bluetooth Wireless Technology
# Multitasking/Instant Messaging
# GPS Capabilities
# 4GB microSD

A quick look for Ascend II reviews showed it’s OK for the price, but a step below the HTC Hero S and the Motorola Electrify (other U.S. Cellular models, for those familiar with their phones).
It has relatively good specs for an entry level Android phone.

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Gary June 19, 2012 at 4:05 am

HUAWEI website:
http://www.huaweideviceusa.com/products

Someone posted this on prepaidphonenews.com in answer to SIM swapping with the ZTE Merit:
May 21, 2012 6:36 AM

“By SIM swap I mean:
a) You can use the Merit’s SIM in an AT&T or unlocked phone
and
b) You can use another Straight Talk (NOK E71) SIM in the Merit”

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pbushx2 July 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Hi Gary, sorry I missed most of these posts when you were actually writing them. If you are still around and interested in the Merit, please respond. I now have an activated Net10 ZTE Merit in my possession.

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Gary June 20, 2012 at 8:42 am

Update:
The phones available seem to depend on where you are and which carrier they want to give you.
I tried this on all 3; Net10, Straight Talk, and TracFone.

Results on Net10 on 6-18-2012:

If I put in a zip code for AT&T only (76825), I get a code of “GSM4″ (AT&T);
and the only Android phone available is the:
ZTE Merit Z990G at $130 (AT&T, GSM).

If I put in a zip code for my area (90806) which should have about every carrier (Long Beach, CA), I get a code of “GSM5SPR” (T-Mobile or Sprint); and the Android phones available are:
HUAWEI Ascend II M865C at $100 (Sprint, CDMA)
and the LG Optimus trio of Net $100, Q $180, and Black $330 (Sprint, CDMA).

Results on Straight Talk on 6-19-2012:

If I put in a zip code for AT&T only (76825), I get a code of “GSM4″ (AT&T);
and the only Android phone available is the:
ZTE Merit Z990G at $130 (AT&T, GSM).

If I put in a zip code for my area (90806) which should have about every carrier (Long Beach, CA), I get a code of “GSM4SPRCO” (AT&T, Sprint, or CDMA-Verizon); and the Android phones available are:
ZTE Merit Z990G at $130 (AT&T, GSM)
Samsung Galaxy Proclaim at $180 (Verizon, CDMA)
and the LG Optimus duo of Q $180 and Black $330 (Sprint, CDMA).
(and Android 2.2 Samsung Galaxy Precedent at $130 (Sprint, CDMA))

Results on TracFone on 6-19-2012:

If I put in a zip code for AT&T only (76825), I get a code of “GSM4″ (AT&T);
and there are no Android phones available.

If I put in a zip code for my area (90806) which should have about every carrier (Long Beach, CA), I get a code of “COGSM5″ (CDMA-Verizon or T-Mobile); and there are no Android phones available.

Is this what others are seeing? Is this typical?

Websites:
http://www.zteusa.com/device (AT&T Avail Z990)
http://www.huaweideviceusa.com/products

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kim June 25, 2012 at 11:05 am

i have been told that the “bring your own phone” does not apply to the smart phones…so don’t think it will work with the Merit…or any othe Android…this is straight from straight talk

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pbushx2 July 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Hi Kim, I’m not sure I understand this comment. If you are buying the Merit, why would you need to bring your own phone? Also, I actually do have the Merit, and just for a test I took the SIM out of the Merit and put it in an unlocked iphone 3gs, and it worked perfectly, FWIW. But I’ve heard that if you do this, and sell off the Merit but keep the SIM, the SIM might actually be deactivated if someone tries to reactivate the Merit as a ST phone.

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Jim Lloyd June 30, 2012 at 7:16 am

Speaking of new phones, look what HSN just added – a WiFi QWERTY for Tracfone that is basically free:

“Samsung Wi-Fi 2MP Camera Smartphone with 1500 Minutes”

Here is the link at HSN:

http://www.hsn.com/electronics/samsung-s390-smartphone-with-2mp-camera-and-1500-minutes_pf-200279_xp.aspx?sourcemailid=EMDED20120630&cm_mmc=Email-_-Special_Offers-_-EMDED20120630-_-62

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pbushx2 July 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm

That was a fantastic package deal; I’m really sorry I missed it. I will, however, be looking at the s390g soon, hopefully.

