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Chinese tech firms plan for more Android devices
Published on: 2010-09-03
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BEIJING—ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co., China's two biggest telecommunications hardware makers, said they will offer new mobile devices that use Google Inc.'s Android operating system, with ZTE saying it plans to release a tablet computer akin to Apple Inc.'s iPad.

ZTE's Android-powered tablet will be available later this year in Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region, He Shiyou, head of ZTE's mobile terminals business, said in an interview Thursday. The device, internally called the V9, will have a seven-inch screen, and ZTE later will look to offer similar products in North America, he said.

The V9 will have a touchscreen and a keyboard, according to another ZTE official. Mr. He declined to say which carriers will offer the device or how much it will cost, but said ZTE aims to keep its price to less than a 50% premium over a typical smartphone to make it affordable for more consumers.

Meanwhile, Huawei announced four new Android-powered mobile phones that appear aimed at beating the prices of rival Android smartphones. One of the phones, called the Ideos, has a recommended retail price of $100 to $200 for pay-as-you-go phone-service customers, and Huawei will launch it in Hong Kong with network operator SmarTone-Vodafone on Sept. 8, said Glory Cheung, a Huawei spokeswoman.

Huawei and ZTE are best known for selling telecom infrastructure equipment—an area where the companies have taken major market share from more established Western rivals with a combination of quality and low prices. But Thursday's announcements show how the Chinese companies are also expanding their offerings to consumers.

The news comes as gadget makers look to follow up on the success of Apple's iPad. Dell Inc. last month started selling its five-inch Streak tablet with Android software in the U.S., and Samsung Electronics Co. on Thursday unveiled a tablet called the Galaxy Tab. ZTE's relatively low costs could help its tablet device win more buyers among frugal consumers worried about the economy.

Mr. He said he hopes the U.S. will become ZTE's biggest mobile phone market in about five years, though the country currently accounts for a "relatively low" proportion of unit sales. But he said the U.S. market is highly competitive, with established players such as South Korea's LG Electonics Inc. and Samsung, and that reaching that goal could take longer.

ZTE on Thursday said it shipped 11 million phones in China in the first half of 2010. World-wide, it shipped 28 million, up 40% from a year earlier. Mr. He said ZTE is "extremely confident" that its mobile-phone revenue will grow by over 30% this year.

ZTE is looking to expand its cooperation with top-tier mobile operators in the U.S. The company last month launched a mobile phone called the Salute with U.S. operator Verizon Wireless. "This year should lay the foundation for our initial entry" to a stronger U.S. presence, Mr. He said.

He also said appreciation of the yuan will put "some pressure" on ZTE and that the company's costs are "obviously" rising since most of its expenses are denominated in the currency. The yuan has gained about 0.3% against the dollar since China in June said it would make the exchange rate more flexible.

ZTE plans to build phone factories and open company branches in various regions world-wide as one measure to tap other markets and ward off pressure from yuan appreciation, Mr. He said. The company is evaluating various regions for factories, he said, without giving details.

Huawei said it will launch its Ideos smartphone later in countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Huawei is in talks with U.S. cellular operators about offering the device, which will run Android 2.2, a new version of the operating system.

Huawei also announced three other Android phones, including what it called an entry-level smartphone and another phone with Android 2.2.

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