Rookie looks ready to beat peer pres­sure

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG - By LI TAO in Shen­zhen

li­tao@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

In July 2015, when ZTE of­fi­cially launched its Axon phones for the high-end mar­ket, Adam Zeng Xuezhong told a press con­fer­ence that he would per­son­ally do­nate 1 yuan (15 US cents) to a char­ity fund for army veter­ans each time an Axon hand­set is sold, whether at home or over­seas.

It has been more than five months since the prod­uct launch, dur­ing which two sib­lings of the flag­ship model, Axon Max and Axon Mini, have also hit the shelves. How­ever, Zeng has yet to release the of­fi­cial sales data of the Axon se­ries.

ZTE’s mo­bile de­vices di­vi­sion chief, how­ever, promised the re­sults will be even­tu­ally re­vealed when the next gen­er­a­tion of Axon phones is launched, which will also be the time when the amount of money con­trib­uted to the veter­ans’ fund is an­nounced to the pub­lic.

Zeng also said that the Axon mini, the small­est version in the se­ries, is the world’s first smart­phone to de­liver a pres­sure-sen­si­tive touch screen, and ZTE in­tro­duced this even ahead of Ap­ple Inc, which adopted the tech­nol­ogy for its lat­est gen­er­a­tion of iPhones.

“I said ear­lier that sales of Axon will be counted in the mil­lions, and they have been grow­ing in tune with my expectations since the brand launched in July,” Zeng told China Daily, adding that the Chi­nese main­land ac­counted for about half of the Axon hand­sets sold glob­ally, while the rest were sold in over­seas mar­kets.

Fur­ther growth in the Chi­nese mar­ket is now cru­cial for ZTE’s smart­phone di­vi­sion in 2016 as sales rev­enue re­mains a bur­den, Zeng ad­mit­ted.

Join­ing ZTE right af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Ts­inghua Univer­sity in 1996, Zeng served as a chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the com­pany’s Guiyang branch, be­fore tak­ing over as ZTE’s China chief ex­ec­u­tive to oversee the com­pany’s oper­a­tions from car­rier so­lu­tions to mo­bile de­vices be­tween 2006 and 2013.

But the com­pany has been pa­tient enough, wait­ing to de­velop a qual­ity prod­uct like Axon be­fore hit­ting the smart­phone mar­ket. And af­ter test­ing the wa­ters for the past few months, Zeng be­lieves this is the right mo­ment to forecast that smart­phone sales will at least dou­ble in the home mar­ket this year.

Ac­cord­ing to lat­est data, ZTE shipped 26 mil­lion smart­phones world­wide in the first half of 2015, not count­ing Axon hand­sets as they were yet to be launched then.

But the fast ex­pan­sion of smart­phone consumption in China ap­pears to have al­ready peaked last year, with US-based re­search firm Gart­ner in­di­cat­ing that sales in China fell 4 per­cent dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter of 2015 — the first drop in the mar­ket in six years.

ZTE is also fac­ing tremen­dous pres­sure from peers like Huawei and Xiaomi, which have been launch­ing both high-end and af­ford­able smart­phone mod­els at a reg­u­lar clip as the race hots up to of­fer higher func­tion and fea­tures at ever-lower price tags.

ZTE’s suc­cess story in over­seas mar­kets will help fur­ther lift its mo­bile de­vice sales abroad, Zeng be­lieves. The Chi­nese brand is cur­rently the fourth-largest smart­phone ven­dor in the US mar­ket by ship­ment, be­hind global lead­ers Ap­ple and Sam­sung, and within strik­ing dis­tance of LG Elec­tron­ics.

The com­pany has marked down 20 coun­tries as key mar­kets for its global smart­phone sales world­wide, Zeng said, but did not elab­o­rate. “If ZTE can suc­ceed in th­ese 20 coun­tries, then it is an over­all suc­cess for ZTE,” he said.

I said ear­lier that sales of Axon will be counted in the mil­lions, and they have been grow­ing in tune with my expectations since the brand launched in July (2015). ”

PARKER ZHENG /CHINA DAILY

ZTE Corp has been pa­tient in first de­vel­op­ing a qual­ity prod­uct like Axon be­fore hit­ting the smart­phone mar­ket, and mo­bile de­vices chief Adam Zeng Xuezhong be­lieves this is the right mo­ment to forecast that smart­phone sales will at least dou­ble in the home mar­ket this year.

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