ZTE attacks US prepaid phone market with 6-inch phablet

The Grand Max X Plus arrives on Cricket Wireless on Friday

ZTE executive Jeff Yee holds up the ZTE Grand Max X Plus.

ZTE executive Jeff Yee holds up the ZTE Grand Max X Plus.

ZTE sees big promise in the U.S. prepaid handset market, and is releasing a 6-inch smartphone with high-end specs, all for US$200 when bought without a contract.

The company's latest handset has a mouthful of a name, but the Grand Max X Plus will arrive on Cricket Wireless on Friday as a prepaid phone, ZTE announced on Monday.

The phone has a 6-inch high-definition display, 4G LTE connectivity, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and a 3200 mAh battery that will last an entire day, according to the company.

Although not all U.S. consumers might be familiar with ZTE, the Chinese company's smartphone business has been growing steadily in the country.

In 2014, ZTE's handset shipments to the U.S. market rose by 40 percent year over year, said Lixin Cheng, a company senior vice president, on Monday. "We now have 20 million active users using ZTE devices in the United States," he added.

ZTE attributes its success to offering premium smartphones at affordable prices. And increasingly more U.S. consumers want to buy prepaid phones, instead of entering into long contracts with mobile carriers, company executives said.

As part of its recent growth, ZTE has become the second largest provider of prepaid phones in the U.S., with a 19.4 market share, according to Cheng.

Many prepaid phones offered in the U.S., however, tend to have older tech specs than contract phones offered by local carriers, said Jeff Yee, vice president for ZTE USA.

"Today premium smartphones have wonderful capabilities, but again, it's for post-paid users," he said. "A prepaid users will look in awe at his friend, and the things he or she can do on that phone."

ZTE wants to change that trend with its Grand Max X Plus, which the company believes will meet the needs of U.S. customers shopping for prepaid handsets. "They (customers) told us, we want a phone like everyone else," Yee added.

The company declined to give access to the phone on Monday, but the device will be on display at the International CES show, which starts on Tuesday.

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