ZTE’s newest mid-range phone is running the stock Google Now interface

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ZTE makes a lot of different handsets, from a sub-$100 phone running Firefox OS to extremely low-cost Android devices for the United States prepaid market. But its latest phone, the Blade Vec 4G, might be its largest departure yet: its the first of a series of phones from ZTE targeted at China that are running a version of Android free of skins or clutter, with the Google Now Launcher front and center, as opposed to ZTE’s own “MiFlavor” interface.

The Blade Vec 4G , which is headed to Hong Kong, sports specs in line with other devices in its price range: powering a 5-inch 720p screen is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with an LTE radio. It’s a pretty good package for 1500HKD, or about $193 at current exchange rates. But what makes this handset different from the scores of similar mid-range devices is its stock Google experience. Devices from Chinese rivals like Xiaomi run heavily skinned versions of Android, and depending on the region they’re sold in, don’t come with the Google Play app store out of the box.

Google’s stock Android interface has been a selling point for high-end devices in the United States in the past, and if Google has its way, it could become one in foreign markets in the future. Android One — Google’s low cost initiative in India — has stock Android as one of its key requirements. Although a ZTE executive said the company won’t be abandoning its homegrown skin, it appears that it wants a part of the stock Android business going forward as well.

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