MANILA, Philippines — Their name may have been dragged by one of the most controversial issues to rock Philippine politics, but Chinese IT manufacturer ZTE remains bullish about the Philippine market as it attempts to restore its image and prove dominance in the local mobile space.
During the launch of its initial mobile phone products to hit local shores, executives of one of China’s largest technology companies were tight-lipped about the damage wrought by what is now known as the controversial NBN-ZTE deal, hoping to put the past behind in hopes of furthering their business in the country.
Officials, however, pointed out how their business remained strong in the Philippines despite the issue, as they are still one of the preferred partners of large telecom providers in the country, particularly as manufacturing suppliers of broadband dongles, pocket Wi-Fi devices, and telecom equipment.
“We are the fourth largest phone manufacturer in the world and the biggest in China,” asserted James Chen, president of ZTE Philippines who was just appointed in March. “In 2011, we posted $13 billion in revenues, and we continue to grow our market worldwide.”
Coming into the Philippines, a market already dominated and crowded by multinational phone manufacturers as well as home-grown Pinoy phone companies, Chen emphasized how their deep experience in the telecom world, coupled with their manufacturing and R&D capabilities, will become the main differentiators of the brand against competitors.
Brandishing their new products –– composed of two feature phones, three Android-based smartphones, and a 7-inch Android tablet –– executives claimed their edge over local phone brands such as myPhone and Cherry Mobile in the areas of reliability and durability, emphasizing their vast pool of resources.
“Most of the time we see these two major brands focus on OEM handsets,” claimed Henry Yu, the head of devices division at ZTE. “The common feedback from end users is that the defective rate is very high.”
In contrast, Yu said that despite connotations, the products manufactured by ZTE are “quite reliable,” as they own the technology, manufacturing, and R&D capabilities that go into making their phones.
“We have better technology capabilities than myPhone and Cherry Mobile,” he added.
For his part, Jimmy Go, president of MSI-ECS, the appointed distributor of ZTE mobile products in the Philippines, likened the current situation of mobile phone companies to the early days of PC manufacturing.
“Before, PC brands outsource manufacturing of their products to the cheapest supplier, but the user experience has not been great,” Go said. “Today, 90 percent of the market is captured by the branded PCs, because they can control the quality of their products, and they are the first to introduce all the latest models.”
In its initial foray into the Philippine market, ZTE Mobile is bringing in six phone and tablet models that, executives said, are being positioned for the mid-range market.
Bannering the new fleet of phones are three smartphones powered by Google’s Gingerbread Android operating system. The cheapest in the line, the Mimosa Mini V856, is a dual-SIM phone with a small 2.8-inch display that will retail for P5,390 locally.
The two other Android phones are for users with a bit more budget for mobile devices: the Kis V788 comes with a 3.5-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display, a 3-megapixel back camera, and a standard-issue 800 MHz processor. The Skate 4.3H, meanwhile, is powered by a 1GHz single-core processor, is fitted with a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen display, and features a 5-megapixel back camera.
The two phones will retail for P7,490 and P13,990, respectively.
ZTE’s tablet, on the other hand, is a 7-inch device that comes packed with a 1.4GHz Scorpion chip from QUalcomm, a 4GB storage, a front and back camera, and a Dolby Mobile Sound technology for its speakers. It can be bought locally for P15,490.
Bringing up the rear of new ZTE phones are two feature handsets targeted at the price-sensitive, penny-pinching Pinoy consumer: the ZTE S516 is a basic feature phone in a candy bar form factor, while the ZTE R260 is a full-featured QWERTY phone with a hot-swappable SIM card slot. They are available each at sub-P5,000 price points.
ZTE officials, however, could not assure if the Android phones they are releasing today are capable of upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich or Jellybean, although they noted that they are sure to come out with models featuring those flavors of the Android OS in the near future.
“Before, we played a major role in providing broadband dongles and pocket Wi-Fi devices for Philippine telcos,” Yu said. “But this year marks our focus on smartphones and handsets in other open channels.”