ZTE, the company which has been very disappointed when it has had to talk to women in the past, invited a bunch of hacks to the Ice Bar in London a couple of days ago. We didn’t go – we haven’t payed the gas and there’s plenty of vodka in the office. But we’ve heard ZTE wanted to show off some phones and talk up some revelations.
Except they weren’t. Any industry watchers keeping a close eye on ZTE will tell you it is the next threat. Already the top dog in its native China market for smartphones, early last year we revealed an aggressive push to swamp Europe and beyond with its kit. We had also heard whisperings at the time its own-branded phones will be in the pipeline.
And here they are. ZTE has annouced that its Skate will be out by the end of the year. The San Francisco is already out and received positive reviews from most.
While ZTE has previously focused on entry level smartphones to deliver an Android experience at half the pricepoint, we know it wants to get into the high-end and really challenge its neighbours across the Strait in Taiwan, HTC. Meanwhile thanks to relaxed trade agreements, HTC plans to step on ZTE’s toes, too.
It probably can. Although HTC has now managed to build up a brand reputation for itself, when it appeared on the scene with its well received products, to much of the West it came from nowhere.
We at TechEye like nothing better than a bit of horn-tooting, so we’ll be pleased to tell you we’ve been soothsaying the lot of this since we tipped up. Google for ZTE + domination + TechEye.
Executives at ZTE are deadly serious about taking on the world and its dog, which is why it has such outwardly aggressive sales targets to live up to. The thing is, it’s reaching them.
Aside from flogging smartphones, ZTE is also a provider of infrastructure, and is happy to deploy LTE services etc to get one over on Chinese rival Huawei. The two were recently in a seemingly petty trademark spat that, again, seemed to come from nowhere. It was probably based in the knowledge that there is room for one Chinese brand, at least at the start, in the West.
What ZTE will say is that these are unfounded and ridiculous rumours about links to corporate and government China will worry paranoid Americans when there’s a ZTE phone in one in every 20 households.
Despite this, HTC strongly told us at Mobile World Congress this year that it has nothing to fear from the giant. Other industry watchers have told us it’s a foolhardy opinion that could land it in deep doo-doo.
Consider the latest figures in from analyst house IHS iSuppli. According to the company, smartphones for sale in China are going to receive a tremendous boost, with domestic shipments already set for 54.1 million units in 2011, up from 35.3 million in 2010. Of those, 10 million are going to be made by ZTE. 15 million will be made by Huawei.
Surefire success at home will keep its bottom line happy enough to support Wu Sa and his friends as the Chinese Conquistadors of the mobile market, entering promising segments where it thinks it can do well. It will be a slowly-slowly approach, as it has been in the UK and Europe in general.
It began wooing carriers with enticing contracts on its ready-made kit as a branding opportunity, before gently trickling in its own models and becoming a recognised brandname.
ZTE’s smartphones in the UK are no surprise, and to underestimate the company would be, frankly, daft.