ZTE wants you to design its next smartphone

Telecoms equipment giant to crowdsource inspiration for a mobile device to go on sale next year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 11:02pm

ZTE, China’s largest listed telecommunications equipment manufacturer, is asking the public for ideas on how its next major smartphone should be designed, under an initiative called “Project CSX”.

This plan is initially being rolled out by Hong Kong-listed ZTE in the United States, where research firm Strategy Analytics said the company was the fourth top-selling smartphone brand in the first quarter.

“This is the first time a phone manufacturer is stepping out and crowdsourcing something entirely new, from start to finish,” said Cheng Lixin, the chairman and chief executive at ZTE USA.

Crowdsourcing first emerged in 2005, and refers to the process of obtaining needed ideas, services or content by asking for contributions from a large group of people, rather than from an organisation’s traditional pool of resources or suppliers.

ZTE’s member-led forum, Z-Community, will serve as the platform for participating and generating feedback throughout the entire development process.

Jeff Yee, ZTE USA’s vice-president of technology planning and partnerships, said: “Sometimes the best ideas come from people outside of a company who have a fresh take we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

This is the first time a phone manufacturer is stepping out and crowdsourcing something entirely new, from start to finish
Cheng Lixin, the chairman and chief executive at ZTE USA

The smartphone model developed under Project CSX will be launched next year. The project will be broken into two key development stages, in which Z-Community users can submit and then vote for their favourite ideas.

A submission will be held to three rules: it must be a mobile product, the technology must be realistically possible by 2017, and the final product must be affordable for the general population.

The Shenzhen-headquartered firm said winning ideas and popular submissions will be awarded with small cash prizes throughout the process.

The crowdsourcing endeavour followed ZTE’s announcement last month of a 1.2 billion yuan fund to invest in private technology, media and telecommunications start-ups.

While ZTE may not admit it, Project CSX appears to have been inspired by how Xiaomi, the high-flying Chinese technology start-up, has engaged its users through an online community that provides regular feedback about its smartphones and other hardware, as well as their software and services.

At the end of last year, privately held Xiaomi was the world’s fifth-largest smartphone supplier, according to research firm IDC.

Xiaomi has since been overtaken in IDC’s top-five global rankings during the past two quarters by Oppo and Vivo, two brands run by Dongguan-based BBK Electronics.

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