Chinese handset maker and infrastructure equipment vendor ZTE isn’t known very well, but last year they were the world’s 4th largest mobile phone manufacturer in terms of volume thanks to the 51.8 million devices they sold. This year ZTE says they’ll sell over 80 million devices, an increase of over 40%, and that smartphones will be to thank for the sharp gain. Talking about smartphones, one of ZTE’s most popular models is the Blade, better known as the Orange San Francisco in the UK. For less than 200 Euros it gives you a 3.5 inch 800 x 480 pixel screen, 5 megapixel camera, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G, FM radio, and it runs Android 2.2, plus it’s also supported by CyanogenMod should you want to hack it up. They’ve sold over 2 million of those puppies since it first hit the market in September of last year. That may not stack up to some of the more popular selling devices from Samsung or HTC, but it’s still very significant.
At the current rate of progress in the mobile industry we think that at some point in mid 2012 the sub 200 Euro smartphone will reach the same specification levels as the superphones of late 2010. When you think about that, it’s downright shocking. Super high resolution screen, Snapdragon class processor, 3G, GPS, and everything else you need, for less than what most people pay for their device when they sign up for a 2 year contract. Over in America Motorola is going to release the Triumph for Virgin Mobile, a prepaid operator, for $300 (unsubsidized) before tax, yet for all intents and purposes it’s the Droid X from Verizon, which sold for $200 (subsidized) with a 2 year contract in July 2010. These kind of massive price drops have us excited at the future, especially in the sub 100 Euro category that will put smartphones in reach for hundreds of millions of people.