A Lenovo-backed startup has launched its first smartphone, initially focused on the Chinese market but with international versions expected “soon”.

The company, which uses the ZUK brand, unveiled its Z1 earlier this week, with imminent availability in its home market. It is apparently “designed for power users”.

According to local press reports, the company intends to focus heavily on the development of its ZUI OS software. The company described this as “a highly customised user interface by ZUK based on Android 5.1.1”.

Software features include “1,500+ redesigned icons best fitting ZUI’s ‘simplicity is beauty’ concept”, with automatic privacy protection, system cleanup and memory acceleration.

Other features include a “unique variant of the Android home button”, U-Touch, which includes a fingerprint sensor and combines “home, back, menu, app switching and multi-tasking into one single button”.

ZUK Z1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, has 64GB of storage, 4100mAh battery, and USB 3.0 Type-C port. Other features include 13MP rear and 8MP front cameras, and dual-SIM support.

Pricing for the Chinese market is CNY1,799 ($281).

Chinese competition
Lenovo recently announced a restructure of its Mobile Business Group following its acquisition of Motorola, noting that among the challenges it faces is “slowing growth and increasing competition – especially in China – in smartphones”.

This has been underpinned by a shift in the market to unsubsidised, online device sales, driven by companies such as Xiaomi, OnePlus and Meizu. In the last year, online sales have grown to represent 28 per cent of smartphone volume in China from 17 per cent, taking share away from subsidised devices (falling to 27 per cent from 40 per cent).

This has led to established vendors branching out, using sub-brands and online channels to reach additional customers. Examples include Honor (Huawei) and Nubia (ZTE).