ZTE today officially began accepting submissions for its crowd-sourced smartphone, dubbed Project CSX. ZTE first unveiled Project CSX at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The idea is to create a community-sourced mobile device that will be designed with the help of consumers participating in the company's Z-Community member-led forum. There are three rules governing submissions: it must be a mobile device, the technology must be "realistically possible" for the 2017 target release, and it must be affordable to most people. Winning ideas and popular submissions will be rewarded with cash and other prizes, including a trip to CES 2017. ZTE hopes to bring the crowd-sourced Project CSX device to market in 2017.
Consumer Cellular recently added four phones to its roster of inexpensive devices, including the Alcatel Pop 3. The Pop 3 (pictured) has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 8 GB of storage, 5-megapixel camera, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $100. Consumer Cellular also added the Samsung Galaxy J3 for $125, the ZTE Avid 828 (Avid Plus) for $70, and the Consumer Cellular 101 flip phone for $30.
ZTE showed off the Z Max Pro today, a huge Android handset for MetroPCS. This phablet packs a reasonable set of specs for less than $100, including a 6-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera. Here are our initial impressions of the Z Max Pro from ZTE.
ZTE today unveiled the ZMAX Pro, an inexpensive phablet bound for MetroPCS. The device boasts a 6-inch, full HD display with a Snapdragon 617 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The phone offers a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera for snapping selfies. The ZMAX Pro packs a 3,400mAh battery with USB-C, Quick Charge, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a plastic frame, but uses design language similar to that of the Axon 7 flagship to give it a more premium appearance. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The device is available for preorder today. It ships August 1 for $99 (after in-store rebate).
ZTE today began taking preorders for the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. Consumers interested in ordering the unlocked Android handset can do so via ZTEUSA.com, Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, and Newegg. ZTE announced the Axon 7 earlier this year. It features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass, and it is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM. The 3,140mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Other features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets, Dolby Atmos software, stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and supports the majority of U.S. LTE bands. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The phone costs $399 and will ship starting July 17.
ZTE can continue to export U.S. goods for another two months thanks to an extension offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department alleged in March that ZTE violated trade sanctions in place against Iran by using shell companies to hide its exporting activities. The government initially banned ZTE from exporting any U.S. goods, parts, or components, but quickly offered a three-month reprieve while ZTE works with the government to resolve the issue. That reprieve has been extended another two months, through August 30. The ban would have disrupted ZTE's global supply chain had it been put into full effect.
ZTE today announced the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. ZTE designed the phone with the help of BMW Group's Designworks studio. The Axon 7 has a unibody aluminum design and clean lines; it comes in gold and silver finishes. The device features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The phone is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The processor and 3,140mAh battery together support Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel camera. The phone can capture video up to 4K. Other standout features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets with Dolby Atmos software and stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor located on the back. The device adopts a USB Type-C connector. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and MiFavor 4.0 user interface, portions of which BMW's Designworks helped configure. The phone supports all U.S. LTE bands. It will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and launch, with Sprint and Verizon compatibility coming later in the year. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The Axon 7 goes on sale in China today, but will reach the U.S. soon. The phone is priced under $500 and will be sold directly to consumers via ZTEusa.com, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, ebay, and Newegg.
ZTE today announced the Grand X Max 2 for Cricket Wireless, an inexpensive handset that includes two rear cameras. The phone boasts a 6-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The camera ensemble features 13- and 2-megapixel sensors on the back that ZTE says capture more detailed images. The camera boasts features such as bokeh, panorama, multiexposure, and manual modes. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor; both cameras can capture full HD video. The Grand X Max 2 is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core Snapdragon processor and ships with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The phone adopts the USB Type-C connector and the 3,400mAh battery supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid charging. Other hardware features include LTE, GPS, memory card support, and standard headphone jack. ZTE loaded Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system on the device, which includes a variety of Google and Cricket apps and services, such as Deezer and Dolby Audio. The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is available at Cricket stores starting today for $199.99.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed to investigate a complaint from Creative Technology / Creative Labs that accuses eight different smartphone makers of infringing on patents. The ITC is prepared to look at phones made by BlackBerry, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, and ZTE. Creative Labs says these companies are violating a patent related to media playback on mobile devices. The ITC did not say when it might make an initial ruling on the matter. Companies often use the ITC as a venue to settle trade disagreements because the ITC has the power to institute import bans.
