The ZTE Blade Spark lying on a table face down with its camera closest to the front

ZTE Blade Spark Review

In the last 5 or 6 years, the long-term duopoly of Samsung and Apple has been challenged increasingly by smartphone makers from the far east. HTC, Huawei, Xiaomi, and more have emerged to show that the best smartphones needn’t cost the prices the big 2 were trying to get away with. One of the leaders of this technical revolution was ZTE, in this review we will explain everything about the Blade Spark.

What ZTE did, rather than immediately try and challenge for the top end of the market, was to aim at the real bread and butter of the industry. Collectively, far more mid-range devices are sold every year than are high-end devices. It was this far more accessible market that ZTE set their sites on. They used very high-quality components to create smartphones with all the specs of a flagship smartphone but at a fraction of the price.

As a result, the ZTE brand gained traction quickly, leading to an excellent range of smartphones that were as affordable as they were impressive.

Click here to find the best price for the ZTE Blade Spark z971!

Introducing the ZTE Blade Spark

ZTE Blade Spark Back View

On paper, the ZTE Blade Spark doesn’t look like any kind of budget smartphone. It has a level of hardware, at least on paper, which looks able to outrun any of its rivals at this price point. A big screen, a bigger battery, and high pixel cameras front and back.

The Blade Spark also brings features that, up to this time had been limited to the big-ticket smartphones. As we know from experience, though, packing a smartphone with hardware is no guarantee of quality. To see how the ZTE z971 measures up, we handed it off to our team of testers to see what they think.

Scores For The ZTE Blade Spark

ZTE Blade Spark close up of camera outdoors

Our reviews team gave the ZTE Blade Spark a total score of 4.3/5. This is taken from the categories below:

  • Design (4/5)
  • Build (4.3/5)
  • Display (4.1/5)
  • Cameras (4.6/5)
  • Hardware (4.6/5)
  • Software (4/5)

As it turns out, the list of high spec components didn’t disappoint. What ZTE claimed the Blade Spark is capable of, it pretty much was. The list of hardware in the device just seems to go o and on, and it all works well together. Having a lot of hardware can put pressure on both the CPU and battery, but we saw almost no evidence of that.

Full Specs

ZTE Blade Spark Front View
Size6.14 x 3.06 x 0.38 in
Weight6.12 oz
Display Size5.5”
Display Resolution720 x 1280 px
Front Camera5MP
Rear Camera13MP
Internal Storage16GB
MicroSD Card SlotYes – up to 128GB
Battery Life17 hours talk time / 10 days standby

Design and Build

ZTE Blade Spark on wood table outdoors

Let’s be brutally honest here. It’s kinda difficult to get enthusiastic about modern smartphone design. The ZTE z971 looks perfectly okay, it’s just that it looks like almost any other smartphone. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation. It’s probably not fair to just judge the ZTE by its (a bit plain) front cover. The criss-cross effect on the back case looks and feels pretty nice. It also helps to make the large case of the Blade Spark a lot easier to handle, even with average-sized hands.

The Blade Spark is also a little thicker than most of its rivals. Side by side, this can make the Blade Spark look a little chunky, but it isn’t bad news for users. That extra thickness, and we’re talking only about 7 0r 8/100th of an inch, adds to the feeling of security in the hand. The Blade Spark is over 6″ tall, so that extra bit of something to hang on to is not in any way a bad thing.


ZTE Blade Spark Tilted Front and Back View

The Blade Spark has a 5.5″ screen. If you’re coming from something like an iPhone, it will look huge to you. With a 720 x 1280 px resolution, a 5.5″ display is probably the maximum size that can be effective, before quality starts to suffer. Big displays and low resolutions can result in a soft image, lacking any kind of sharpness. The Blade Spark does manage to stay on the right side of the clarity line, with pictures looking good and bright, and movies look just great on the almost cinematic screen.

As an example of the great hardware ZTE has packed in, the display has both a proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor. The proximity sensor is what causes the display to go off if you’re on a call because it knows it’s against your ear. Or it can show the notification screen if you pass your hand over the sensor area. The ambient light sensor is even more useful. If you use a smartphone in a very dark room, without the sensor, it feels like the phone can be seen from the moon it’s so bright. The ambient sensor reduces or increases the brightness of the display according to the environment. Both sensors can be a big help in preserving battery life, as the display is the biggest drain on power by far.


