ZTE eyes wearable computing market, backs Windows Phone

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ZTE is intensely interested in moving into the emerging device category of wearable computing, according to a senior ZTE executive.

ZTE Nubia 5

ZTE's nubia 5 will sell for $450 unlocked.

In an interview with FierceWireless, ZTE USA CEO Lixin Cheng said ZTE, the No. 5 handset maker in the world in the second quarter according to IDC and Strategy Analytics, will "definitely" participate in and support "the new segment of broadband mobile devices." This will take many forms, he said, including providing modules for other consumer brands and accessory makers, as well as making ZTE's own wearable devices. Long term, Cheng said, ZTE is "also working and investing a lot of resources" in "the different form factors for the next generation of mobile devices."

Samsung Electronics is pushing into the market with its Galaxy Gear smart watch, and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Glass will commercially launch in early 2014. Multiple reports have also indicated Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working on its own smart watch device. Research firm IHS predicts that through the end of 2014 smart watches will sell in the "low millions" of units, worldwide.

Cheng spent most of his time during the interview talking up the U.S. launch of two of ZTE's flagship Android smartphones, the Grand S and nubia 5, which will both be available for pre-order Oct. 5. ZTE has long built its device business in the U.S. market by working closely with carriers, and often has sold phones carrying only the operator's brand and not its own ZTE brand. Cheng said this strategy will continue but that ZTE wants to open up additional retail sales channels.

"We are building a strategy for products to support every carrier. We will continue this strategy," Cheng said. "Meanwhile, we would like to expand out additional channels such as Amazon and Walmart for the unlocked market."

The two smartphones, which sport 5-inch displays and 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon S4 Pro processors, will be available through Amazon and then soon after through Walmart. Cheng emphasized that ZTE has improved its industrial design, which he said the two phones demonstrate. He also highlighted the nubia 5's camera. The Grand S will be available for $400 unlocked and the nubia 5 will be available for $450 unlocked.

In the interview, Cheng also expressed support for Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone platform in the wake of Microsoft's decision to pay around $7.2 billion for Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) handset business. While stressing that ZTE is agnostic in terms of smartphone platforms, and that the majority of its smartphones today run Android, Cheng did note that ZTE has supported Windows Phone and "we will continue to do that."

Cheng also said next year ZTE expects to bring a phone running Mozilla's Firefox OS to the U.S. market, though he declined to say when and how much it might cost. He also said ZTE has no plans at this point to support Tizen.

For more:
- see this Grand S release
- see this nubia 5 release

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