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Despite being the fifth largest Android OEM in the world, ZTE isn’t exactly a household name and is generally equated with budget devices that aren’t what we’d call impressive. This all changed last night, when ZTE took the veil off the ZMax. While the ZMax is in fact a budget device, it’s actually a very impressive handset with a 5.7-inch display, Moto G-like specs, and two-day battery life. More important than specs and pricing, the Zmax represents a shift in direction for the company.

ZTE has long lived on carrier rebranding as its bread and butter. There are a number of prepaid devices, in particular, that are made by ZTE but instead have carrier branding or are marked with another manufacturer’s branding. In order to improve its reputation in the United States, ZTE announced last night it will only focus on its own branded devices from here on out, and it will no longer act as a white label product maker.

[quote qtext=”Putting devices with the ZTE logo in your consumers hands is the No. 1 way to build your brand.” qperson=”Lixin Cheng” qsource=”CEO of ZTE US Division” qposition=”center”]

Another part of ZTE’s US strategy is to focus on high quality, low cost products — a move likely inspired by the success of the Moto G and (to lesser extent) Moto E family. Unlike Motorola, however, ZTE believes that affordable premium devices with big displays are the way forward.

This belief is likely fueled by the success of big-screened phones in the United States and Apple’s entrance into the big-screen game with the recently announced iPhone 6 Plus. This means that the ZMax is just the beginning and we can expect more big-screened phones with modern specs and solid pricing. It also hopefully means ZTE will be more aggressive on reaching out to other carriers and hopefully selling its devices unlocked at similarly impressive price points.

What we won’t see from ZTE? Mass market investing. Instead Cheng hopes to build up the brand through a grassroots approach that involves today’s savvy consumers. As more consumers are buying devices outright or through installment plans, ZTE believes consumers are looking for devices that provide great experiences without breaking the bank, the only question is whether or not ZTE can deliver.

What do you think of ZTE’s new strategy and of the ZMax in general? Let us know in the comments.

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