Let's be honest – if you were to count up the leading mobile players on your fingers, you'd probably need an accident of genetics to have enough digits for ZTE to get a mention.
But the ambitious Chinese phone maker plans on changing all that by cornering the latest mobile sub-market: smartphone-tablet hybrids... or phablets, if you prefer.
Just a year ago the phablet market didn't even exist, but the Samsung Galaxy Note dipped an oversized toe in fresh mobile waters towards the end of last year, and the rest is history.
Well, sort of, anyway. So far we've only seen Sammy's Korean chums LG coming up with an alternative to the stylus-friendly Galaxy Note – the even stranger 4:3 Optimus Vu. But ZTE plans on jumping in the phablet deep end with a pair of phone-cum-tablet competitors before the end of the year as part of its strategy to boost its total smartphone sales from 15 million in 2011 to 50 million this year, with a longer-term target of 100 million units by the year 2015.
Those are some pretty ambitious targets, but ZTE had a whole raft of new devices to show off at Mobile World Congress in February, and while otherwise its target for 2012 is to consolidate its strengthening position as a high-end device manufacturer in markets it already has a presence in, the move into phablets – announced by ZTE executive director He Shiyou this week – represents a move into the unknown.
The problem ZTE faces is an all-too-familiar one: brand recognition.
“People who buy Apple and Samsung have greater brand awareness so they might not take chances with a little-known brand, especially one from China,” Beijing-based IDC analyst Teck-Zhung Wong told Reuters, pretty much hitting the nail right on the head.