You know how every time you buy a new smartphone, it comes bundled with 30 apps that you just know, from the moment you turn the handset on, you’re never going to use? Well, that’s called bloat-ware, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that ZTE thinks phones could do with less of. For my own part, I couldn’t agree more. As a fairly standard smartphone user, I’m not interested in phones that push boundaries; I just want a phone that surfs the net, makes my calls and lets me use apps. Call me boring, or traditional, but is that too much to ask? I don’t need my phone to function as a spirit level or an odometer or a personal assistant that struggles to understand my accent.
“Our research shows that a lot of people buy products and only use 20 to 30 percent of their features”, says James Russell, ZTE’s European business development director. “The breadth of customisation on most tier one smartphones just confuses customers. We’re keeping our user interfaces as simple as possible and focusing on things people care about, like decent cameras, fast speeds and long battery life. There’s a big space in the middle ground. We’re pushing our value proposition, selling devices going from €60 to €70 through to the €300 price range.”
ZTE seem to be hoping that this stance will help push them into the big league, with the director commenting that ZTE still hopes to become a ‘top three’ global smartphone manufacturer by the end of 2012; this will likely mean swooping in and taking HTC’s crown, because Apple and Samsung look almost impossible to topple. Unless their internecine squabbling over patent stealing leads to the mutually assured destruction of Apple and Samsung, third-best is the most that ZTE can hope for – although even that would be quite an achievement. ZTE say that they will be increasing the number of carriers they work with in Europe in order to accomplish this.
“A lot of our marketing and communication comes through Virgin Media and we’re also working with Phones4U for the 16-30-year-old market,” notes James Russell. “In the next year we’ll extend past this working with one or two other networks.” The company also intends to expand into the production of Windows Phones, though it is doubtful as to whether this is going to help them gain market share, given how poorly Microsoft are currently doing in the OS wars.
ZTE have released some good hands in the past year or two, including the ZTE Skate and the Mimosa X, but their plans to become a ‘top three’ manufacturer are truly ambitious. They haven’t even broken the west yet, or gained the popularity of companies like Motorola and LG over here, so it seems like a stretch to envisage them competing with Samsung before the year is out. In any case, we might as well applaud their ambition; I, for one, will welcome a phone that isn’t tied down with features and apps that I don’t care about, and if it shaves a few quid off the handset’s price tag – even better.