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ZTE ZMax Pro lands at MetroPCS for jaw-droppingly low $99

ZTE hopes the phone draws some heads among budget-conscious consumers looking for premium features without a premium price.

Jeff Yee, a ZTE executive, holds up the ZMax Pro at an event in New York.
Roger Cheng/CNET

ZTE continues to press its advantage on big, affordable phones.

The Chinese handset manufacturer on Monday unveiled the ZMax Pro, an exclusive jumbo-sized phone for prepaid carrier MetroPCS. The phone costs $99 after a MetroPCS instant rebate. It will be available on August 1, and preorders begin today.

It's the latest attempt by a low-cost phone vendor to make its mark on the US market, something that has gotten easier as consumers get savvier and more budget-conscious about their purchases. ZTE has built its reputation through affordable, high-quality phones in the prepaid market, but seeks to break out more with mainstream consumers.

With the ZMax Pro, which is a follow-up from the ZMax 2 from 2015, ZTE is hoping the combination of price and specifications draws attention. The phone packs a 6-inch display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front-facing camera, 2 gigabytes of RAM, a USB Type C input, a 3,400-mAh battery and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor with quick-charging capabilities. It comes with 32 GB of internal storage and a slot for expandable memory.

It will be hard for other companies to match the level of quality of the device at $99, ZTE's North American CEO, Lixin Cheng (no relation), said in an interview.

For MetroPCS, which is owned by T-Mobile, the Zmax Pro provides a large phone with the appearance of a premium finish -- a ZTE specialty. The phone also boasts a rear fingerprint sensor, a feature often found in more high-end devices.

The $99 come after an instant rebate of $100 provided by MetroPCS. ZTE confirmed that it would remain at $99 at the prepaid carrier.

MetroPCS and ZTE have had a long-standing relationship. ZTE built its first US phone for MetroPCS in 2007.

The ZMax Pro follows the debut of the Axon 7, which is ZTE's attempt to break into the high-end market with a phone sold directly to consumers. Pre-orders for the phone began on Friday, and Cheng said that orders already exceeded its first batch of phones.

Updated at 2:25 p.m. PT: To include comments from the ZTE executive.