ZTE has moved forward with plans to replace its top executives in a step meant to help ease tension with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chief Technology Officer Zhao Xianming has replaced Shi Lirong as CEO. Shi remains a member of ZTE's board of directors. The company also removed executive vice presidents Tian Wenguo and Qiu Weizhao. The company didn't officially provide a reason for the change in leadership, but the switch comes a month after the U.S. accused ZTE executives of plotting to circumvent trade rules preventing the export of certain products to Iran. The Commerce Department put an export ban in place against ZTE blocking it from exporting U.S. goods. The government agreed to relax the restrictions as long as the executives involved in the deception were removed.
ZTE's board of directors is expected to meet this week to pick new executives. The change in leadership comes in the wake of accusations from the U.S. that ZTE worked to circumvent trade sanctions against Iran. The Department of Commerce says ZTE execs set up shell companies in order to ship banned technology to Iran. The government put an export ban in place against ZTE in response, but has since relaxed the ban somewhat. ZTE is scrambling to repair the damage, as it relies on U.S. components for many of its products. ZTE CEO Shi Lirong is expected to be replaced in the shakeup, as are executive vice presidents Tian Wenguo and Qiu Weizhao, according to the Wall Street Journal. ZTE's board will meet mid-week to discuss new leaders.
Cricket Wireless today said Best Buy has agreed to sell the prepaid carrier's phones and services at some 1,000 stores around the country. The ZTE Fanfare and HTC Desire 625 are available from Best Buy's web site starting today, and will reach Best Buy's retail stores over the next few weeks. Best Buy will also sell a Cricket Wireless SIM card starter pack for those who want to activate their own phones. Cricket will expand the selection of smartphones sold at Best Buy stores over the next few months. With the addition of Best Buy's retail stores, Cricket said its phones and services are available at some 10,000 retail locations across the U.S. Cricket's plans start at $40 per month.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has agreed to temporarily lift sanctions it levied against ZTE, allowing its suppliers to resume some exports to the Chinese company. "As part of the effort to resolve the matter, and based upon binding commitments that ZTE has made to the U.S. government, Commerce expects this week to be able to provide temporary relief from some licensing requirements," said a senior Commerce official to the Wall Street Journal. However, the sanction relief "would be temporary in nature and would be maintained only if ZTE is abiding by its commitments to the U.S. government." The Commerce Department alleges that ZTE set up shell companies to send U.S. technology products to Iran, a violation of ongoing sanctions the U.S. has against Iran. In response, the government banned U.S. suppliers from exporting products to ZTE, a move that has the potential to disrupt ZTE's global supply chain. ZTE and the Commerce Department say that talks between the two have been constructive, but are on-going.
ZTE is planning to appeal a ban recently placed on exports, reports Reuters. Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce said U.S. companies are no longer allowed to export select technology to ZTE. ZTE's U.S. suppliers can apply for a license to export their goods to ZTE, but the government intends to deny such licenses. ZTE is being punished for attempting to circumvent trade sanctions the U.S. has in place with Iran, according to the Commerce Department, which says the company planned to use shell companies to get around the legal restrictions. ZTE said it is "actively facilitating communications with the U.S. governmental department to search for a solution." It's unclear how long the appeals process may take before the export ban is eased or lifted. The ban will likely impact ZTE's global supply chain.
China's Ministry of Commerce says the U.S. Department of Commerce's plan to prevent ZTE from exporting American-made components will be bad for Chinese firms. "China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the sanctions, said the Ministry. "The U.S. move will severely affect normal operations of Chinese companies. China will continue negotiating with the U.S. side on this issue." The Commerce Department says ZTE set up shell companies to get around the existing ban on shipping U.S.-made gear to Iran. Under the new measures, U.S. companies would not be allowed to export gear to ZTE, nor would foreign firms be allowed to send equipment containing a significant amount of U.S. components to ZTE. ZTE has urged its suppliers to apply for the new export licenses mandated by the Commerce Department, even though the government plans to deny those applications. The company is working to resolve the matter. "ZTE is fully committed to compliance with the laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which it operates," said the company. "ZTE has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate and communicate with all U.S. agencies as required." The measures may cause massive disruption to ZTE's telecommunications equipment business on a global scale, however, ZTE will still be able to sell its mobile phones in the U.S.
