ZTE has launched three of its latest Android smartphones in Singapore and at the same time announced the appointment of a reseller, which will distribute the new handsets exclusively in the country.
Running on the latest KitKat 4.4, the ZTE Blade VEC 4G, Blade L2, and KIS 3 will be available for the first time in Singapore this weekend, the Chinese smartphone maker said in a statement Wednesday. The devices will be sold exclusively through its Polaris, a Singapore company that owns subsidiaries dealing in the distribution and sale of mobile phones, consumer electronics, and other related services. The company operates 22 outlets in Singapore under the various brands including local telcos SingTel and M1, as well as Apple, Lenovo, and Sony.
The Blade VEC 4G is priced locally at S$299 without contract, while the Blade L2 costs S$169 without contract, and the KIS 3 at S$99 without contract. The Blade VEC 4G and KIS 3 will also be available at all SingTel outlets.
This is ZTE's first reseller partnership in Singapore, though its handsets have been available here via other resellers and mobile phone shops across the island. It has a local office and customer service center.
Zhang Lei, ZTE's vice president of mobile devices for Asia-Pacific and Commonwealth Independent States, said in the statement: "Making the latest mobile technology accessible to all is a top priority for ZTE, and we are doing this with the three exclusive launches in Singapore. The phones run on the latest KitKat 4.4, and are the first China-manufactured smartphones to use the newest Android operating software in Singapore."
Zhang added that the deal with Polaris will enable the Chinese smartphone maker to bring its devices to Singapore as well as other Asian markets, such as Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
He also told ZDNet in an e-mail that Polaris will remain the vendor's exclusive distributor here, with more resellers to be appointed by the distributor to expand ZTE's distribution in the country. He said the company's strategy is focused on premium and flagship products, as well as on developing 4G technology and supporting device. "In Singapore, this means more investment to the brand, offering more affordable premium devices, and cooperating with Polaris to expand our distribution reach in Southeast Asia," he said.
Polaris CEO Peter Ang noted that ZTE is China's largest public-listed telecoms equipment company and currently owns 13 percent of global essential patents on 4G LTE. Headquartered in Shenzhen, China, ZTE trades on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges.
The smartphone maker last month reported net profits of between 1 billion yuan (US$162. 48 million) and 1.15 billion yuan (US$186.86 million) for the first half of 2014, up 223 percent to 271 percent from the previous year. It attributed the profit climb to various factors including an increase in operating revenue from domestic 4G systems projects, as well improvement in gross profit margin from international projects.
The Blade VEC 4G is ZTE's flagship product featuring a 5-inch screen, full HD screen resolution, 8MP camera, and preinstalled apps such as Evernote and Dropbox. It also comes preloaded with Google Now Launcher and is the first non-Nexus systemic terminal voice control device, ZTE said.
Measuring less than 9mm thick, the Blade L2 also features a 5-inch screen and sports a 5MP camera. It is a dual-SIM device and preinstalled with social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. To date, ZTE has shipped more than 10 million units of the Blade L2.
The KIS 3 is the company's entry-level smartphone that has a 4-inch screen, 2MP camera, and dual-SIM functionality. It's targeted at elderly folks, offering larger font and widget sizes.
According to Zhang, it employs more than 100 staff in its Singapore office who handle various business functions including handsets, value-added telecom services, as well as telecom infrastructure equipment. However, ZTE currently has no plans to offer its cloud computing and enterprise services here, he said.
ZTE currently is the world's fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer in terms of unit shipments and has said to invest more than 10 percent of its annual revenue in research and development (R&D). It operates 18 R&D centers in China, France, and India, employing more than 30,000 research engineers.
The company and another major Chinese networking equipment maker, Huawei, in 2012 come under investigation by the U.S., European, as well as Indian government for allegedly spying on the respective countries. Both companies had denied the allegations.