Google today said more wireless network operators and handset manufacturers will use Android Messages, its RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on their phones. (Android Messages was previously known as Google Messenger.) Some of the features of RCS, which is a global standard, include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. It has been improved lately with more interactive tools, such as the ability to check into flights. Google says a number of brands plan to use RCS in order to enhance their own services and help spur adoption. Some of the brands include Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, FICO, Gamestop, Sonic, Subway, and Time. Moving forward, the Android Messages app with RCS will be preloaded by LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko, along with Google's own Pixel and Android One devices. Further, Google was already working with carriers Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, and today added Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Notably absent fro the list of phone makers is Samsung, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also yet to commit. Phones with Android Messages on board will still be able to interact with Samsung handsets and those running on non-Sprint networks of course, but will lose the advanced features available via RCS. Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon haven't said if or when they might adopt Google's Android Messages, though T-Mobile and Verizon already use their own RCS-like messaging platforms.
ZTE can continue to export U.S. goods for another month due to an extension offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department first alleged in March 2016 that ZTE had 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 reprieve while ZTE worked with the government to resolve the issue. The initial reprieve gave ZTE until the end of June 2016, but was then extended to the end of August 2016, and then again to Feb 27 of this year. Now the extension runs through March 29. In prior actions, the Department of Commerce extended the relief by 90 days at a time. Reuters suggests the short, 30-day extension indicates a full settlement may be adopted in the near future.
ZTE today said it is exploring fundamental changes to its Project CSX Hawkeye smartphone and is cancelling the current Kickstarter funding campaign. Project CSX started as a community-based program to create a smartphone with features imagined by the public. The original intent was to bring a crowd-sourced device to market by the end of 2017. ZTE fielded hundreds of ideas from around the world and eventually settled on a device featuring eye-tracking powers and a self-adhesive rear panel. In January, ZTE unveiled Hawkeye's full spec sheet through a Kickstarter campaign and was immediately beset by feedback from the community. ZTE wanted the phone to be affordable to most people around the world and thus designed a mid-range handset with middling specs. The Z-Community, however, would prefer a high-end device. "Project CSX has always been about going against the norm and trying something different. But above all, it’s been about listening to you, the consumer," explained ZTE in a forum post. "Based on the feedback we’ve received on both Kickstarter and our own Z-Community forum, we’ve decided to phase out this campaign; however, this doesn’t mean the project is over." ZTE said it will create the device consumers want, but it needs time to figure out how best to move forward. ZTE is no longer sure it can meet its original end-of-2017 release goal. It expects to provide an update about Project CSX Hawkeye in a month or two. In the mean time, the company will refund all pledges contributed to the campaign. "All of your support, perspectives and suggestions are what has driven Hawkeye so far, and for that we are grateful. We will continue to push the boundaries, think outside the box, and pave new paths to ultimately deliver a device that you want, all while continuing to listen and explore with you every step of the way," concluded ZTE.
ZTE today said it plans to introduce a smartphone at the Mobile World Congress trade show later this month that will be capable of 1 Gbps download speeds. The phone is, fittingly, called the ZTE Gigabit Phone. ZTE claims the phone's raw speed will bring "a qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience by making 360-degree panoramic VR video, instant cloud storage, entertainment upgrades and fast cache of ultra Hi-Fi music and movies possible." ZTE didn't share any other details about the handset, but there are a few to be sussed out based on ZTE's claims. To start, Qualcomm's X16 modem is one of the only wireless chips capable of such speeds. Moreover, the X16 was designed with the Snapdragon 835 processor in mind. Only a single network — Australia's Telstra — supports such high-speed mobile broadband at the moment, so most people will not be able to experience the phone's full potential. ZTE also said it plans to launch new phones in its Blade series at MWC. ZTE recently brought its first Blade-branded handset, the V8 Pro, to the U.S.
Google today made it possible to view web-based virtual reality content through its Chrome browser. The latest version of Chrome for Android devices supports VR, and Google says a number of its partners have begun to add VR content to their web sites. For example, Sketchfab has more than one million 3D scenes available that range from video games to works of art. The Chrome-based VR content requires a Daydream-compatible smartphone and Daydream VR viewer. Daydream handsets are limited to Google's own Pixel and Pixel XL, the Nexus 6P, Moto Z, and ZTE Axon 7. People who don't have Daydream phones can use their mouse or finger to pan around 3D content directly in the browser. Google says it plans to bring web-based VR support to its Cardboard viewer in the months ahead.