ZTE has allegedly violated export rules to Iran and the U.S. Department of Commerce is prepared to restrict what American-made components ZTE is allowed to acquire. The Commerce Department says ZTE "planned and organized a scheme to establish, control, and use a series of 'detached' companies to illicitly re-export controlled items to Iran in violation of U.S. export control laws." Internal documents seen by Reuters suggest ZTE did in fact consider such tactics to get around the ban. Setting up shell companies, explained ZTE in one document, would make it "harder for the U.S. government to trace it or investigate the real flow of the controlled commodities." The company recognized that its behavior put it at risk. Some of the products in question came from Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, and IBM, all of which claim they had no knowledge of ZTE's plans to ship their gear to Iran. The U.S. has long banned the export of certain products — including telecommunications gear — to Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba. The Commerce Department's restrictions will require all ZTE's suppliers to apply for an export license to ship U.S. products to ZTE. Beginning Tuesday, those applications will be generally be denied. ZTE's export practices have been under investigation since 2012. What's not clear is if or how the Commerce Department's actions, which chiefly target ZTE's telecommunications gear, will impact the company's handset business. ZTE sells handsets directly online to consumers, as well as through partnerships with U.S. carriers.
ZTE today said it is ready to upgrade the Axon Pro smartphone to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. ZTE is toeing the the line with the update and sticking to stock features, such as Doze, Google Now On Tap, and the revised app drawer. ZTE didn't call attention to any specific apps or features it is adding to the mix. ZTE recommends consumers download the update (835MB) over WiFi. It can be snagged manually via the Axon Pro's system settings. ZTE said it is prepping Marshmallow for the Axon in the coming months.
ZTE today announced the S Pro Plus smart projector, its third-generation Android/projector combination device. The S Pro Plus has an 8.4-inch, 2560 by 1600 display that runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The projector can push a 2K picture at sizes up to 300 inches, though it is optimized for 120 inches. The projector is accompanied by 2.4W Harmon speakers. The chassis measures about one-inch thick, which is much slimmer than previous models. The 12,100mAh battery allows it to project hours of HD content. The projector is fully wireless, with LTE, WiFi, and Bluetooth. The tablet/projector is powered by a Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM and expandable storage up to 2 TB. The ZTE S Pro Plus will go on sale by summer. ZTE didn't reveal pricing.
T-Mobile will give a free phone to new customers who sign up for one of its prepaid services. The free phone deal kicks off February 3 and includes the Coolpad Rogue, ZTE Obsidian, LG Leon, and Samsung Core Prime. Customers must select a Simply Prepaid, Simple Choice Prepaid, or Simple Choice No Credit plan valued at $40 per month and up in order to receive the free phone. Customers who opt for a Simple Choice No Credit plan can receive an extra $50 mail-in rebate when activating a second line. T-Mobile didn't say how long the free phone deal will be available.
Cricket Wireless says the ZTE Grand X 3 is now available online and in Cricket stores for $130. The Grand X 3 includes a 5.5-inch HD screen, Cat. 4 LTE, and a USB Type-C connector, which is reversible. It has 2 GB of RAM and its 16 GB of storage is expandable via a memory card up to 64 GB. The Grand X 3's 8-megapixel camera shoots 720p HD video, and a 2-megapixel selfie camera is located on front. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Cricket will knock $50 off the price for customers who switch from another carrier. Further, people who port their number to Cricket will receive a $50 gift card.
Cricket Wireless is looking to entice people to switch to its network by offering discounts on a number of smartphones. Beginning January 22, consumers who port their number to Cricket can buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 for $399.99, a savings of $100 over the normal retail price. Cricket is making similar discounts, ranging from $20 to $50, available to a dozen other devices, including the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 ($109.99), ZTE Grand X Max ($99.99), HTC Desire 626s ($89.99), and Microsoft Lumia 640 ($79.99). The promotion runs for a limited time. Cricket's service plans start at $40 per month. Wireless carriers are competing for customers fiercely. With most Americans already carrying a smartphone, the only way for carriers to score new customers is to steal them from rivals.
