Chinese handset vendor ZTE has a reputation for making low cost devices. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, we commend them for enabling millions of people experience the internet for the first time thanks to their vast portfolio budget Android smartphones. Lixin Cheng, President of ZTE North America, hopes to change the company’s image however, and in an interview yesterday he revealed that the company has plans to launch high end devices in the United States next year, including devices that are LTE capable, though he didn’t mention whether they would work on AT&T’s or Verizon’s respective LTE networks. “By 2015, we expect the U.S. to be the largest market for handsets for ZTE,” he added, which is a pretty astounding goal since right now their market share in the U.S. is so small that they’re lumped in with several other companies in the tiny sliver of a pie chart that’s usually labeled the “other” category. When talking ZTE’s global market share though, they made 5% of all phones sold during Q3 of this year, putting them in fourth place.
So how will ZTE’s high end devices look? Well, that’s hard to say. If ZTE wants to sell expensive phones just to increase their margins, then we can’t imagine that they’ll be willing to be too bold in terms of design language and choice of materials and components. If on the other hand ZTE wants to really make their brand a household name, then they shouldn’t do what Chinese companies typically do, i.e. copy what popular brands already do, instead they should try to introduce the world to original Chinese design.
It wasn’t that too long ago that HTC was where ZTE is today, making phones for operators that were incredibly mediocre. Whether ZTE has the talent to transform themselves is something we’ve obviously yet to see, but to be honest we have greater hopes that Huawei will make the leap from budget smartphone maker to elite manufacturer of mobile gadgets.