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Chinese Cell Brand Makes U.S. Debut

ZTE's C88 is the first phone from the Chinese company to wash up on U.S. shores. It's pretty goodand inexpensive, too

ZTE isn't exactly a household name in the U.S., but the Chinese company's cell phones are well known in its home country and India. Now ZTE is giving the U.S. market a try with a phone called the C88. Though a pretty basic flip phone, the C88 may provide insight into ZTE's design and market philosophy for other handsets to come. "We want to be a mainstream player," says Drew Wilkens, a handset director at ZTE. "We think we can compete against LG, Samsung, and Motorola (MOT)."

The first U.S. carrier to introduce the C88 is MetroPCS (PCS), which offers prepaid wireless service in 10 metropolitan areas including Miami and Los Angeles. Many of Metro's 3.6 million customers are budget-conscious consumers looking for a good deal: Metro charges as little as $30 a month and doesn't require contracts. But it also doesn't offer discounts on the list price for phones like the big carriers do, so ZTE tried to create a reasonably priced device. Depending on the store, the C88 sells for $129 to $149.