ZTE's new most affordable smartphone for the U.S. is the Avid Plus. At just $115 MSRP (and probably less through T-Mobile and Metro) it's quite a low-end phone. Just how low-end does it feel? We checked it out.
The Grand X 3 is part of a growing trend to find new ways to bring premium features and design to mid-range and entry-level phones. The Grand X 3 is an extremely affordable phablet with a plastic body and low-end processor. Yet at the same time, it has the same curved-edge glass front normally found on much higher-end phones, plus an HD display and USB Type-C connector. We spent some time with one.
ZTE USA today announced Project CSX, "a community-sourced mobile device" that will be designed with the help of consumers participating in the company's new Z-Community member-led forum. ZTE plans to solicit ideas and feedback form US consumers during 2016 and launch the Project CSX device in 2017. The Z-Community will also offer members access to exclusive events, rewards, and products. Z-Community lives on the web at community.zteusa.com, and consumers can also participate in the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #zcommunity.
ZTE today announced the Avid Plus, an entry-level Android phone for T-Mobile and MetroPCS that will sell for just $115. It sports a 5-inch screen, Cat. 4 LTE, 5-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel front camera. It can record video at 720p HD resolution. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM. Its 8 GB of storage can be expanded with memory cards up to 32 GB. It also supports Wi-Fi Calling. The Avid Plus is a follow-up to the Avid, which was last sold by MetroPCS in 2013. It had a much smaller 4-inch screen and was designed for MetroPCS's old CDMA/LTE network. The new Avid Plus will go on sale January 20 with both T-Mobile and MetroPCS.
ZTE today announced the Grand X 3 for Cricket Wireless. It offers a 5.5-inch HD screen and Cat. 4 LTE for just $130. It's also the most affordable phone to date to sport a USB Type-C connector, which is reversible. That connector supports fast charging for the 3,000 mAh removable battery. It has 2 GB of RAM and its 16 GB of storage is expandable via a memory card up to 64 GB. Its 8-megapixel camera shoots 720p HD video, and a 2-megapixel selfie camera graces the front. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor. The Grand X 3 will be available from Cricket later this month.
ZTE today said Suning Rundong has invested $297 million in Nubia Technology. Suning sells electronic goods online in ZTE's home market of China. ZTE first introduced Nubia as a sub-brand three years ago. With this capital investment from Suning, ZTE will control 60% of Nubia, Suning will control 33.33%, and Yingcai Investment will manage 6.67%. ZTE said accepting the additional funding is necessary to help push the Nubia brand into new markets, including Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Some Nubia handsets are already available in the U.S.
ZTE is pushing system updates to its Axon and Axon Pro smartphones. Both phones gain a camera quick-launch button, Google security patches, Qualcomm modem patches, and better support for MetroPCS. The Axon's camera should zoom more effectively, and the Axon Pro's camera will focus faster in low light and deliver better white balance. The Pro also earns T-Mobile WiFi calling. ZTE said the system updates will be delivered over the air.
GoPhone, AT&T's prepaid brand, today dropped the prices of several handsets. Customers who activate a plan costing $45 or more can snag the ZTE Maven for free, or receive $40 off a small selection of other devices. After the new-line discount, for example, the Asus Zenfone 2E costs $59.99, the Microsoft Lumia 640 costs $19.99, the Motorola Moto E costs $14.99, and the ZTE ZMax 2 costs $89.99. AT&T did not say how long the discounts will be available, but they kick off beginning today.
Cricket today announced more holiday promotions that see significant price cuts to its lineup of smartphones. Beginning Dec. 4, new and existing customers can but the iPhone 5c for $179.99 or $229.99 for the 16GB and 32GB models, respectively. Similarly, the iPhone 5s will cost $199.99 and $249.99 for the 16GB and 32GB models. These prices are in effect through Jan 7. Cricket is also offering incentives to people who switch from other carriers. Cricket will sell the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime to switchers for $29.99, the LG G Stylo for $49.99, and the ZTE Sonata 2 for $9.99. Customers who switch by Dec. 6 will receive a $100 shopping card.
ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.
