Chinese manufacturer ZTE has announced that it is planning to release two large, touchscreen devices before the end of the year which it hopes will rival Samsung’s Galaxy Note.
Lv Qianhao, ZTE’s Head of Handset Strategy, told Reuters: “We want to come up with the next generation of a Galaxy Note-type product – a combination of handsets and tablets.”
The Shenzhen-based firm clearly has high ambitions too – it has reportedly set itself a target of selling 40 million handsets worldwide this year, up from 11 million in 2011.
Like its Shenzen neighbour Huawei, ZTE has made the move into consumer electronics after the market for the telecommunications infrastructure equipment it produced stagnated. ZTE has fared better than Huawei in terms of sales globally however and is ranked as the world’s number four handset producer.
With figures like that, you would be forgiven for thinking you’ve missed something and might well be wondering if ZTE somehow slipped under your radar. And you’d be right, to an extent.
Phones branded with the ZTE logo are not that familiar to UK customers due to the firm’s strategy here in Britain. Realising that brand recognition is hugely important in the consumer focused market and that the ZTE name doesn’t carry anywhere near the weight of the likes of Samsung, the Chinese firm has followed the strategy of tying its devices in with other brands which are more familiar with UK customers.
Remember the Orange San Francisco, released back in 2010? That was a ZTE handset, the Blade, an Android touchscreen device that was launched with Orange branding to make it more palatable to consumers who may have otherwise been put off by the unfamiliar name. The Blade was also tied-in internationally with other big brand names such as Red Bull (which saw the launch of a version sporting the energy drink’s branding) and has seen worldwide sales of over 8 million.
The same strategy was adopted when ZTE launched its Skate handset, which was released at the same time as the Orange Monte Carlo but featured adaptations to the user interface to suit the network’s branding and identity. Although the device was criticised for its poor build quality and low-power, 800MHz processor its large, 4.2-inch touchscreen was commended.
ZTE’s history clearly shows that it is capable of producing feature–rich handsets features but the company has, until now, been happy to accept that it is relatively unknown as a brand. There have clearly been changes in approach within the company and the Shenzhen firm has its eye on competing with the biggest players in the smartphone market, setting its stall out opposite Samsung.
Exactly what hat the upcoming, Galaxy Note-rivalling devices will offer is unknown at the moment, and all we know about them at present is that they’ll be in the shops before the year is out. With ZTE specifically naming the Note as the device that it wants to compete with wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect any new product to feature a touchscreen that was in the 5 to 7-inch range, sitting in the space between a phone and a tablet as the Note does.
This new form factor hasn’t been without its detractors however, with some commentators claiming that rather than combining the best of both world, these designs are actually good for neither and that making calls with them is especially impractical.
Whether or not ZTE’s efforts will go some way to changing opinion remains to be seen, although the introduction of more phone/tablet hybrids will hopefully, in ZTE’s case at least, engender familiarity and acceptance amongst consumers.