ZTE teases 6-inch Android device and Firefox OS smartphone

The company struggled last year, but is hoping the new devices will help turn around its fortunes

ZTE plans to unveil a range of "high-performance smartphones" in Barcelona next week, including the Grand Memo II LTE with a 6-inch screen.

This year's Mobile World Congress will be very important for the Chinese company's device unit, which is facing challenges. Last year, ZTE sold 59.9 million phones, down from 67.3 million in 2012, even as local competitors such as Huawei Technologies and Lenovo increased their sales, according to market research company Gartner. Although ZTE shipped more phones than Huawei and Lenovo, these competitors sold more smartphones.

The company needs to turn around its ailing fortunes, and Mobile World Congress is the best place to start. Besides launching two new devices - the Grand Memo II LTE and the Firefox OS-based ZTE Open C, it will also introduce a new version of MiFavor, the user interface it adds on top of Android, ZTE said Tuesday.

For now, the company isn't announcing any details other than that the Grand Memo II will have a 6-inch screen and the ZTE Open C will run version 1.3 of Firefox OS, which will be launched in partnership with Mozilla and Telefónica.

Smartphones with large screens will again be one of the key trends in devices on display at Mobile World Congress. LG Electronics last week announced the G Pro II, which runs Android 4.4, has a 5.9-inch Full HD screen and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.26 GHz.

That ZTE still likes Firefox OS is good news for the fledgling operating system. Around 390,000 Firefox OS phones shipped last year, according to IDC, a figure it expects to rise to 2.5 million this year. That will give Firefox OS a 0.2 percent share of the total smartphone market, IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo recently said via email.

That isn't very impressive, but is still better than competing new OSes such as Tizen and Ubuntu, which aren't even running on commercial phones yet. However, for Firefox OS to become a serious contender, it needs more brand awareness, wider distribution as well as products with improved hardware and software, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

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