ZTE Announces Android Push, Will Ship Phones in Q1

Chinese network equipment vendor ZTE has joined the growing number of phone manufacturers using Android. It plans to launch smartphones based on the operating system in the first quarter of this year, it said Thursday.

The company is providing few details of the upcoming products: so far it has released only a computer rendering showing a device with a large display, a 3.2-megapixel camera and what looks like a a standard 3.5 millimeter stereo headphone jack.

However, ZTE's Android push will help drive down the cost of smartphones based on the Google-backed operating system, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.

Blaber expects phones based on Android to sell for less than €100 (US$145), excluding taxes and operator subsidies.

"Android, in particular, is going to be the platform that drives smartphones into the mass market. We have talked about it before, but this will really be the year when we see that happening," said Blaber.

The price drop will also make the differentiation of premium smartphones all the more important, to justify their higher price, according to Blaber.

ZTE already manufacturers Windows Mobile smartphones for operators including Portugal's TMN, which sells the phones under its own brand. ZTE's jumping on the Android bandwagon doesn't come as a surprise, according to Francisco Jeronimo, research manager for European Mobile Devices at IDC.

"Particularly the operators are requesting vendors to launch Android-based devices," said Jeronimo.

The open source nature of Android has opened the door for the Asian vendors -- Huawei has already launched an Android-based smartphone -- to move into the smartphone sector, according to Blaber.

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