4G smartphones are still in their relative infancy in Australia but Telstra is aiming to provide a low cost option for prepaid owners with the release of the Frontier 4G. It features a large 4in touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera and will retail for $299.
The key feature of the Telstra Frontier 4G is obviously the 4G connectivity. While this may not sound like a big deal considering the rise of 4G smartphones in the past few months, the Frontier 4G is the first 4G smartphone in Australia to be sold on prepaid. 4G capability is normally reserved for high-end smartphones, so the Frontier is a rather significant milestone in the market.
The Frontier 4G is a Telstra branded device that's manufactured by Chinese OEM ZTE. The company has produced various smartphones for Telstra in the past, including the Smart-Touch 2 and original Smart-Touch Android phones. ZTE also manufacturers Telstra's own branded, 4G-capable Android tablet, the Telstra 4G Tablet.
The specifications of the Frontier 4G are about what you would expect from a phone that retails for under $300. It has a 4in touchscreen, is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has a 5-megapixel camera. In our brief hands-on it felt reasonably well built though as you'd expect it's constructed largely from plastic.
One interesting feature is an external antenna port that allows users to boost the mobile signal if required. Combined with a Blue Tick rating that denotes recommended coverage in rural and regional areas of Australia, the Frontier 4G is likely to appeal to those who live in the bush. The Frontier 4G is also compatible with HD Voice, though you'll obviously need to to be talking with another compatible phone on the Telstra network to reap its benefits.
The Telstra Frontier runs the 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' version of Google's Android operating system. Telstra assured us the phone will be upgradeable to the latest 4.1 "Jelly Bean" version of Android in the coming months, saying the update is "in the works" and that it has "worked very closely with ZTE" to deliver the latest Android software.
Interestingly, the Frontier 4G's interface appears to have minimal Telstra customisation. It's preloaded with a number of Telstra apps and services, but the main UI features appear to look very similar to Google's stock Android layout. It's a feature we liked in Motorola's new RAZR HD and RAZR M smartphones, so it's good to see Telstra scaling back on custom skins, too.
The Telstra Frontier 4G will go on sale on Tuesday 27 November for $299 and can be paired with a range of Telstra prepaid plans.
A promotional video of the Telstra Frontier 4G can be viewed below.