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Want the ZTE Grand S? Americans on hold until 2014

The larger Grand Memo, meanwhile, is expected to come this year.

ZTE's Grand S aims high with premium features.
The ZTE Grand S won't be coming until next year. Lynn La/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- ZTE's quest to launch a flagship smartphone in the U.S. has hit a temporary snag.

The ZTE Grand S, one of the more impressive smartphones shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, won't arrive here until next year, Lixin Cheng, head of the company's North American division, told CNET on Tuesday.

ZTE had grand plans for its Grand phone, and the company said in January that it was confident that the flagship device would make its way to U.S. shores soon. Cheng attributed the delay to the extra time needed to accommodate the requests of its wireless carrier customers. He also said that ZTE wouldn't be selling a year-old phone once it debuts here, and that the device will likely be a phone in the "Grand S family."

"The Grand S series will evolve," he said.

The delay underscores the continued difficulties that ZTE has when it comes to breaking through in the U.S. market. The company has made some progress in the prepaid market for affordable phones, where it now boasts the No. 3 position among vendors, but it hasn't had the same success with the national carriers.

ZTE didn't have much to show off at CTIA. Indeed, it doesn't have a booth here, and its only presence is a sponsored escalator in the convention show. Cheng spent most of his time discussing the progress ZTE has made in the U.S. market. As the third-largest provider of prepaid phones in the U.S., it boasted 85.7 percent year-over-year growth here in the first quarter.

Still, the company doesn't have much of a name in the U.S., which is likely why it is having difficulties getting its higher-end Grand S out in the market with a carrier partner. Cheng said that the larger Grand Memo phablet, which debuted at Mobile World Congress in February, would come later this year.

Cheng said ZTE plans to invest in bringing out more products and is sticking to its push for "affordable premium" products. The company has been reluctant in the past to spend too much on marketing its brand, preferring instead to focus its resources on products. Cheng said that while the company this year plans to expand the products it will sell in the U.S., it also will increase its spending on promoting the brand.

So while ZTE has a goal to be the No. 4 recognized smartphone brand in the world, but it still has a lot of work ahead in the U.S.