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ZTE wants your ideas to help shape future phones

Despite being the fourth largest smartphone supplier in the United States, ZTE is still not a particularly well-known brand name, something it wants to change with the newly announced Z-Community. The idea is to engage with fans and future fans online and in real-life, so they can help produce hardware and software they actually want to use and buy.

In return, not only will we (in theory) get more ZTE phones with features we want, but ZTE promises members of the Z-Community will get invitations to exclusive events, a rewards scheme, and even new products. Apparently, ZTE took a group of fans out to Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve, sent them up in a hot air balloon, and brought them back down again to attend a show. It could be worthwhile getting involved, if that’s the kind of event ZTE’s organizing.

Related: Read our review of the ZTE Axon Elite

That’s all lots of fun, but ZTE’s trailblazing something new and exciting using the Z-Community. It wants to make a new mobile product that’s based around crowd-sourced ideas from within the community. ZTE says the consumer has always been at the heart of the company — the company was originally started to solve a specific mobile problem in a small Chinese village — and it believes real innovation comes from the user, not a corporation trying to pass off old ideas as new innovation.

It’s very exciting, and no other mobile manufacturer of ZTE’s size has approached making an entirely new product this way before. It could go really well, or spectacularly badly, but ZTE wants to have something tangible, even if it’s only a concept, to show at next year’s CES show.

Online fan communities aren’t a new idea, but most recently it’s OnePlus that has shown the benefits of building a healthy online fanbase. It has used ideas generated by its forums in past updates to its software, and asked people to design accessories. Judging by the turnout at the OnePlus 2 early showings, where fans got the chance to try out the new phone before it went on sale, the effort is worthwhile.

ZTE’s been hard at work promoting its brand recently, having re-signed some high profile marketing deals in the States, becoming the official smartphone for the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Golden State Warriors. Effective at getting its name out, the Z-Community will give those interested in knowing more about its products not only a place to go, but a voice, too.

If you want to know more about the Z-Community, visit ZTE’s Facebook page or take a look at the #zcommunity hashtag or ZTE’s official account on Twitter for more details.