Locked, Unlocked Phones Mix It Up

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NEW YORK – Android smartphones unveiled by suppliers in recent days range from high-end unlocked smartphones to affordable carrier-locked phones.

ZTE led the introduction of flagship phones with its first Axon-series phone, which is the company’s first phone designed in the U.S. for the U.S. market. Separately, Boca Raton, Fla.- based Ubik Mobile, a startup subsidiary of Korean OEM phone maker Vitsmo, unveiled its first phone, the flagship in a planned series of phones.

For sale through carriers and MVNOs, HTC began rolling out its new Desire series of affordable phones, which it expects to be broadly available through prepaid and postpaid carriers in the U.S.in the coming months. Here’s what’s coming:

HTC: The new Desire series phones are the Desire 626, 626s, 526 and 520. Prepaid and postpaid carriers carrying the devices will include AT&T, Boost Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS, Sprint Prepaid, T-Mobile, Tracfone, Verizon Wireless and Virgin Mobile USA.

The first Desire phones appeared last year to offer more affordable versions of the company’s flagship phone, which this year is the HTC One M9.

All feature LTE, quad-core 1.1GHz processor, 2,000 mAh battery, and 8-megapixel 720p primary camera. The postpaid 626 and 626s have 5-inch 720p 1280 by 720 displays, choice of colors, 1.5GB RAM, 16GB memory, and 200GB MicroSD slot. The 526, said to be a Verizon exclusive, features a 4.7-inch quarter HD 960 by 540 display with 234 ppi, 1.5GB RAM, and 8GB memory. The 520 features a 4.5-inch display and 1GB RAM.

As for front-facing cameras, the 626 comes with 5-megapixel front camera, while the others feature 2-megapixel front cameras.

For its part, T-Mobile plans to offer the 626s starting July 22 at $169.99. Sprint plans July 19 availability with its Sprint Prepaid service at $129.

Ubik Mobile: The company is launching a Kickstarter campaign this week to launch the Uno, which features 5.5-inch FullHD IPS display, pure-Android UI, aluminum frame, 64-bit Media Tek 2.2GHz octacore processor, 3GB RAM, 20-megapixel main camera with Sony CMOS sensor, and AT&T and T-Mobile LTE bands. The main camera captures 4K video and, in 720p resolution, captures 120 fps video for slow-motion playback.

It will cost $345 to consumers who don’t participate in the Kickstarter campaign, which will last 45 days. Production will begin 30 to 45 days after that.

The company will sell through its web site and expects to partner with Amazon. Down the road, the company will look for additional online retailers but will stay out of brick-and-mortar stores to keep costs down.

ZTE: The Axon Pro is positioned as an “affordable premium smartphone” said to match or beat the performance of the latest flagships from Apple, LG and Samsung at a lower price.

The $449.98 Axon Pro was developed with input from U.S. consumers who cited a smartphone’s audio and video performance and battery life as key concerns, said Jeff Yee, VP of technology planning and partnerships for ZTE USA. He said the phone delivers better audio performance than any other smartphone in the U.S. market, thanks to a 192kHz/24-bit DAC and separate 192/24 ADC made by home-audio DAC maker AKM Semiconductor.

The price of the metal-chassis phone is lower than that of the iPhone 6 Plus at $750, LG G4 at $600, and Samsung Galaxy S6 at $700, and it offers more RAM at 4GB, the company said.

Key features include 64-bit 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor, 5.5-inch quad-HD 2560 by 1440 display with Gorilla Glass 3, Android 5.1.1 OS, 32GB storage, 3,000mAh battery, 4G LTE in all T-Mobile and AT&T bands as well as in global bands, ability to charge up to 50 percent in 30 minutes, and choice of three colors.

The LTE phone will be available unlocked July 27 through ZTEUsa.com, Amazon, eBay and Newegg.com, but the company is looking at additional distribution, including brick-and-mortar retailers.

On the video side, the phone is promoted as offering DSLR features, thanks to a chipset and software from Altek Group that delivers 4K 30 fps video capture, boost low-light performance, and delivers fast image capture, an Altek spokesperson told TWICE.

Altek leverages dual main cameras with 13- and 2-megapixel performance to enable users to change the focus after taking a picture by simply pressing the part of the image that they want to sharpen or blur.

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