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China's ZTE bets on projector-tablet as next big thing

Chinese electronics company ZTE has released the latest version of its "smart projector," in a move designed to make the device as important to its users as its smartphone range.

The SPro Plus tablet has an 8.4 inch display and runs Android, allowing people to download apps and services. But it is mainly a portable projector that can project an image of up to 80 inches across. ZTE released the device on Sunday at a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"There are many many devices but most people would agree that you use your smartphone the most and we understand that. We have a strong position in the smartphone range, but outside of smartphone we took a hard look at what is the second-most device that the consumer is using," Waiman Lam, vice president for global marketing at ZTE, told CNBC in a phone interview.

"Watching TV is a major activity people spend time on. The device has to be efficient and help you. So we believe with the SPro Plus, it can become a second-most device that consumers will use after smartphones once they understand the value propositions behind it."

Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lam said that you could attach a keyboard and use it to in presentations or displays or add on a controller to turn it into a gaming console.

ZTE has grown quickly in the smartphone market and is now the sixth biggest player in the world.

Lam said that the company shipped around 56 million smartphones in 2015, representing a 16 percent year-on-year increase. This year ZTE is targeting between 60 and 70 million smartphone shipments.

The Chinese firm has made a huge marketing push in the last couple of years to crack the U.S. market. ZTE partnered with the New York Nicks and Golden State Warriors for the 2014/2015 season and sponsored the Houston Rockets NBA team in 2013/2014 season.

Recently ZTE has struck agreements with AT&T and T-Mobile to sell its phones in the U.S.

ZTE said its SPro devices have shipped more than 500,000 units, since releasing the first version in 2014.

Still, with electronics companies betting on wearables and virtual reality being the next big smartphone add-on, the SPro Plus is likely to remain a niche device, analysts said.

"It's an innovative, but niche, device that shows ZTE can deliver smart products," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone.

"However, the real challenge remains stepping up its smartphone efforts to drive sales in international markets now the Chinese market has slowed."