ZTE announced the US availability for the Grand S and nubia 5 smartphones last week and it looks like there was also a bit more to that story. We have heard ZTE talk about making a bigger push in the US market and it looks like they are going rather big — a partnership with an NBA basketball team. ZTE announced the partnership with the Houston Rockets and in a little pre-game sit down with Android Community, Waiman Lam and Lixin Cheng of ZTE talked a bit about why they choose the Rockets and what else we can look forward to in the future.
We have heard comments from within ZTE about how they prefer to focus on the customers as opposed to the competition and it looks like this partnership is an expansion of that path. Waiman Lam mentioned how they [ZTE and the Houston Rockets] each share common goals such as looking out for the customers, community and fans. In fact, part of this partnership will be focused on giving back to charity.
As far as why they choose the Rockets, aside from citing the common goals between the two organizations, Lam touched on how Houston is already a big market for them in the US. While we suspect many have seen and/or used a ZTE handset, it may not have been totally obvious as quite a few of the ZTE handsets in the US are carrier branded. We were told that ZTE is #5 globally, #4 in the US market and for Android in particular, #3.
With that in mind, this partnership and in part, the release of these two unlocked handsets, ZTE hopes to increase in the US. Or at least offer another option for customers looking for a higher-end device. We were told how they do plan follow-up devices and those will also be available unlocked. There was also some talk about how the retail push will increase and include stores such as Walmart, Radio Shack and others. The nubia 5 and Grand S were immediately available for pre-order with Amazon and will be shipping in mid-October.
But while ZTE recognizes the recent uptake in customers looking towards higher-end devices that are available without the long term commitment, they are not ditching the carriers and subsidies for the US market. In fact, ZTE told us how they plan to release another 10 handsets this year and those will all be heading to various carriers. And on top of that, there was a mention of how ZTE plans to “invest to support carriers.” While ZTE has said the are not watching the competition, that does sound vaguely familiar to something we have seen from Samsung — in how they market their own phones, as opposed to leaving it up to the carriers.
The launch of these two unlocked handsets isn’t necessarily supporting the carriers, but with an “official smartphone of the Houston Rockets” branding, they should be getting some more eyes on the brand.
Anyway, these two handsets are launching in the US as a new approach for ZTE, however they are no stranger to the US. We were told they have had 74 phones available in the US, of which a little more than 40 are available at this time. The catch with that, of those phones, the total of smartphones is just shy of 10.
Time will tell how successful this strategy will be for ZTE, but we for one, look forward to seeing how it plays out. Not to mention, it seems that any increased competition in the US market could be good all around. During our sit down with ZTE they spoke a bit about the nubia 5 and Grand S noting how these both are looking towards a different audience. While they both share similar specs across the board, the Grand S has a big focus on design and hardware. The nubia 5 on the other hand has a big focus on the features — of which those are highlighting the camera and audio experiences. And to that point, directly from the lockscreen of the nubia 5, ZTE offers options to unlock to the homescreen, camera and audio.
Look for a bit more with the ZTE nubia 5 here shortly, we have a hands-on with the Houston Rockets edition coming shortly.