ZTE brings premium features to its mid-range Blade line

ZTE’s one of those workhorse smartphone companies you don’t hear much about, aside from the occasional misguided flirtation with a bizarre form factor, a la the dual-screen Axon M. But the Chinese handset manufacturer still powers away and manages to produce some solid handsets at bargain bin prices.

The company hasn’t officially announced pricing on the Blade V9 — though it did note in a meeting with TechCrunch last week that the handset will arrive at under $300. That’s the cutoff price point for the Blade line, with the more premium Axon tier running $400 and up.

I played around with the phone a bit during the meeting, and can attest to the fact that it’s got a pretty solid build for the low-mid-range category. Both sides are made from glass, with a sort of rainbow treated version on the back the company calls “Aurora Glass.” There’s dual rear-facing cameras, with one 16-megapixel lens, improved shooting in lowlight and built-in face detection.

Information is still forthcoming with regard to exact pricing and availability. Likely the device will get some carrier representation here in the States. Unlike Huawei, which also got name-checked in a recent high-profile call out from half a dozen top intelligence officials, ZTE’s actually got a pretty good track record with U.S. carrier partnership. In fact, carriers represent a majority of the handset maker’s distribution here in the States.

Here’s a handy statement the company provided TechCrunch the last time in ran afoul some negative sentiment from law enforcement officials.

ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the US market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards. Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate US-made chipsets, US-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our US suppliers, US customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs.

Also notable is the continued inclusion of a headphone jack — still a pretty important part of the equation for mid-tier/budget phone. After all, it seems pretty counterproductive to charge $300 for a phone and require people pay another $200 for a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Though the ZTE rep I spoke with did suggest that company does see itself moving toward a headphone jack free future at some point.