ZTE today made Android 7 Nougat and Google Daydream available to its Axon 7 flagship smartphone. The updated operating system allows Axon 7 owners to run two apps side by side, tweak and conserve battery use, access more emoji, and enjoy access to Google's Daydream virtual reality content. ZTE says the device also gains a new call-screening tool from Hiya, which the company is also making available to other handsets in its lineup. Hiya, built directly into the phone app, is able to integrate caller identification, spam detection and call blocking. The Axon 7 has been available since last year. The phone is sold unlocked and costs $400. It features a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 20-megapixel camera, and a 3,140mAh battery.
T-Mobile said its T-Mobile One plan now includes all monthly taxes, surcharges, and fees. The company still charges those fees, but they are rolled into the advertised price of the plan in order to simplify what customers see on their bills each month. For example, a family of four that signs up today will pay $40 per line, or $160 total, with no additional fees visible on their monthly bill. Those fees are now included in the total price. The news was first announced earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show. T-Mobile has been promoting it heavily via television commercials the last few weeks. In other T-Mobile news, the company's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, announced a free phone promotion. Starting today, customers who upgrade their phone, add a line, or get a new phone number can snag one of 15 different phones for free. Some of the options include the LG Aristo, Samsung Galaxy On5, ZTE Avid Trio, and Alcatel Fierce XL. Customers who port a number to MetroPCS will be able to pick a more expensive free handset, such as the HTC Desire 530, ZTE ZMax Pro, or LG K10. Last, MetroPCS is offering free data to those who sign up for its $50 plan. Typically, the $50 plan includes 5 GB of data. For a limited time, people who choose that plan will have access to 8 GB of data each month for at least a year. Additional 8 GB lines added to the same account will cost $30 per month.
ZTE today said the Blade V8 smartphone announced earlier this month is now available online. U.S. buyers can pick up the phone online for $230. The V8 is the first Blade-series handset from ZTE to be sold in the U.S. The V8 features a 5.5-inch full HD display with curved edges; a Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage; twin 13-megapixel cameras on the back; and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The phone also has a 3,140mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 and a front-mounted fingerprint reader. ZTE is selling the Blade V8 unlocked via Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy. People who preordered the phone should receive shipping notices today.
ZTE today shared more information about its Project CSX handset, called Hawkeye. ZTE created a public campaign for Project CSX in 2016, which saw hundreds of entries. The final design, a self-adhesive handset that can track eye movement, was selected last fall. The device is a large Android slab that boasts a 5.5-inch full HD display. The phone will be powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The phone features two cameras on the rear, one with a 12-megapixel sensor and one with a 13-megapixel sensor with optical zoom. The user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. A 3,000mAh battery will provide power, and the USB-C port will allow for rapid charging via Quick Charge 2.0. Other features include a fingerprint reader, Dolby sound, NFC, and support for memory cards. ZTE says the Hawkeye includes LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 66 for AT&T/T-Mobile. The Hawkeye, currently available for preorder on Kickstarter, costs $199 and will ship with Android 7 Nougat when it goes on sale in the fall. Right now, the fundraising campaign has generated a bit more than $31,000 out of $500,000.
The V8 Pro is ZTE's latest attempt to bring U.S. consumers more bang for their buck. This model is the first Blade-series phone to come to U.S. shores. It's one step below the Axon 7, with more mid-range features and a price to match. But with fingerprint reader, NFC, dual-camera, and 3 GB of RAM, it's no slouch, either. Read on for our hands-on impressions.
ZTE's forthcoming Android 7.0 update for its Axon 7 phone will add compatibility with Google's Daydream VR solution. The Axon 7's QHD display is well-suited to VR.
ZTE today said it plans to offer its Blade series phones to U.S. consumers for the first time starting with the Blade V8. This large Android handset includes a 5.5-inch full HD display with curved edges and Gorilla Glass 3. The V8 is powered by a Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 128 GB or a second SIM card. The V8 has twin 13-megapixel cameras on the back, which is a feature normally found on pricier handsets. ZTE says the second camera helps with features such as bokeh (background blur). The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. ZTE says the 3,140mAh battery delivers all-day power, but it supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid power-ups when needed. Last, the Blade V8 includes a front-mounted fingerprint reader. ZTE is selling the Blade V8 unlocked via Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy for $230. It's available for preorder starting today.
