Unless you hold an email account with them, or you’re really hanging onto the last of your Yahoo Groups from fifteen years ago, it’s probably been quite a while since you head the name “Yahoo” on the internet. As difficult as this might be to believe for some of our younger readers, Yahoo used to be one of the most-visited websites on the internet and one of the world’s biggest web-tech companies. Before Google swallowed most of the market, Yahoo was briefly the world’s most popular search engine. All of that has, obviously, changed. Yahoo has been away for a while, but now it’s back – and probably not in the manner you expected it to be.
To the surprise of many industry outsiders, Yahoo announced this week that it’s entering the budget end of the mobile phone handset market with a handset that costs just fifty dollars to own. You won’t miss it if you see it in stores – the handset is a striking (some would say ‘garish’) shade of purple. Before you get too excited – if you were about to get excited at all – don’t make the mistake of believing that this is a type of phone handset that you’ve never seen before. These days, Yahoo isn’t a standalone company. They’re owned by Verizon, and this is a Verizon handset that’s been given a fresh coat of paint to support the new Yahoo mobile phone plan. In reality, it’s a ZTE handset with a shiny new cover.
Last March, Verizon announced that it was reviving the Yahoo brand name by launching a “Yahoo mobile” plan, also aimed at the lower-tier end of the market. The addition of a Yahoo-branded handset means that the service now has an exclusive handset for the first time. After paying fifty dollars for the handset, customers will then pay forty dollars per month for the duration of their contract. During the contract’s term, they receive unlimited texts, call time, and data through Verizon, with one thousand gigabytes of cloud storage through Yahoo Mail Pro thrown into the deal. If you’re looking for a bargain and you don’t mind having a phone that can’t do much beyond basic messaging, calling, and email processing, this might be an option for you. If you’re accustomed to your phones doing a little more, there might be a few good reasons to steer clear.
Beneath the purple casing, the phone is a ZTE Blade A3 Prime – one of the older models available through Verizon’s website. The handsets have been optimized to run Yahoo apps like Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Calendar, and Yahoo Sports, but beyond that, they might struggle with further downloads. They’re also a little on the small side. The screen is 5.45 inches – small by modern standards – and at 720p, it’s incapable of displaying content in HD. The rear camera is 8 megapixels – also poor by modern standards – and the camera at the front offers only 5 megapixels. You’ll be able to see what you’re taking pictures of in your photos, but there will be pixelation when you zoom in.
The cloud storage that comes with the package will come in handy because there’s only 32GB available on the phone, and only 2GB RAM. If you’re big on mobile gaming, that’s going to cause problems. Some of the more advanced mobile games won’t run at all. You might be able to load up an online slots website and play the Playtech slots on there, but that’s about as advanced as gaming will get on this device. Online slots are designed to place as little demand on hardware and software as possible. The latest version of “PUBG” is not. So long as you don’t mind limiting yourself to a few browser-based games and low-demand gaming apps alongside those online slots, you’ll be fine. If you’re looking for high performance, you’ll want to look elsewhere. It’s possible to significantly boost the performance of the device by inserting a microSD card, but if you’re willing to pay extra for such a card, then you may be best advised to save that money and buy a higher-spec phone instead.
5G services aren’t currently available through the Yahoo mobile plan, but Verizon intends to make them available at some point during the next twelve months. When they do, this phone won’t be able to access them. That won’t necessarily be an issue right now, as we’re probably two or three years away from seeing 5G in full effect, but it does mean that this phone has a short shelf life. When the 5G era kicks into full swing, and you want to take advantage of the new service, you’ll have to upgrade your phone. That’s probably to be expected with a handset that only costs fifty dollars, but it’s worth mentioning to ensure that potential customers are aware.
The launch of the phone looks and feels like a gimmick to raise awareness of the Yahoo mobile plan and to attract more users to the service. It’s possible to join Yahoo mobile without changing your handset, and we suspect that’s what most people will decide to do if given the option. While a few bargain hunters or nostalgic fans of the Yahoo brand name might be attracted to this phone, Verizon probably isn’t expecting it to shift in significant numbers. What is shifting in significant numbers, though, is their profits. The company announced last week that it had beaten estimates for subscribers, adding more than 280,000 new customers during the third quarter of the year. How much of that is down to the comparatively-new Yahoo service is unknown, but it will presumably have had an impact. If it hadn’t, Verizon surely wouldn’t be looking to step things up with the addition of this new handset.
The first-ever Yahoo mobile phone is something of a curiosity. It’s a strange color, and it doesn’t stack up against the smartphones at the top end of the market. That’s not what it’s designed to do, though. It’s nostalgic, and it’s fun, and it’s perfectly serviceable as a starter phone or a way of staying connected for people on a budget. It won’t revolutionize the market – but it might help Verizon continue to grow and expand as we head into 2021.