Phablets often include large price tags to accompany their large screens and big aspirations of serving as tablets, but ZTE USA is releasing a bulky smartphone at a price that's slim enough to fit the handset into the pockets of budget-conscious consumers.

The 5.7-inch ZMax can be had for $252 without a contract or subsidized on a 24-month agreement with T-Mobile and purchased at $10.50 each month. The phablet features a quad-core Snapdragon processor, clocks at 1.2 GHZ, and has an 8-MP rear camera and a 1.6-MP chat cam.

"ZTE's ZMax combines the latest technology with distinctive design to give our customers an incredibly affordable large-screen smartphone," said Jason Young, senior vice president of marketing at T-Mobile. "And on T-Mobile's fastest nationwide LTE network with Wi-Fi Un-leashed and Simple Global, you've got worldwide coverage the old carriers can't begin to match."

Lixin Cheng, chairman and CEO of ZTE USA, said the introduction of the ZMax will be followed by other ZTE entries in the U.S. mobile market, as the Chinese handset maker attempts to establish a brand in the States. Putting a ZTE-branded device in the hands of consumers is the best way to build brand loyalty, Cheng said at a press conference.

"The ZMax is the latest example of ZTE designing devices with the user in mind -- it has more battery life, more screen and more style, but it does not cost you more," said Cheng. "When customers see the unique look of ZTE smartphones and the technology, they are surprised our phones are a third of the cost of mainstream brands. We think the ZMax is going to be a great addition to T-Mobile's Un-carrier proposition and we are excited to have the ZMax on their network."

Cheng indicated ZTE USA plans to gain a solid footing the U.S. by dangling low price tags to promote the mobile device manufacturer's wares. Consumers are becoming savvier about the true costs of mobile devices, said  Cheng.

While ZTE USA is looking to make some noise now with the cost-efficient ZMax, Cheng said the U.S. subsidiary of the Chinese handset maker has operated in the country since 2007.

Cheng indicated ZTE USA was already a player in the emerging market for phablets, but the rise in prominence of the devices offered from other manufacturers is helping its own products get more attention. Samsung filled the pool with its Galaxy Note series, and now Apple is looking to make a splash with its 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

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