ZTE Wants Your Help to Design Its Next Smartphone

As it plans for a new smartphone in 2017, the company is asking users to join a special "Project CSX" effort to help design the device.

ZTE, ZTE Axon 7, smartphones, Project CSX, Chinese smartphones, Android

Chinese mobile device maker ZTE is seeking help and direct input from mobile phone fanatics in the development of a new smartphone in 2017 by asking them to join a special program that will take user input to create a new device.

Project CSX, which was unveiled by ZTE on Aug. 3, will allow mobile phone fans to submit their ideas, desired features and opinions about what they would like to see or not see in the user-designed smartphone when it is unveiled in 2017. Project CSX will be part of ZTE's member-led Z-Community online forums, where participants can register to provide their input to the project.

"This is the first time a phone manufacturer is stepping out and crowdsourcing something entirely new, from start to finish," Lixin Cheng, chairman and CEO of ZTE USA, said in a statement. "It's a bold approach for the industry that demonstrates how ZTE keeps consumers at the heart of everything we imagine, design and deliver. Project CSX is taking our core value to the next level."

The Project CSX effort will engage "directly with consumers at every step of the development process, from conception to what is finally delivered to consumers," the company said. The effort will be broken into two key development stages where users can submit and vote for their favorite ideas for the upcoming device.

All submissions must meet three rules for Project CSX—the ideas must be for a mobile product, the technology "must be realistically possible by 2017" and the final product must be affordable for the general population, according to ZTE.

Small cash prizes will be awarded to winning ideas and popular submissions throughout the process, the company said. A chance to win a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is also available to a winning entrant. "Participants will have the opportunity to say they helped create an innovative mobile device that friends, family, and acquaintances will be able to purchase," while participants registered on Z-Community will have early access to be able to purchase the final product.

"Sometimes the best ideas come from people outside of a company who have a fresh take we wouldn't have thought of otherwise," Jeff Yee, vice president of technology planning and partnerships at ZTE USA, said in a statement. "ZTE is an end-to-end telecommunications company and has the resources to develop all types of devices, not just smartphones. Maybe there are other ways we could be connecting that we have never imagined. We are excited to find out."

CSX is an acronym for the aim of the project, according to the company. It stands for Crowd Sourced X, which is a crowdsourced effort to build any tech project, hence the "X" designation, the company said in an Aug. 3 post on its Z-Community Blog. "We want to build the best products for you and for everyone around the world. To do this, we welcome your ideas, your comments, your votes and any participation that you feel comfortable that will help us to build the next great thing."

In May, ZTE unveiled its latest premier Android smartphone, the Axon 7 (pictured), according to an earlier eWEEK story. The handset, which is built with an aluminum chassis and exterior, is priced at $399 and works on all major U.S. carriers. The Axon 7 handset features a 5.5-inch AMOLED Wide Quad HD (WQHD) touch-screen display with 2,560-by-1,440 resolution (538ppi), a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 display cover and a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 MSM8996 processor with an integrated Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU. The smartphone comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage or with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Both models also include a microSD slot that holds memory cards up to 128GB for expanded storage.

The Axon 7 also includes a 20-megapixel rear-facing camera that uses a Samsung ISO-cell sensor, an F1.8 sapphire lens, Optical Image Stabilization, Electronic Image Stabilization, Phase Detection Auto Focus and dual LED flash. The camera features a Super Auto mode that includes Night Shot, Auto HDR and Automatic Scene Optimization capabilities, as well as additional manual, beauty selfie, refocus, slow motion, live photo, multi-exposure and long-exposure settings.

The ZTE Axon 7 is a dual SIM phone that will operate on GSM, CDMA and UMTS networks, including the major mobile carriers in the U.S. The phone will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. to start, with Sprint and Verizon capabilities coming "possibly later in the year," according to ZTE.

Also featured in the phone is a rear-mounted fingerprint reader for user authentication and security, dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets, Dolby Atmos surround sound and dual front-facing speakers for excellent audio quality, and a 3,140mAh, nonremovable battery and quick-charging capabilities.

The phone runs on the Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system and is 5.97 inches long, 2.95 inches wide and 0.34 inches thick, and it weighs 6.52 ounces. It is available in Ion Gold and Quartz Gray colors.