Smartphone firm rockets into the US
Updated: 2013-10-15 00:03
By Shen Jingting (China Daily)
Under the terms of the deal, the ZTE is now the Houston Rockets' official smartphone supplier. The partnership will prominently feature ZTE's brand and products during Rockets games, as well as billboards and kiosks in Toyota Center — the team's main arena. In addition, Chandler Parsons, 24, a Rockets' rising star, will endorse ZTE's smartphones.
ZTE's partnership with the Houston Rockets has had an impact in Wone Brown's daily routine.
Brown, in his 30s, is a salesman at a Houston-based Aio Wireless store. Aio is a sub-brand under the telecom carrier AT&T and Brown's store sells several smartphone models, including ZTE handsets.
"People buy ZTE smartphones because they're quite cheap and of high quality," he said, on a sunny afternoon in the store, which is decorated with three glass walls. However, few mobile phone buyers know the ZTE brand and he needs to make an extra effort to promote the Chinese company's devices.
The most popular ZTE handset is a model priced at $49.99. That device is also the cheapest smartphone in the store.
"Maybe the Houston Rockets can help draw the customers' attention to ZTE smartphones, other than the pricing factor. The company is for sure making the right move," Brown said.
To many people's surprise, ZTE has already made inroads into the US smartphone market, quietly and steadily. ZTE is now the fourth-largest mobile phone vendor in the US, with a market share of about 4 percent, according to the company.
But the figure is still lagging far behind those of the top three players — Samsung, Apple and LG Corp. Samsung has an about 40 percent share, while Apple and LG have 25 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Branding is the major obstacle for ZTE to overcome so that it is able to narrow the gap with the market leaders and to truly penetrate into the mid- and high-end smartphone sectors.
He Shiyou, executive vice-president of ZTE, recently said that there's only a three-year window for ZTE to survive and thrive in the global smartphone industry.
"In three years, either we go to heaven or we go to hell," He said in an interview in Beijing in September.
He admitted that ZTE is being urged to lift its branding amid the company's transformation from a low-end mobile phone maker to a vendor that is posing real challenges to Samsung and Apple in the mid- to high-end market.
He recalled that Samsung became an overnight sensation after its corporate sponsorship of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. After the event, the South Korean company successfully expanded to other parts of the world.
In He's opinion, similar things may happen to ZTE after the Houston Rockets deal.
"We hope that ZTE's alliance with the NBA can boost our brand awareness and reputation in the United States, China and even all over the world," He said.