ZTE's crowd-sourced Hawkeye Android smartphone is now available for preorder via Kickstarter. ZTE picked the Hawkeye name for its Project CSX device from more than 500 submissions after spending the last year fielding and voting for thousands of ideas submitted by people around the globe. The winning design, a self-adhesive smartphone that can track eye movement, is expected to ship during the third quarter of 2017. Initial backers can snag the handset for $200.
AT&T is preparing to launch a ZTE smartphone called the ZMax 3, say documents found on the FCC web site. The ZMax 3 appears to be a variant of the Grand X 3, which AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless has sold since earlier this year. Most importantly, the AT&T-branded ZMax 3 adds NFC and carrier aggregation for quicker LTE speeds. The FCC documents don't reveal any other obvious changes between the two models. The Grand X 3 includes a 5.5-inch HD screen, Cat. 4 LTE, USB Type-C connector, 3,000 mAh battery, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It also features an 8-megapixel camera, shoots 720p HD video, and packs a 2-megapixel selfie camera. AT&T hasn't said if or when the ZTE ZMax 3 might go on sale.
ZTE today announced the Axon 7 (6+128), a slightly improved version of its Axon 7 flagship handset. The new variant includes a Force Touch display, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The hardware changes push the cost from $399 to $499. ZTE did not say what the Force Touch screen is able to do. All other specs and features of the Axon 7 (6+128) are unchanged from the standard version. It includes a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 20-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,250mAh battery, and support for many U.S. LTE bands. The limited edition Axon 7 (6+128) is available unlocked online starting today.
ZTE can continue to export U.S. goods for another three months due 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 reprieve while ZTE worked with the government to resolve the issue. The initial reprieve gave ZTE until the end of June, but was then extended to the end of August, and now runs through Feb. 27, 2017. The ban would have disrupted ZTE's global supply chain had it been put into full effect.
ZTE today announced the Grand X 4, a $130 phablet, for Cricket Wireless. The device features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, Snapdragon 412 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. Its main camera snaps 13-megapixel images with features like panorama and manual controls, and it shoots full HD video. The user-facing camera snaps 5-megapixel images and shoots 720p HD video. The Grand X 4 has a 3,140mAh battery, USB-C, and supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 1.0 for quicker power-ups. The fingerprint sensor can be used to unlock the phone, as well as launch apps and open the camera. The Android 6 Marshmallow operating system includes Dolby Audio and a number of Cricket apps. The ZTE Grand X 4 hits Cricket stores November 22.
T-Mobile today introduced the SyncUP Drive, a plug-in device for cars that provides connectivity as well as safety and analytics tools. The SyncUP Drive plugs into most cars' OBD-II port and can be used to generate an in-car, rolling hotspot for keeping WiFi devices connected through T-Mobile's LTE network. The associated app also allows owners to analyze driving behavior, track the location of their car, set speed and geo-fence limits, and even receive diagnostic information about the car itself. The SyncUP Drive costs $150, but T-Mobile will give it to customers for free as long as they agree to a two-year service plan with a minimum of 2 GB per month. The SyncUP Drive is made by ZTE. Service plan pricing varies.
ZTE recently released the Cymbal-T, a flip phone that runs Android and includes a 3.5-inch touch screen. The Cymbal-T is a traditional clamshell with physical navigation keys and numerical dial pad. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 32 GB. It includes a 5-megapixel main camera with flash and autofocus. The user-facing camera is a fixed-focus, 2-megapixel job. Other specs include WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and support for LTE 4G. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. The ZTE Cymbal-T operates on TracFone's network and is being sold by the Home Shopping Network with a starter kit, including car charger, case, and 1,200 air minutes, for $99.
T-Mobile today began selling the ZTE ZMax Pro — an affordable Android phablet with a 6-inch, full-HD screen, fingerprint reader, 32 GB of storage, 13-megapixel camera, and Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor — for $180. The company started selling the phone under the MetroPCS brand in August, but is now bringing it to the T-Mobile lineup. The phone also includes a 3,400 mAh battery, front glass with curved edges, memory card slot, 5-megapixel front camera, and FM radio.
