ZTE stealth launches its brand via 3 UK -

Chinese handset supplier, ZTE, edged closer to establishing its brand name in the UK today, with the launch of its first ever Android handset – the Racer.

Technically this Android Éclair (2.1) handset is dual branded – with the ZTE Logo on the front and the 3 UK logo on the back, but the lines of distinction are blurring here.

 Previously, ZTE handsets on 3 have been restricted to using the ZTE logo on the packaging. The Racer with ZTE emblazoned on its screen face is the next step towards taking on the Nokias of this world.

The whole ethos of the Racer is that it delivers a true ‘Android smartphone’ experience for a penny under £100.

The jury is still out over whether such a strategy will work. Just how ‘cool’ can the Racer be as a £99 handset when in essence it costs £300less than a pukka handset from the like of HTC and Apple?

But there just might be a niche market for those who want a touchscreen ‘internet’ mobile phone without having to sign their lives away to an 18 month contract.

Another question mark hangs over whether the Racer will actually be upgradeable to Android version 2.2 (Froyo)?

One observer questioned whether the Racer’s budget Qualcomm 7227 processor would be up to the job of an upgrade to 2.2.

The real disappointment, however, was that the actual user interface experience with the Racer. Unfortunately for ZTE initial impressions were that the handset genuinely feels ‘cheap’.

At the launch there was plenty of discussion as to whether a capacitive based touchscreen was vital as opposed to the capacitive screen which the Racer actually supports. Most consumers can’t tell the difference was the overall consensus.

The Racer is a classic case of “you pays your money and you get exactly what you’ve paid for.” Which at £100 isn’t much. Apple will clearly not be quaking in its boots offer possible competition from the Racer.