ZTE aims for third place in US smartphone shipments by 2017

The Chinese equipment maker that has already teamed up with three NBA teams said it will further lift expenditure on promotional activities in the US to gain the public's full awareness.

After coming fourth in smartphone shipments and securing a 7 percent share in the US market in 2014, just five years after establishing a presence in the world's most competitive market in 2010, Chinese equipment and smartphone vendor ZTE Corporation is aiming even higher.

"We are confident to achieve a 10 percent market share in the US in the next three years and become the third-largest smartphone vendor in the market by then," Mao Qian, vice president of ZTE North America, said during Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Currently, Samsung and Apple compete side by side, seizing roughly half of the US market share, with the third-largest brand, LG, selling around 12 out of every 100 smartphones in the country last year. ZTE is likely to overcome LG if it continues the steady progress it made in 2014, Mao told ZDNet in an interview.

The company announced in late January that smartphone shipments to the US surged by over 50 percent in 2014, outpacing its overall growth of 20 percent globally.

ZTE's share in the US prepaid handset market further strengthened to 20 percent, the second-highest after Samsung. Its post-paid smartphone sales are also seeing more promise, after the brand began opening retail counters in mainstream retailers and supermarkets in the country.

Mao also said that ZTE expects a better outcome in other markets, as the world's largest economy is regarded as a precursor for success elsewhere.

"A smartphone brand needs to succeed in the US first if it wants to become successful worldwide," Mao said, citing the cases of Apple and Samsung.

The Chinese market is huge in terms of sales volume, while the US market, where people spend an average of $350 on a handset, will translate into the highest values in the world, according to Mao.

One challenge that ZTE faces in the US is not the product itself, but rather public awareness to the brand. The company has been struggling to dispel its image as a lower-end handset maker to carriers. Its newly released smartphone models, including the Blade S6 and Star 2, which feature Smart Sense and Smart Voice, respectively, are both top-of-the-line products that feature an advanced technology experience.