ZTE became the second device maker to offer a direct-to-consumer smartphone lease program Wednesday, with the unveiling of a payment option in collaboration with SmartPay Leasing Inc.
The announcement follows a similar offer from Apple, which introduced a device leasing program last month, and heads off an expected announcement from Samsung, which was rumored to be contemplating its own consumer lease program. ZTE is the fourth largest smartphone supplier in the United States and the second largest provider of devices in the no-contract market, according to Strategy Analytics’ North America Handset Vendor Market Share Q2 2015 report.
“We are introducing leasing options because we believe advanced mobile technology should be available to everyone,” said ZTE USA CEO and chairman Lixin Cheng. “We also want the experience of purchasing and using a ZTE device to be easy for any consumer. How customers want to pay versus the amount they are comfortable paying are equally important – and ZTE can provide the best of both worlds.”
According to a press release, the company will offer a lease-to-own program for its unlocked devices, such as the Axon Pro, through a partnership with SmartPay. Customers can receive instant approval online for a lease term of six to 24 months, with the first payment being made at checkout. The first lease payment may range from $0 to 25 percent of the total lease amount and must be made with a debit card.
After all payments are made, consumers will own the device. The company said leases can be paid off early without penalty in most states, though certain restrictions do apply for customers residing in New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Customers are permitted to upgrade to a new device in the middle of their lease provided they are up-to-date on all their payments and return the device in good working order, the company said.
The lease plans will be available online to all consumers “soon,” according to the press release.
The program appears to be similar to one launched last month by Apple. Dubbed the iPhone Upgrade Program, the lease offers consumers the newest unlocked iPhone – with a yearly upgrade option and AppleCare – for $32.41 for the 16GB iPhone 6s model and $36.58 for the 6s Plus over 24 months. Unlike a traditional carrier lease with locked phones, Apple’s installment plan doesn’t tie consumers to a single service provider.