Cricket Wireless today kicked off a promotions to entice consumers to port their number to Cricket. People who switch to Cricket between today and Dec. 6 will earn a $100 Cricket Shopping Card. The card can be used for monthly service, handsets, and accessories at Cricket stores. Cricket said it will let new customers combine this deal with existing mail-in rebate promos on select phones to save even more money. For example, Cricket is offering the LG Risio, Motorola Moto E, Nokia Lumia 635, and the ZTE Overture 2 for free after rebates. The rebates are available to all customers through Jan. 7. The $100 gift card is only available to new customers.
Boost Mobile recently added the ZTE Prestige to its roster of inexpensive Android smartphones. The Prestige has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 resolution, and is powered by a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The Prestige features a 5-megapixel main camera with 720p HD video capture and 2-megapixel front camera for selfies. The phone has a 2,300mAh battery and supports Boost Mobile's LTE 4G network. The ZTE Prestige runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is available online for $99. Boost Mobile does not require contracts. Service plans start at $35 per month.
ZTE today made more variants of its Axon smartphone available to U.S. buyers. In addition to the Axon Pro 32GB, which launched over the summer, ZTE is offering the Axon and Axon Pro 64GB. The range now includes the Axon, Axon Pro 32GB, and the Axon Pro 64GB. All three are identical in terms of design, size, and core features. The latter two differ only in the amount of internal storage, while the former has more modest specs in order to achieve a lower price point. The most significant differences between the two Axon Pro models and Axon are the display and processor. Where the Axon Pro models have a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, the Axon has a 5.5-inch full HD screen. Similarly, the Axon Pro handsets each have a Snapdragon 810 processor with 4GB of RAM, where the Axon has a Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM. Last, the Axon Pros support CAT 6 LTE and HD voice, but the Axon has CAT 4 LTE and no HD voice. All other specs are the same across the three phones, including the 3,000mAh battery with QuickCharge; 13-megapixel main camera with 2-megapixel secondary camera for depth-of-field data; 8-megapixel front camera; high-fidelity audio capture and playback; and Android 5.1 Lollipop operating system. The Axon Pro 64GB costs $449.98, the Axon Pro 32GB costs $399.98, and the Axon costs $329.98. ZTE is selling the phones directly to consumers, unlocked, via its web site.
ZTE today announced a lease-to-own purchasing option for U.S. consumers. The program is available for unlocked smartphones, such as the Axon Pro, and other ZTE gear. The lease-to-own option is supported by SmartPay Leasing, which will offer financing terms between 6 and 24 months. At the end of the term, customers who have made all their payments will own the device. ZTE says customers can pay off their phones early, though some fees may apply, or trade their working device in for a new one. Leases can be cancelled at any time, though early termination fees may apply. The lease-to-own option is available upon checkout when purchasing handsets from ZTEUSA.com. ZTE says customers will need to have a debit card to qualify, and pay between 0% and 25% of the phone's cost in the initial payment. The program is not available in New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Wyoming. The offering reflects recent changes across the industry. Most carriers offer monthly financing plans to help defray the cost of handsets. Apple launched its own financing plan with the arrival of the iPhone 6s last month.
The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.
Cricket Wireless today announced a significant expansion of its retail footprint thanks to Target. Beginning Oct. 25, Cricket handsets and services will be available in some 1,600 Target stores around the country. Consumers will be able to purchase smartphones from HTC, LG, Samsung, and ZTE for prices ranging between $50 and $130, as well as SIM cards for BYOD customers. Cricket says the expansion means it now has a presence in 9,000 retail locations around the U.S.
ZTE today announced the ZMax 2, a follow-up to its big-screened phone from early this year. The phone has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, which is smaller than the original's 5.7-inch screen. The device is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32GB. The ZMax 2 features an 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery, which is smaller than the original's 3,400 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It will be sold by AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service (beginning Sept. 25) as well as TracFone.
AT&T today announced the ZTE Mobley, a mobile hotspot for cars that connects via the OBD-II port. The Mobley is compatible with most cars model year 1996 and later and turns on automatically whenever the car is on. It can support up to five connected devices in the car via WiFi. The Mobley costs $100 with no commitment, and is also available for $0 down with a two-year commitment. AT&T says it can be added to Mobile Share Value plans for a $10 monthly access charge. Data Connect plans are available, too, which cost $20 for 1GB of LTE 4G data or $30 for 3GB. The Mobley is a simple hotspot and doesn't offer advanced support functions, such as roadside assistance, like those available via the Verizon Hum.
Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.