Lenovo Vibe Z Android Smartphone Is First With LTE

The Lenovo Vibe Z, a high-end Android smartphone with LTE and a 5.5-inch display, isn't likely to come to the U.S. But a follow-up device might.

Lenovo has introduced its first LTE-enabled smartphone, the Vibe Z. The 5.5-inch Android-running smartphone is the lead device in a foursome Lenovo introduced Jan. 2 that includes a 6-inch S930, the 4.7-inch S650 and a "tweener" 5-inch device, the A859.

The Vibe Z's full-high-definition display has a resolution of 1920 by 1080, a wide viewing angle and 400 pixels per inch. It runs Android 4.3, an 800 quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and has 2GB of memory, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera (with an f1.8 aperture) and a 5-megapixel front camera. Available in silver or titanium, it measures 7.9mm thin and weighs 147grams. (For context, the Apple iPhone 5S, which has a 4-inch display, measures 7.6mm and weighs 112 grams.)

"We created the new Vibe Z with its elegant design, high performance and custom software so that people can truly have the best smartphone experience now at the speed of LTE [Long Term Evolution]," Liu Jun, senior vice president of the Lenovo Business Group, said in a statement.

Lenovo, the top-ranking PC seller in the world, is now also the third-ranking seller of smartphones globally. During the third quarter of 2013, according to Gartner, Lenovo sold 12.9 million smartphones—a nearly 85 percent boost over the same quarter the year before—and most of them in China.

In its home country, Lenovo is the second-ranking smartphone vendor, behind Samsung and ahead of Yulong, Huawei and Apple, respectively. During the third quarter, Lenovo held a 12.5 percent share of the smartphone market in China, down slightly from its 13 percent share a year earlier, according to the Associated Press.

As Apple and others work to grow their share of the market in China, Lenovo has made no secret of its need to expand elsewhere. In the past two years, it has introduced smartphones in 18 additional countries.

Ken Hyers, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, said he doesn't expect the Vibe Z to make it to the United States, but he won't be surprised to see a "follow-on device" offered by at least one U.S. carrier during the second half of the year.

"While China, Russia and select markets in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region have been its focus in 2013, it is now shifting focus and adding new markets. Lenovo plans to enter up to 20 new markets in the first half of 2014, including select ones in Western Europe," Hyers told eWEEK.

"The Vibe Z is the sharp end of the spear for Lenovo's Western European market strategy, as it offers high-end smartphones that will compete directly with better-known device brands in the West."

The Vibe Z isn't likely to take much share away from Samsung or Apple, Hyers added, but its high-end specs will likely make it a threat to smaller brands such as HTC, LG Electronics and Sony.

"Lenovo is not following the strategy of other Chinese vendors, such as Huawei and ZTE, who in the United States compete on value rather than high-end specs," said Hyers, but will instead work with Western European operators where subsidies are part of the market dynamics.

While Lenovo has clear ambitions to be a top-three player in developed markets, Hyers noted, "it's realistic enough to recognize that this is a multi-year process and [the company] is therefore being very strategic in how and when it enters those markets."

The Vibe Z will arrive in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Philippines in February, starting at $549.

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