Chinese manufacturer ZTE is relatively unknown in the US, but offers some of the most competitive low cost smartphones out there. Today at IFA in Berlin, the company announced three new smartphones that offer solid performance and aesthetics at a great price. It also shed a little light on why there are no plans to ship the devices to the US.

Over the last year the low-cost smartphone market has become extremely competitive. Key devices like the Moto G and E show that it’s possible to get a solid Android experience without breaking the bank.

All three of ZTE’s new devices speak to the ethos. The Blade Vec is a 5-inch smartphone available in 3G and 4G configurations. Both versions of the handset pack quad core 1.3 GHz processors and 720p displays, and both are svelte at just 7.8 mm (0.3 in) thick.

Aside from the obvious radio differences, the 4G model packs better front and rear cameras (rear 13 MP versus 8 MP on the 3G) and features 16 GB storage, topping the 3G model’s 8 GB.

Both versions of the smartphone feature a fingerprint-resistant glass fiber construction that ZTE claims provides a good weight to stress ratio, coming in at half the weight of aluminum while still maintaining good durability. Both run the latest version of Android – something that we’ve increasingly seen from manufacturers.

Both Blade Vec handsets ran smoothly through multiple applications, including light games like Temple Run 2. The design feels solid, but features sharp edges that are a little uncomfortable in the hand.

The third announced device is a budget handset known as the Kis 3 Max. Despite its decidedly low-end nature, the smartphone’s shiny plastic construction still felt solid in the hand. There’s nothing particularly exciting going on internally, with the handset running on 1.3 GHz dual core chip with just 512 MB RAM, and carrying a 4.5-inch FWVGA display.

The device packs a couple of interesting features, including customizable home keys, allowing the user to switch around the functionality to suit their needs – a great feature for left-handed users. It also features a remote data deletion tool, where the user can set up a number that they can simply text “block” or “erase” to in order to perform the action and stop their data from falling into the wrong hands.

The Blade Vec 3G is currently announced for imminent release in Germany, while the 4G model is schedule for a wider European release, also starting with Germany in October. The Blade Vec 3G retails for €179 (US$235), while the 4G variant will set customers back €229 ($301). The Kis 3 Max is even more wallet-friendly, coming in at just €99 ($130), releasing in Germany, UK, Greece and Bulgaria.

At the IFA press event, the company stated that it’s unlikely that the devices will make the hop over to the US, as it believes that US customers are more interested in high-end specs, while European consumers pay more attention to design.

Product page: ZTE

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