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Don July 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Can you use this as a little, stand-alone, WiFi pad with NO-Activation, or still use it for a WiFi pad after a phone activation is ENDED ?

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pbushx2 July 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Hi Don,
I briefly used it on WiFi when it was brand new, but I can’t yet speak to how well it might work once I deactivate it (if at all). What I would recommend for that, though, is to shop craigslist or ebay for a used smartphone. For about the same amount of money, you can probably find something like an iPhone 3gs or Motorola Atrix, and either will probably be a better-functioning device than the Merit. So far, it seems a little underpowered to me. Another option is to find a used iPod touch. I’ve had one for 3 years and absolutely love it, I use it probably at least once every waking hour if I’m not out enjoying the outdoors (and sometimes, even then). If you go the iPod touch route, though, just make sure the earphone jack still works. IPods have something of a reputation for being a little bit flimsy in that particular area.

All that being said, Family Dollar has the Net10 version of the Merit on sale all month long for $79, so at that price it might be worth a try for you. Or, if you’re not in a hurry, keep in touch and I can sell you mine Merit (at a fair price, less than the $79 at Family Dollar) when I’m done reviewing it in a month or two.

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Jim Lloyd July 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm

“Can you use this as a little, stand-alone, WiFi pad with NO-Activation, or still use it for a WiFi pad after a phone activation is ENDED ?”

Yes Don, you can. I browsed on WiFi before I activated the phone. I did see a couple of posts on HowardForums where someone said they could browse on WiFi but not download anything or install any apps over WiFi, but I did not try that. As far as browsing, the screen is a bit small for that and I had to start wearing reading glasses to use the phone. Couldn’t read some of the menus, either, without glasses. Screen fonts are not adjustable at all, except for message fonts. Also, the phone with not accept anything from an LG (notes, tasks, calendar) and contacts will only transfer 1 at the time.

Was trying to figure out whether to keep the phone or not when I found out Tracfone is charging MUCH more to send MMS messages and browse the web over G3. They are charging by the kilobyte instead of by the minute. For example, loading Yahoo’s homepage took way less than 1 minute, but costs 26 units of airtime vs 0.5 units on older phones. A typical MMS message may cost 8 units instead of 1.5. These charges, plus the other issues I had in coming from an LG Tracfone, convinced me to return the phone to HSN for a refund (minus 6.95 for shipping).

However, if the screen had been large enough for me to use the phone for browsing, I would have probably kept it and deactivated it, transferring the minutes to my LG500g. Then doing what you are thinking and just using it to browse in WiFi areas. As it was, I had to send the phone back with the minutes on it to get a refund.

Someone with good reading vision who isn’t used to a phone with a large screen, like a touchscreen, might have no issues with the screen size on the S390G. In that case, it might be worth getting one just for WiFi browsing, or even for their main phone if they don’t send MMS messages or browse in non-WiFi areas.

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pbushx2 July 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Jim, are you sure you are talking about the ZTE Merit? What you are saying has me thinking maybe you are referring to one of the new Samsungs to come out in the last few weeks.

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Jim Lloyd July 21, 2012 at 8:46 am

“Jim, are you sure you are talking about the ZTE Merit? What you are saying has me thinking maybe you are referring to one of the new Samsungs to come out in the last few weeks.”

Sorry, I was talking about the Samsung S390G. Should have mentioned that in my posts. And didn’t realize I had posted on a thread about the ZTE Merit – had too many tabs open that I was bouncing around thru.
And congratulations on the newest addition to your family (and I’m not referring to the ZTE Merit here, either!).

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Jim Lloyd July 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

“That was a fantastic package deal; I’m really sorry I missed it. I will, however, be looking at the s390g soon, hopefully.”

Hi Pbush,

Yes, that HSN on the Samsung S390g did sell out. But they have a similar deal now for the S390g with 1200 minutes for $99.95 with free shipping in case you’re interested:

http://electronics.hsn.com/product_p-6882627_xp.aspx

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pbushx2 July 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Thanks Jim, for all the tips on new phone deals including that HSN package. I’ll pass the info along. And I laughed at the “new addition” comment. Well played!

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Bill July 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Sorry if a little off topic–I see the LG Optimus now available on Straighttalk but couldn’t find any reference to it on your site.

