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Our brand strong enough to sell 4G smartphones: Telstra

Australia's largest telco, Telstra, has stressed that its brand is strong enough to sell smartphones following the decision to release its own-branded device as the first 4G prepaid smartphone in Australia.

Speaking at the launch of the Telstra Frontier 4G, the first 4G-capable prepaid smartphone to hit the market in Australia, Telstra's director of device management, Andrew Volard, said that the decision to partner with Chinese OEM ZTE for a Telstra branded device wouldn't hinder the appeal of the new smartphone.

"We've sold Telstra branded devices for six to seven years now," said Volard. "We have a huge number of customers on Telstra branded devices, in fact there's an enormous amount of trust in the Telstra brand and Telstra branded devices that we're putting into the market."

Volard said the decision to partner with ZTE was based around a strong value proposition, with the Frontier 4G to retail for $299 when it officially goes on sale from Tuesday 27 November.

"This device on prepaid is the first time we've been able to get a really great value prepaid device for under $300," he explained. "So it really is about the cost of the device and us being able to offer a Telstra-branded phone at $299 for Christmas."

"Coming into Christmas we can see that there will be a real demand for prepaid and this device specifically allows us to offer 4G into this market for the first time," he said. We've been working hard all year to try and get this device to market and we are very proud to be bringing it to the Australian marketplace."

The Frontier 4G is an Android smartphone that has a 4in touch screen. It is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, has a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and will be upgradeable to the latest 4.1 "Jelly Bean" version of Android in the coming months.

"I haven't got a specific date, but it [the 4.1 update] is in the works and we've worked very closely with the manufacturer of this device," said Volard.

In addition to the Frontier 4G, Telstra has also announced the immediate launch of the Easy Touch 4G, an Android smartphone designed for first time users.

The second Telstra-branded 4G smartphone to launch before Christmas is also manufactured by ZTE. It features large icons, on-screen guides and custom designed shortcut menus designed to assist users who may be unfamiliar with the Android operating system.

"Ultimately what we're trying to do is bring a smartphone to market that will appeal to those customers who have typically bought the existing EasyTouch range (non smartphones) yet who are interested in trying out smartphones," explained Nathan Azouz, Telstra's general manager of post-paid.

"We have just over half of our post-paid customers on smartphones, but a lot of these customers turn around and say they are interested in taking up a smartphone but they're not sure which one," he said.

The Telstra Easy Touch 4G has a 4.3in display, an 8-megapixel camera and also runs the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich version of Google's Android operating system. It will sell outright and unlocked for $456 and is available from today in Telstra stores and online.

The release of both the Easy Touch 4G and the Frontier 4G follow the release of Telstra's own branded, 4G-capable Android tablet, the Telstra 4G Tablet, last month.

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