ZTE Z971 in hand viewing photo outdoors

The cameras of the Blade Spark have a lot in the tank. While some think the ZTE has a 13mp front camera, it is only the rear that is 13MP. The front camera is 5MP. The rear ZTE 13mp camera is really and truly excellent. It takes outstanding still pictures and great quality Full HD video. You can with the 13mp camera, you can record a time-lapse video, make video calls and even share videos directly from the app. Also, you can pause recording, to end up with a single file instead of several short clips.

You have several options for images such as HDR, panorama, timelapse, and even multi-exposure to capture multiple scenes in a single image. Full manual control over exposure, focus, and more is also an option.

The cameras of the Blade Spark, backed up by great use of the camera app, are a great experience. We’d say it’s one of the most responsive and useful camera setups we’ve seen. This is regardless of the low price of the ZTE. The cameras here are just that good.

The front camera is also an excellent performer, with quality selfies being produced every time. Although there is no LED flash, there is the “white screen” method available. This produces a bright white display to provide light for selfies.


ZTE Blade Spark Tilted Front View

The processor in the Blade Spark is a very useful quad-core, 1.4Ghz CPU with a dedicated graphics processor. This means the Blade Spark is zippy enough to cope with everything you ask it to do in everyday use.  Internal storage is a healthy 16GB, and you can add a further 128GB if you need to.

The battery is simply huge. Because of the extra space in the large case, ZTE has added a 3140 mAh battery. It should be plenty to keep you running all day and more.

On the back case is a fingerprint sensor. This can be used to unlock the phone quickly and easily. It might also be used with compatible apps, such as banking, for extra account security. We wouldn’t have expected a fingerprint sensor on a smartphone at this price. Props to ZTE for adding it.

The USB connector is USB-C. It might mean you need to ditch all your old USB cables, but see that as a positive. USB-C connectors are not only much stronger than the previous version but also reversible. So, no more having that little guy who lives inside your phone flipping the port around when he sees the cable approach.


ZTE Blade Spark displaying apps outdoors

The ZTE z971 ships with Android 7 Nougat. This is one of the best Android versions in recent years. It is stable and fast and adds a whole host of extra security measures. ZTE also doesn’t load apps onto the Blade Spark that you just don’t need. That fact alone would normally be enough to impress us and put the score up a notch or two.

Great hardware, perfectly capable software. It’s a winning combination.

ZTE Blade Spark issues

ZTE Z971 on wood table outdoors bottom up view

The ZTE Blade Spark is a great phone but sometimes there are a few issues that slip through the cracks. One of the more common issues is the phone restarting during normal use. This can be caused by poorly made third-party apps, apps that need updating, and too many apps running in the background. 

Another issue that comes up often is the screen of the Blade Spark goes black. There are a few solutions to help fix this problem. To begin, perform a soft reset of the device by holding the power and volume buttons for 30-60 seconds. Another way is to remove the back cover and take out the battery.

We understand the phone problems can be frustrating, there usually are solutions. We always recommend contacting the phone manufacturer or your service provider to help with your device issues. 

Who makes the ZTE Blade?

ZTE Z971 in hand playing video game

This might seem silly but, ZTE, of course! ZTE Corporation was founded in 1985 in Shenzhen, China. Initially, they began working in a few different areas like wireless switching and power supply systems. In the year 2000, ZTE was the first company to release a CDMA handset with a detachable sim card. The Blade series began in 2010 and since then they have released many more in the series.

ZTE Blade Spark memory card and MicroSD

Micro SD card for Blade Spark

The Blade Spark Z971 comes with 16GB of internal storage or memory. But, for some people that is not enough space for day-to-day life. Apps, photos, and files take up tons of space so the addition of a memory card or sd card makes it easier. The ZTE Blade Spark uses a MicroSD card up to 128GB, which should be more than enough for normal use!


ZTE Blade Spark all sides view

We said, right at the top of this review, that ZTE gives value for money. The Blade Spark shows that we were right. The sensors built into the display, a fingerprint sensor, and great 13MP camera and a 5MP camera are fine examples of how to put a smartphone together. Just as importantly, it’s an example of how to do it for an amazingly low price.

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