ZTE tries to crack the US market with a $279 mid-range phone

One of the top overseas smartphone makers in the world is trying a new approach for the U.S. market: A low-cost handset sold through Amazon with pre-orders starting today. China-based ZTE is bringing its nubia 5s mini LTE to the online retailer with a $279 price tag. On paper, that’s not a bad deal, but few U.S. consumers are familiar with the ZTE brand and that will make sales a challenge.

ZTE Nubia 5s mini LTE front

As its name implies, the unlocked nubia 5s mini LTE supports fast mobile broadband networks. The phone runs Android 4.3, not the latest version of [company]Google[/company] Android, on a 1.2 GHz [company]Qualcomm[/company] Snapdragon 400 processor. The 4.7-inch display offers 720p resolution and the handset includes 16 GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 32 GB with a micro SD card. Clearly, this isn’t a high-end phone, but it’s also not priced like one.

[company]ZTE[/company] did beef up the cameras on the nubia 5s mini LTE: It has a 13 megapixel sensor on the back and a 5 megapixel camera on the front. The rear sensor has a five-element sapphire lens and fairly wide f/2.2 aperture so it should be solid in low-light situations.

Without major carrier support in the U.S., ZTE has little choice but to go it alone in this market. Unfortunately, the U.S. is still transitioning away from subsidized handsets to full-priced phone purchases, so it will continue to be a challenge for ZTE to gain a foothold here.