ZTE Android handsets are ash cloud victims -

Unexpected victims of the European air flight ban (thanks to volcanic ash) are apparently a number of new handset models from stellar-performing Chinese manufacturer, ZTE. TechEye believes that – without the cloud - the handsets, including at least one Android model,  should have been launched yesterday.

Details of the missing handsets are very sketchy, but ZTE definitely says it intends to launch eight new handsets and three new mobile broadband dongles onto the UK market in what's left of 2010.

Two of those eight new models will definitely be Android based and at the ZTE Pess conference, a working version of one of them was available for viewing.

The mobile phone appears to have a working name of  Racer, but it's final model designation hasn't been decided.

One snag with predicting ZTE's business plan is that it only sells through the mobile phone operators – not through retail operations. It thus doesn't launch until it has a buyer.

So, while the Android handset which Techeye managed to see was definitely a version 1.6 model, ZTE's mobile operator partner(s) might now wait until a 2.1 version is available in quantity before launching.

The company hinted that the Racer would be very cost competitive, while a second Android handset due out in 2010 would have a higher spec and is currently codenamed the Blade.

ZTE UK's director of mobile device operations, Wu Sa, admitted that his company was bound by its operator customers' demands.

While it has full R&D development teams in place to sell handsets based on another mobile OS rather than Android, he wouldn't confirm that it was Windows Phone.

TechEye only managed a cursory look at the Racer because another hack mistook our own ZTE handset for a demo model and started playing with it.

Hopefully as soon as ZTE can announce which operators will be taking the Racer, loan models will become available.

Incidentally, Wu Sa didn't bite on TechEye's suggestion that broadband dongle sales would suffer as Netbook/laptop manufacturers start building the capability into their products. He didn't see this trend impacting dongle sales in 2010 at all.

As anyone at Psion Dacom could tell you, relying too heavily on external devices could prove fatal. That modem supplier collapsed as sales of PCMCIA modems disappeared.