ZTE smartphone push targets China…and the United States

ZTE Tania (Windows Phone Mango)

China’s ZTE isn’t exactly a household name in the United States, but it’s important to remember the company is the fourth-largest handset maker in the world, largely on the basis of inexpensive feature phones rolled out in China and other Asian markets, many of which feature dual-sim capabilities so users can easily switch between mobile operators. However, ZTE knows the feature phone market is fading in the face of smartphones—and plans to aggressively pursue the smartphone markets not just in China, but the United States as well.

“The United States and China will be key engines driving our smartphone sales,” said ZTE’s chief of handset strategy Lv Qianhao, in an interview with Reuters.

According to Reuters, in 2012 ZTE plans to ship double the number of smartphones it shipped in 2011. Overall, the company believes its handset shipments will grow by 30 to 40 percent a year—and it hit that ballpark for 2011, shipping 80 million devices, a third more units than it shipped in 2010. However, the company saw it’s profit margins shrink by just over three percent in the first half of 2011, thanks to competitive pressure from other low-cost feature phone makers like Huawei, Samsung, and the still-top-handset-maker, Nokia.

So ZTE’s competitive plan is to be aggressive in the smartphone market—and, like all handset makers, it has its eyes set on the high-end, high-margin segment of the market currently dominated by the Apple iPhone.

ZTE’s approach seems likely to be a combination of Android and Windows Phone. However, ZTE may have its work cut out for it. The company launched a Windows Phone handset in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2011 (and, like the rest of the Windows Phone ecosystem, almost no one noticed), and the company’s latest Windows Phone offering (the Tania) seems targeted at Asian and European markets—and generated at-best-lukewarm response last week at CES. Until now, ZTE’s U.S. offerings have been largely limited to free and low-cost phones (including Android devices) designed to fill out carriers entry-level, non-branded offerings.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported last month (subscription required) that ZTE is planning to launch 4G LTE-enabled handsets in the United States by mid-2012 at prices lower than the iPhone—and those devices could be running either Android or Windows Phone.

ZTE will find there’s no lack of competition in the high-end smartphone marketing the U.S.—Samsung and HTC seem to have a solid hold on the Android market, Motorola can’t be discounted, Nokia is starting to get serious about bringing Windows Phone devices to the world, and (of course) the Apple iPhone still seems unstoppable. But, in the Android and Windows Phone worlds, there seems to be a consistent race to the bottom, with device makers eager to offer low-cost handsets in an effort to make money by unit volume—and, of course, carriers love those devices because they sell service contracts. ZTE has always been very comfortable at the low end of the phone market—it may prove more agile there than other phone makers. While its strategy to “rise to the top” of the smartphone segment might run counter to conventional wisdom, it could give the company a way to shine—particularly if the cost-saving techniques its learned in emerging markets let it undercut other high-end device makers.

Cars

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.
Mobile

Android 9.0 updates to stretch into 2019 -- will your phone get a slice of Pie?

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: HyperloopTT’s Dirk Ahlborn discusses the future of travel

We chatted with HyperloopTT's Dirk Ahlborn about the newest way to travel. The Hyperloop travels at nearly the speed of sound and has already been commercially approved in China and the UAE.
Deals

Simplify your life with one of these wireless smartphone charger deals

Banish nightly cable fumbling with a wireless smartphone charger. If your smartphone is compatible with wireless charging, the simplicity of placing it on a pad is a beautiful thing. Wireless chargers are also excellent gifts for coworkers.
Mobile

Microsoft Outlook for iOS gets big redesign, with Dark Mode coming soon

Microsoft has deployed a huge redesign for its Outlook for iOS app, which includes new blue branding and some quality-of-life improvements. Dark Mode isn't included, but it's coming soon.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.
Mobile

Beddit Sleep Monitor 3.5 now available on the Apple Store

The Beddit Sleep Monitor 3.5 is now available on the Apple Store for $150. The sensor strip, which is only 2 millimeters thin, automatically tracks a wide array of sleep data when placed under the user's sheets.
Deals

Save up to $750 with the best smartphone deals for December 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $750.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Google to end support for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyone with an old phone that is still running Android 4.0 may want to look into upgrading their phone, as Google has announced that it will be ending support for this older version of Android.
Mobile

Amazon knocks $30 off its Paperwhite ebook reader in limited-time deal

Amazon is running a couple of limited-time deals for its Paperwhite ebook reader. One offers a $30 discount, while the other throws in a pair of headphones and a free, extended Audible trial.