ZTE to show high-end handset at CES

The company, known for its budget handsets, will in future place more emphasis on high-end devices

Chinese handset maker ZTE, known for its budget smartphones, will unveil a new high-end device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month, marking a change of direction for the company.

"It will kind of be a starting point of a new design era for ZTE," said Hagen Fendler, ZTE's new global chief design director in an interview on Tuesday.

Fendler declined to offer more details on the new phone that will be shown at CES. But he suggested that it was separate from the "Nubia" brand, which ZTE teased back in late October with the mention of a 5-inch smartphone slated to arrive in the Chinese market in December.

"The Nubia brand is a second brand, which we use to address the high end in parallel to this activity," he said.

Fendler came to ZTE in September after previously leading handset design for rival Huawei Technologies, which is also based in China. Leaving Huawei was not an easy decision, he said, but in the end he chose ZTE because "the overall package, the huge opportunities, and also the plans of the company were very convincing"

As part of those plans, Fendler will be helping to establish a new European design center in Germany next year. ZTE already has 400 design engineers worldwide.

Fendler's arrival coincides with ZTE's move toward selling higher-end handsets with higher profit margins than its existing low-end phones.

"Over time, we'll get a more and more consistent portfolio in our design approach," he said. "And more and more, there will be a clear identity of what does it mean to have a product designed by ZTE."

In the third quarter, ZTE overtook HTC to become the fourth-largest smartphone vendor in the world, and is poised to soon take the third spot from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

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Michael Kan

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