Sprint sells the ZTE Optik, its first sub-$100 tablet

Sprint(s s) announced on Thursday that it will carry the Optik, a 7-inch 3G-enabled tablet built by ZTE, a China-based company. The Android 3.2 tablet isn’t cutting edge, but has capable components and runs Android 3.2(s goog). The best feature may be the price: just $99 with a two-year Sprint contract or $349.99 without a commitment.

A run-down of the specs indicate the Optik to have respectable hardware:

  • 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm(s qcom) Snapgragon processor
  • 7-inch capacitive touchscreen with 1280 x 800 resolution
  • 1 GB of RAM; 16 GB of internal storage; microSD card slot
  • 5 megapixel rear camera and 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR; integrated GPS

This mix of hardware is compelling, even at the full price. And at $99 with a service plan, I could see Sprint selling more Optiks than other tablets it offers. This device is similar to the HTC Evo View 4G — with a higher resolution display but without the 4G — and is contract-priced $150 to $250 less. Sprint currently has a $100 off web special on the Evo View, hence the price range.

The Optik also illustrates why I keep repeating that ZTE will be a household name in the U.S. within one to two years. The company can build comparable hardware to our current top-tier brands, but does so at far less of a cost.