I’m wondering, with GPS capability but~ some of the mentions I’ve seen about “unlimited” not really being that way~could a person use this phone for a long road trip w/GPS? Could you tether and run a laptop off it? When people say heavy data use gets you “cut off” what are the specifics?

I would love to see a review and learn some of the ins/outs of this phone. I have not owned a smartphone but it’s pretty clear that’s where me and everyone else will be sooner or later. I’ve had a Samsung r355c from Straighttalk for a couple years and been happy with it.

Also very appreciate of your blogging, thanks!

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pbushx2 July 31, 2012 at 12:04 am

Bill – I haven’t looked at the Optimus Black simply because of its price. The Optimus Q is very similar to the Optimus Net (net10 only), which I tried briefly and found to be acceptable if not stellar. The Q offers a slide-out keyboard while the Net does not. I think the $79.99 refurbished Q might be a good value. The Optimus Zip is a newer offering and I have not yet had time to review it – not sure if I will. All of these are on the Sprint network. The unofficial limit on data seems to be around 100mb/day and 2gb/month. However, it does seem to be a little less strict for Sprint-based phones compared to AT&T or Verizon devices.

Kristi – I haven’t yet used the Merit extensively, but so far I’ve noticed that it gets a little hot, but not any more so than my Samsung Galaxy Proclaim. Definitely hotter than an Apple product, but similar to other low- end android devices I’ve used. If I remember right, the Samsung Galaxy Precedent also got as hot as the Merit. I’ve not had the phone long enough to notice any battery issues.

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Kristi July 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm

i really want to love this phone but the problem I am have is the merit zte stays hot to the touch and I cant get it to full charge net 10 says it the battery and there sending me a new battery is any one else having this problem///? Its the merit zte android touch/

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Chuck August 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

First, hats off for another great prepaid review (I always check this site when I’m in the market for a new prepaid phone).

Second, consumers should recognize that the ZTE Merit is by no means an iPhone/iPad “killer”. With that in mind, for the price it is a good entry-level Android phone. I managed to pick mine up for $79 at a Dollar General while other brick-and-mortar stores continues to sell it for $129.99.

Like previously mentioned by other commenters, yes, it does hot and it does have a few quirks, specifically I’ve encountered problems with it not wanting to charge via the AC adapter yet it charges perfectly fine using the car charger or connecting it to my computer via USB. But then again, sometimes it charges perfectly fine using the AC charger. For the most part it performs to my expectations, the only true gripe I have is that the Merit does not handle Netflix too well (choppy, sluggish playback, audio out of sync, etc.) but it handles YouTube and streaming audio (though TuneIn app) just fine. One minor annoyance I had is that my fingers are too big for such a small screen, for people with huge hands such as myself a stylus is highly recommended :)

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pbushx2 August 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Hey Chuck, I agree with you completely on the Merit. Well said! Do you have a recommendation for a stylus that would work with this phone? Could you just grab one that’s advertised as working with the ipad or iphone?

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nataluie November 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm

can u put the zte merit sim from straight talk into the zte merit from net ten and transfer your time and #.

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pbushx2 November 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

You can switch the SIMs, and your account info (phone number, balance information, due date, etc) is tied to the SIM card. I have an old iPhone 3gs I bought used for a great price, and sometimes I take the SIM from my Net10 ZTE Merit out of that phone and swap it into the iPhone. Works fine.

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Jennifer November 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I just bought a Net10 ZTE Merit and I thought I could just put my other phones sim card in it but it says it’s invalid. Is there anyway to unlock it so I can use it for ATT?

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pbushx2 November 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Hmm, I’m not sure about that. I would try the net10 forum on howardforums.com.

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Dave November 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Will the sim card from my Net 10 LG 800 work in the ZTE Merit for Straight Talk? I can’t find anything on the web forums covering this.Isn’t one sim card good for another on the same carrier?

Thanks!

Dave

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pbushx2 November 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Hi Dave
In the case of net10 phones such as the LG 800g, the SIM card is “locked” to the phone, so unfortunately you won’t be able to switch it out. There are several reasons why Net10 wants it this way, namely they want you to have to use a $50 unlimited plan in order to use a smart phone.

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kaite December 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm

trying to put an ATT sim card in a straight talk ZTE android phone and not working, is this even possible?

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KELLY February 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

how do you troubleshoot this phone.

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pbushx2 February 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm

what kind of trouble are you having?

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