ZTE Skate Android 2.3 Smartphone Joins NFC Party

The ZTE Skate is an Android 2.3 smartphone the Chinese handset maker introduced at Mobile World Congress Feb. 14. The device will be powered by an 800MHz processor.

ZTE Feb. 14 unveiled the Skate, an Android 2.3 smartphone, at Mobile World Congress Feb. 14.

The 4.2-ounce Skate offers a 4.3-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera running on HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) networks worldwide.

However, it is powered by an 800MHz processor, which could present a barrier to buy in an era where the 1GHz processor-and now dual-core 1GHz processors-has become the industry standard for high-end smartphones.

ZTE has not announced pricing for the Skate, which should be available by May. However, the Skate chip's clock speed might put it in the sub-$200 range in the United States.

This should be no surprise, as ZTE has long buttered its bread by offering sub-$100 handsets, including some of the 65 million handsets the manufacturer shipped in 2010.

The real story here is that ZTE is backing Android 2.3, which is so far only available on Samsung's Nexus S smartphone in the United States and will be powering Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphones later this year. LG's Optimus 3D smartphone will ship with Android 2.2 but will be upgradable to Android 2.3 this year.

Android 2.3 stands apart from previous OS builds because of the native near field communications (NFC) capabilities baked into the build.

On phones that include NFC sensors and run NFC applications, this will enable consumers to make contactless payments from their smartphones, among other transactions.

Google, which Feb. 2 improved the NFC capabilities in Android 2.3, could unveil a mobile payment service centered on NFC capabilities at Mobile World Congress this week, according to analysts from Susquehanna Research.

Susquehanna's research note Feb. 14 cited Google's experimentation with NFC in Portland, Ore., and the company's pledge that more than 50 developers will demonstrate their latest phone and tablet apps at the Android booth in Hall 8.