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ZTE is ready to hear your ideas for its crowdsourced smartphone

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Though the company only wants ideas that are 'possible by 2017'

Earlier this year at CES, Chinese smartphone maker ZTE announced that it would be crowdsourcing suggestions for a new mobile device. Today, the company takes another step towards this goal, launching a new website to collect and collate users' ideas.

ZTE says development of the device (known as Project CSX) will take place in "two key stages," with users able to "submit and vote for their favorite ideas" at each stage. The company is being very vague about guidelines for this process, but says that suggestions should be limited to "mobile devices," and that they should use technology that is "affordable for the general population" and "realistically possible by 2017." So, no asking for a smartphone that you can fold up like a piece of paper then.

"Crowdsourcing something entirely new, from start to finish."

The process still has a lot of unknowns. Will the best suggestion simply be a maxed-out spec sheet? Or will users be expected to outline the device's general design as well? The CEO of ZTE USA, Lixin Cheng, said in a press statement that the company would be "crowdsourcing something entirely new, from start to finish," but that doesn't mean, of course, that it won't pick and choose that suggestions that best suit its current plans. Winning submissions will receive "small cash prizes" throughout the process, says ZTE, as well as to go to CES next year, where the company aims to unveil the product.

If anything, though, these unknowns just make the prospect of Project CSX more intriguing. ZTE is the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the US, and is obviously keen to stand out from the crowd, launching flashy (if somewhat derivative) devices like the Axon 7, a cheap-but-powerful smartphone that's compatible with Google's Daydream VR system. The company's attempt to "crowdsource" a smartphone may be primarily marketing sizzle, but hopefully the results will, at the very least, be unexpected.