Handset maker ZTE unveiled two new products yesterday at 2015 International CES meant to expand the company’s reach into the U.S. electronics market, alongside a product strategy that may start an entirely new space for mobile device manufacturers.
ZTE is a Chinese telcom equipment and mobile device manufacturer that entered the U.S. market a few years ago with a focus on producing feature-rich handsets on the lower end of the pricing spectrum. Its devices have been particularly attractive to pay-as-you-go cellular service companies like Cricket, among others.
The newest ZTE handset, dubbed the Grand X Max+, cites many features typically reserved for top-of-the-line devices. At first glance, most smartphone enthusiasts may find themselves wondering what the big deal is — after all, this is just another of thousands of Android devices on the market. The key difference is that it costs $199 with no contract, compared to hundreds more for iPhones or Samsung Galaxy devices.
The Grand X Max+ has a 6-inch high-resolution display, leapfrogging large-phone leaders like the Galaxy Note and iPhone 6 Plus by as much as half an inch. It also packs two cameras: both a 13-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel, front-facing wide-angle shooter, designed for traditional and selfie shooting respectively. The Grand X Max+ runs Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) on a 720p display at 245ppi. The Qualcomm chipset inside is a Cortex A7 Snapdragon. At 2GB of RAM it rivals the aforementioned iPhone 6 Plus. Storage begins at 16GB and can be doubled to 32GB with a user-supplied storage card. The 3200 mAh battery pack is certainly impressive, but full 4G LTE access via its exclusive deal with low-cost carrier Cricket’s mobile network may be even more attractive.
With the Cricket deal, ZTE is competing with pre-paid wireless players like Boost and Virgin Mobile. It should also challenge leaders Tracfone and Straight Talk, both of which offer unlocked premium phones, but do so at higher prices and by offering older, rather than newly launched, handsets.
The new flagship ZTE mobile phone doesn’t innovate with new cameras or chips. It innovates with price and availability that we’ve not seen enough of in the mobile device market.