Target has launched an in-store sale on the ZTE 665 Valet Android smartphone this week, selling the phone for $49.99, which is a $50 discount from its normal $99.99 price tag and is unavailable for purchase online, but the store-exclusive sale may be a precursor to a complete removal of the phone from all Target stores, as the phone is confirmed to be affected by the longstanding Heartbleed security certificate flaw that has been keeping the mainstream media in a state of near breathless concern.
As the phone runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, it falls under Google’s recent security bulletin that details which versions of Android are affected by the security flaw, with Google also sending out instructions to OEM partners for patching the flaw on devices running that specific version of Android that are still affected.
To make matters worse, when asked by owners of the phone about a possible fix for the problem, reports state that neither Tracfone nor ZTE appear willing to work together to fix the problem, with Tracfone pointing customers to ZTE and ZTE pointing customers back to Tracfone for a solution according to multiple customer reports found on Amazon and other online forums with suggestions on how to check the device for the flaw.
This compounds the problem with owning the device, as without the critical patch, it’s nearly impossible to own and use the device as intended without the fear of sensitive personal information being perpetually at risk. Since Tracfone does not feature its own infrastructure for providing software updates for its devices and is reliant on its access to carrier networks, it has no real way to push out security updates and patches directly to affected customers.
To its credit, ZTE features a support section with a software update component on its website for each of its devices. However, any updates for devices that are provided by the manufacturer rely on being downloaded onto PCs, transferred over the wire onto microSD cards and being flashed on the device itself through the built-in device recovery mode, which many Valet owners will have trouble with without some help.
The sale runs until this Saturday, but my suggestion is to show Target store managers this article before then and make them aware of the problem with the device before any Valet devices are sold in significant volume. If Tracfone and ZTE are refusing to address the problem and avoiding work on developing a solution by passing the blame between each other when addressing customer concerns, the possibility of a mass recall and inventory return may get their attention.