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Chinese handset maker ZTE sees UK sales surge

The Huawei rival has seen significant increases in its share of the competitive handset market and in mobile broadband dongles over the past year
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

Chinese tech giant ZTE is making inroads into the UK market, with sales of dongles and handsets at least doubling in the past year.

According to ZTE's figures, the company now has 60 percent of the British mobile broadband dongle market, up from just 30 percent in 2009. It also has eight percent of the handset market, up from three percent in 2009. In terms of handsets and dongles combined, ZTE sold four million units this year, in contrast to only 1.5 million last year.

The Shenzen-based company, a direct competitor to Huawei, typically sells mobile phones in the UK under operator branding. However, in July it launched its first own-branded handset for the UK market: the ZTE Racer, a £99 Android smartphone.

The company is also the manufacturer behind Orange's £99 San Francisco Android phone. Both the Racer and the San Francisco run a reasonably current version of Android, version 2.1, despite their price.

Wu Sa, ZTE's mobile device chief in the UK, was quoted in a Mobile article on Wednesday as saying that six months ago, his company hoped to reach a 50 percent dongle market share and a six percent handset market share in the country.

"Now, in December, we can say our devices in the UK have outperformed our plan in both areas," Wu was quoted as saying.

Huawei, the company's main rival in mobile broadband dongles, also makes low-cost, operator-branded Android phones for the UK, such as T-Mobile's Pulse. Like ZTE, Huawei has recently moved into selling own-branded handsets, starting with the Ideos smartphone that came out in October.

Both companies are benefiting from the rise of Google's smartphone operating system. Android is rapidly gaining in popularity, and a significant factor in its success is the fact that, unlike Apple's iPhone, it addresses many sectors of the smartphone market. This ranges from the low to mid-end, occupied by ZTE and Huawei, to the top end occupied by the likes of HTC and Samsung.

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