ZTE says it sold 35M handsets in the first half

The Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer says strong sales for the first half of the year were driven by its blockbuster Blade smartphone.

ZTE may not be a recognizable brand in the U.S., but it is quickly becoming a major player in the handset arena.

ZTE Blade, CES 2011
ZTE's Blade is looking for a U.S. home. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The Chinese telecommunications-equipment manufacturer said today that it sold 35 million handsets in the first half of the year, representing a 30 percent increase from a year ago. Helping was its hit Blade smartphone, which debuted with the France-based carrier Orange but is now available in 50 countries and regions.

The numbers illustrate the increasing influence and power that Chinese companies have in the wireless business. ZTE earlier this year became the fifth-largest handset vendor, according to IDC. That's despite a minimal presence in the U.S., underscoring the importance of a broad presence throughout the international markets.

ZTE has been attempting to breach the U.S. market, and has sold some basic phones to prepaid players MetroPCS and Leap Wireless. The company, however, wants to follow HTC's game plan and make a name for itself with the national carriers. ZTE expects to launch at least one smartphone with a major carrier this year.

Industry analysts see ZTE, and fellow Chinese vendor Huawei, as the key to getting more affordable smartphones in the market. Huawei, for instance, sells the Ascend phone and its sequel to the prepaid players.

ZTE is enjoying explosive growth. The company sold 5 million smartphones in the first half of the year, and expects to ship 12 million in the second half of the year. The company previously projected selling 12 million smartphones for the entire year.

ZTE said it plans to launch more than 30 smartphones in the second half of the year, including middle and high-end models based on Windows Phone 7 and Android platforms.

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