ZTE and Boost Mobile today announced the ZTE Tempo, an Android phone that sells for just $69.99. The Tempo supports more LTE bands than many Boost phones — plus WCDMA and GSM — in bands suitable for Boost's Mexico roaming offering. The specs are otherwise what one might expect from an entry-level Android phone today, including a 4.5-inch display (not HD), 5-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, memory card slot, 1 GB of RAM, 2,200 mAh battery, and a Snapdragon 210 processor. It does support HD Voice and has an FM radio. It's available immediately.
ZTE today announced that the winning entry of its Project CSX crowd-sourced competition is an eye-controlled smartphone. Owners of the device, which will be built by ZTE over the course of the next year, will be able to control the handset by moving their eyes around. The phone will also include a self-adhesive rear panel so it sticks to surfaces like car dashboards without help. Thousands of voters selected from dozens of initial entries that were narrowed down to five entries this week. "We are overwhelmed with the amount of consumer participation and positive reception to Project CSX," said Lixin Cheng, chairman and CEO of ZTE USA. "As the first smartphone manufacturer to take on crowdsourcing its next mobile device from start to finish, we are proud of how this project pushed the envelope, and that consumers from around the world have chosen to be part of this industry-disrupting process." The eye-controlled, self-adhesive phone won with 36% of the vote. ZTE will work with the winner to design, engineer, and manufacture the device, which it hopes to bring to market by late 2017.
Cricket Wireless today dropped the price of its least-expensive plan to $30 per month. The plan includes unlimited talk and text and 1 GB of high-speed (8Mbps) data. Users who exceed 1 GB of data per month will be throttled to 2G speeds (128Kbps) for the remainder of the billing cycle. The new plan will be available September 9. Also kicking off September 9 are several promotions from Cricket. For example, customers who activate new lines of service will be eligible for a free Alcatel Streak, ZTE Sonata 3, or Kyocera Hydro View. Further, customers who port their number to Cricket from another carrier can purchase the Alcatel Idol 4 with VR Goggles for $99.
ZTE's sub-brand, Nubia, plans to bring its Z11 flagship handset to the U.S. in September. The Z11's defining feature is the unibody aluminum chassis and bezel-less design. The 5.5-inch full HD display is borderless and has 2.5D glass to help make the seams more flush along the edge. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The main camera has 16-megapixel sensor with optical/electronic image stabilization and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports Quick Charge 3.0. It packs a USB Type-C port, a fingerprint reader, and a memory card slot. The Nubia Z11 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The price is about $490.
ZTE aimed a shrink-ray at the Axon 7 and created the Axon 7 Mini. This smaller, more hand-friendly phone is nearly as powerful as its larger predecessor. Here are our first impressions of the Axon 7 Mini.
ZTE today showed off the Axon 7 Mini, a smaller version of its flagship handset. Like the original, the Mini features an aluminum unibody chassis in silver or gold with 2.5D glass on the front and a fingerprint sensor on the back. The screen drops from 5.5-inch quad HD to 5.2-inch full HD, and the battery decreases from 3,250mAh to 2,750mAh. Similarly, the Snapdragon 820 processor of the Axon 7 is replaced with a Snapdragon 617 in the Mini, which also drops the RAM to 3 GB and the storage to 32 GB. Last, the Mini has a 16-megapixel main camera where the Axon 7 has a 20-megapixel camera. The Mini carries over the Axon 7's Dolby stereo speakers, Quick Charge battery, USB-C port, dual SIM tray, 8-megapixel selfie camera, and radio configuration. The Axon 7 Mini will be priced at $299 Euros and will go on sale in October. ZTE says the phone will be made available unlocked to U.S. buyers via its web site.
Boost Mobile today announced the ZTE Warp 7, a low-cost, big-screened Android smartphone. The Warp 7 features a 5.5-inch 720p HD display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. It packs a 3,080mAh battery and supports expandable memory cards up to 64 GB. The ZTE Warp 7 can roam on GSM networks in Mexico and has an FM radio. The device runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and costs $99. It will reach Boost Mobile stores September 5.
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.