UK To Get ZTE Own-Brand Handsets

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China’s ZTE will begin selling Android handsets under its own brand later this year, under a deal with Brightpoint

ZTE is set to sell smartphones and tablets under its own brand for the first time in the UK, under a deal with distributor Brightpoint announced on Thursday.

ZTE devices will be provided to outlets including Tesco, Amazon, Play.com and Expansys under the deal. The ZTE handsets handled by Brightpoint will carry the ZTE brand, and will be unlocked and SIM-free, ZTE said.

Own-brand

The Chinese company has sold devices in Britain before, but only under the brands of network operators such as 3 and Orange. Orange’s San Francisco device is a rebranding of the ZTE Blade, and the Orange will launch ZTE’s Skate as the Orange Monte Carlo later this year.

The deal means ZTE’s Skate will launch under its own brand in the UK. The Skate, introduced at Mobile World Congress 2011, is powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and features a 4.3-inch capacitive touch screen, 512MB of RAM, a microSD slot and a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash.

ZTE said it expects to ship more than 80 million handsets this year, up from 60 million in 2010.

ZTE said the deal builds on the success of the Blade and Skate devices.

“ZTE made a commitment at the start of 2011 to alter its strategy from being a feature phone-centric supplier to producing much higher-end smartphones and delivering an enhanced user experience to the mass market,” said Wu Sa, director of mobile device operations at ZTE UK, in a statement.

The company cited figures from IDC saying that 725 million smartphones are expected to be purchased in Europe from 2011 through 2015.

NFC

With the Skate, ZTE is backing Android 2.3, which is so far only available on Samsung’s Nexus S smartphone in the United States and will be powering Samsung’s Galaxy S II smartphones later this year. LG’s Optimus 3D smartphone will ship with Android 2.2 but will be upgradable to Android 2.3 this year.

Android 2.3 stands apart from previous OS builds because of the native near field communications (NFC) capabilities baked into the build. On phones that include NFC sensors and run NFC applications, this will enable consumers to make contactless payments from their smartphones, among other transactions.

In June BT expanded its research presence in China through a deal with ZTE, aimed at developing international telecoms standards for next-generation communications systems, with both companies jointly owning any resulting intellectual property, BT said.

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