The phone maker that’s killing Apple in China arrives in the US

Coolpad Yulong Quattro-front-45-left-side

Chinese handset vendor Yulong, better known as Coolpad, is venturing out from its home territory to try its fortune in the U.S., with a little help from MetroPCS. The prepaid, contract-free operator on Tuesday started selling Yulong’s Quattro 4G LTE Android smartphone for $149.

Coolpad may be a virtual unknown here, but in China it’s the No. 3 smartphone maker. Not only is Coolpad besting Apple’s iPhone, which ranks a woeful seventh, and Nokia; it’s even beating two of China’s hometown giants, Huawei and ZTE, according to IHS iSuppli.

Of course, Yulong has a long way to go before it can even dream of being that competitive in the U.S., but MetroPCS is a good place to start. The company is the largest regional operator in the country, and its focused on delivering cheap voice and data with no commitments (it recently started offering a promotional unlimited talk, text and data plan for $55 a month). But that also means that MetroPCS doesn’t offer the steep device discounts the major operators exchange for long-term contracts. To lure customers over to its new data services, MetroPCS needs cheap smartphones, which Yulong is prepared to deliver.

The Coolpad Quattro isn’t the Galaxy S III – which MetroPCS will also soon sell – but without subsidies it has a price tag that is $400 less than the Samsung phone. The Quattro runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), sports a 4-inch capacitive multi-touch screen and a 1 GHz single-core processor. It has both front and rear-facing cameras, the primary supporting 3.2 megapixels of resolution. It has 512 MB of RAM and a micro-SD slot that can take a 32 GB card.

The Coolpad Quattro and the LG Motion will be MetroPCS’s cheapest smartphones at $149 each, far undercutting its other 4G smartphones, which range from $229 and $459. Yulong is obviously crafting its U.S. strategy on selling budget devices. If it can continue to keep its prices this low it’s likely to attract attention from other operators.

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