CES 2014: ZTE bolsters smartphone line, enters new device segments


ZTE is looking to make a bigger name for itself in the U.S. market, announcing a handful of new smartphones at this year’s CES event, with some of those devices already set to launch with domestic operators. The devices hit established and emerging segments, including smartphones, a smart watch, a “phablet” and a mobile hotspot with a built-in projector.

The smartphone, dubbed the Grand S II, will be the company’s flagship featuring all the latest technology, including voice control that can unlock the device and support “voice-to-phone photography.” ZTE’s newest smartphones will also include the five-inch-screened Nubia 5S and 4.7-inch-screened Nubia 5S mini, both powered by quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processors and “professional-grade photography hardware and software.”

ZTE also announced it would be launching its Sonata 4G device with AT&T Mobility’s Aio Wireless no-contract brand. That device will include a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a four-inch screen and five-megapixel camera. The partnership could be short-lived however as AT&T has said it plans to discontinue the Aio Wireless brand following its pending purchase of Leap Wireless.

Outside of the smartphone arena, ZTE also unveiled its mega-screened Iconic Phablet, featuring a 5.7-inch screen, dual-core processor and wireless charging. ZTE noted that the device would also support the displaying of two applications simultaneously on the screen.

Perhaps most interesting is the Projector Hotspot, which combines mobile hotspot functionality with a built-in projector that could be appealing to the enterprise segment. In addition, ZTE launched its BlueWatch, featuring a built-in pedometer that can record and analyze health data for the user. The BlueWatch uses Bluetooth to connect with a smartphone to support control of calls, content, photography and social-media platforms.

Finally, ZTE said it was working with AT&T to develop the AT&T Wireless Home Base device, designed to allow users to connect their home telephone to the carrier’s mobile network. The landline-replacement service runs $20 per month and includes unlimited local and long-distance calling.

ZTE has made recent moves to increase its device presence in the U.S. market, looking to expand beyond its entry-level roots. Last year the company unveiled the initial Grand S device looking to go toe-to-toe with more established device makers, while late last year ZTE announced plans to offer the Grand S and Nubia 5 models direct to consumers through Amazon.com, Walmart.com and other third-party retailers. Operationally, ZTE kicked-off the new year with a reorganization and leadership changes designed to become “faster, more entrepreneurial, more youthful and more focused.”

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Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”