Our other quibble is one of Android, because while this runs Android and is easily compatible with pretty much every major app, it’s clear that ZTE has made some compromises, one of which is the OS: good luck expecting an update for this phone.

While it runs Android 5.0 “Marshmallow” which is kind of up-to-date (or was for last year, anyway), the updates section of the phone basically suggests copying card updates to a microSD card and doing it there. No over-the-air connections or a server for you to talk to, which basically tells us the Tough Max will probably stay at version 5 of Android likely forever.

That’s not necessarily a good omen, but it is possible Telstra will release something… we just doubt it.


At least it runs a recent iteration of Android, or recent enough, though even with that some of the hardware definitely wasn’t made for that recent version.

Specifically, we’re talking about the buttons under the screen, the ones that in that triangle, circle, and square shape are supposed to imply back, home, and app switch respectively.

That’s the way Android does it now, and usually with on-screen digitally-recreated buttons, but manufacturers are allowed to stick them on with soft buttons if they so choose, and Telstra and ZTE have certainly done so in this phone.


Except it has also been done so with old hardware, because the square — which normally lets you jump between apps for multi-tasking — doesn’t work on the Tough Max this way unless you hold it down. No, a basic push brings up the settings menu, and that tells us this is actually an old phone with the menu button with a new label over that button instead.

Not quite the brand new phone you might have been expecting.

This type of trickery isn’t totally foreign in electronics, and we’ve certainly seen it a few times in phones, but it’s still annoying all the same.

If you don’t know what the square normally does in Android, it’s not a big issue, and if you do, it’s a retraining of how long you hold it down.

Still, though, it would have been easier for ZTE (makers of the phone) or Telstra (the people who ordered the phone from ZTE) to make sure the square did what it was supposed to, and not just sit there superficially in the first place.