ZTE is trying to become more than a maker of entry-level and white label smartphones. The Axon is certainly the nicest phone ZTE has ever made, but it's more expensive than its other phones too. The company is hoping to appeal to budget-conscious buyers with a new device financing option, which should be live for all its products very soon. The catch? It's stupid-expensive.

The program will be managed by SmartPay Leasing, which offers similar services through a variety of retailers. It's not nearly as favorable as the payment plans you get through carriers, but it's available to those with questionable credit. When you apply for device financing through ZTE, you'll be approved for up to $2000 in credit with a 6-24 month payment term. There's also a variable payment due at the time of purchase. Going by the SmartPay website, the fees are significant.

If you finance a $450 Axon over 12 months, it will cost you about $1000 total. That's just insane, but sadly common for lease-to-own or rent-to-own schemes. You don't technically own the device until the lease is paid off, but you can pay it off early and be changed "only" 3.5-20% fees based on your credit. The SmartPay option will be available to buyers soon, but I really, really think you should avoid it. If you have a credit card, the terms will almost certainly be more favorable. SmartPay just seems exploitative.

Press Release

ZTE Introduces New Lease-to-Own Option for Smartphones and Mobile Devices

ZTE customers can now get a mobile device and pay for it over time

Richardson, Texas – October 14, 2015 – ZTE USA, the fourth largest smartphone supplier in the U.S. and second largest in the no-contract market*, today introduced a lease-to-own payment plan for customers who want to pay for their phone or other mobile device over time and spread out their payments to make it more affordable.  This lease-to-own payment option is provided through SmartPay ™ Leasing Inc. and will be available online for all customers beginning soon at www.zteusa.com.

Lease-to-own is available for unlocked devices such as the recently launched Axon Pro and other mobile devices such as the ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector.

“We are introducing leasing options because we believe advanced mobile technology should be available to everyone. We also want the experience of purchasing and using a ZTE device to be easy for any consumer,” said Lixin Cheng, CEO and chairman of ZTE USA. “How customers want to pay versus the amount they are comfortable paying are equally important – and ZTE can provide the best of both worlds.”

Leasing options for credit scores of all types

With SmartPay, you can get an immediate approval to lease ZTE devices. If approved, simply select the ZTE device you want, make your first payment at checkout and make scheduled monthly payments thereafter**.

No long-term contracts

The length of a lease plan is determined when you apply and can range from 6 to 24 months. Once all payments are made, the lease is complete and you own the device. You can also pay off your lease early without any penalties or future fees***.

Upgrade your phone when ready

If you’re up-to-date on your monthly payments you can cancel your lease at any time and upgrade your device by simply returning your current device in good working order to SmartPay.  Once your phone is received your lease is cancelled and you’re free to get the new device you want.