ZTE USA recently launched it latest device — the Axon 10 Pro — in to the U.S. market to provide consumers with a premium flagship smartphone at a reasonable price. With this new device now available and a range of smartphones about to enter the ZTE USA portfolio, we thought it was a good time to sit down with Jeff Yee, VP, Innovation and Partnerships.
We get his take on security, how the company continues to deliver what consumers want in a smartphone and how that value drives his passion for working at ZTE.
Q. What would you say makes ZTE smartphones (such as the Axon 10 Pro) unique compared to devices from other brands?
Jeff: Value. Phones should not cost more than laptops. The market is at that point now. But when you start selling phones for more than $1,000, most people get priced out of the market. That’s against our mission. ZTE has always driven down the price of technology without sacrificing function and will continue to do so.
The value we create is one of the reasons why I’m at ZTE. I believe in the founder and his original mission — bringing affordable communications services to everyone. Thirty years ago that meant bringing landlines and service to rural areas where people didn’t even have a telephone. Technology has evolved.
Now, it’s about providing internet access to people that either didn’t have it or couldn’t afford to have it on a daily basis. That’s one of the reasons why it’s fun to be at ZTE — to drive down the prices on both sides — the cost of cellular service and the cost of mobile devices. Take prepaid phones, for instance. We’ve made the screens larger and more usable so that nowadays, for $100 or $200, people have access to the internet anytime, anywhere. That’s been a joy of working at ZTE.
When you think about the Axon 10 Pro, it brings the main features people want in a phone — speed, a good battery, an awesome camera and more. Spec by spec, we compare to other brands’ flagships. In fact, I’d argue that our specs are superior to many of those flagships. Then, when you consider the Axon 10 Pro’s price starts at less than $550, there’s really no smarter choice on the market today.
Q: As users put more personal data on their devices, how does ZTE design smartphones to ensure that personal information is secure?
Jeff: ZTE is committed to security at every stage of the product lifecycle. We work closely with software and hardware partners, suppliers and carriers. The operating system we use — Google’s Android — is used by nearly 9 out of 10 phones around the world.
When Google issues security updates to the OS, we aim to quickly push those updates out to devices. The same is true of firmware updates, when our suppliers make security updates available, such as Qualcomm for the processors used in almost all of our U.S. devices.
All of our device updates are approved and certified to meet FCC requirements, Google certification and carriers’ criteria. In addition, we’ve taken additional measures recently to have U.S.-based security firms audit our devices for any potential issues. We consistently meet and exceed requirements for security at every level.
Q: Some have expressed concern about the security of devices from ZTE — is there any merit to this?
Jeff: At this point we hope people realize that the data and security allegations were proven to be false. We’ll continue to take every effort to make sure consumers feel confident with a ZTE device and know that their security and privacy is at the top of our minds.
To that end, we engaged with multiple third parties to assess, test and report on our devices. Gossamer Security Solutions, Atredis Partners and Carve Systems conducted security assessments and penetration testing. In each of these tests, no instances of security violations related to the allegations were found.
The proof is also in the pudding. None of the 50 million phones sold in the U.S. — phones that went through rigorous carrier testing — were ever found to have data privacy issues. Dozens of tech journalists also scrutinize our devices with their own tests. Some of our super users do their own checks too.
We respect a consumer’s right to privacy and ownership of their data. Our goal is always to put the best and most secure mobile technology into your hands.
Q: Speaking of the best, can say a brief word on quality?
Jeff: We’ve sold more than 50 million devices in the U.S. mostly through carriers. On top of our own quality assurance testing, the carriers set a high bar for quality we must adhere to as well. We meet those stringent requirements.
Q. What can consumers expect for Axon 10 Pro security and OS updates?
The Axon 10 will be updated to Android 10 before the end of this year. We’ll continue to support upgrades, including security patches, for at least two years from the launch of the phone.
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffsyee.