Tell ZTE what to build next

Project CSX will result in a crowdsourced mobile device thought up by the company's fans.

Looks like ZTE is getting around to keeping its promises. After teasing us at CES with plans to develop a crowdsourced mobile device, the Chinese electronics maker today opened up its Z-Community forum for feedback and ideas. Called Project CSX for now, the resulting product is slated for a 2017 release. In addition to getting bragging rights for your brilliant suggestions, you'll also be rewarded with small cash prizes if you send a winning idea or popular submission.

To submit an idea, you'll first have to register for an account on Z-Community. Your suggestion has to be for a mobile product, use technology that's realistically possible by 2017 and "the final product must be affordable for the general population," according to the company. Sadly, this probably means my super-feasible idea for a snack-and-cash-dispensing phone that's also a teleporter won't qualify.

Submissions must also be unique, and ZTE said there will be methods to check if your idea has already been turned in.

There are plenty of incentives to take part in this process. Other than contributing to a device that lives up to your (very realistic) dreams, registered participants can get early access to the eventual product. ZTE is also offering up a chance to win a trip to CES in Las Vegas.

Jeff Yee, senior vice president of technology planning and partnerships, said that the company "will see this project through." Although the initial investment amount for Project CSX was confidential, he said the development of new mobile devices can range between half a million to $5 million or more.

ZTE will own the intellectual property of the final device, which is yet unnamed. The company will also solicit input on a name later on in the process.

While ZTE may be the first phone maker to call for ideas around a product, it's not the first company to turn to the public for suggestions. Mozilla opened up its logo design process in June to get input on its next look. And although it never actually happened, TCL also announced plans at CES 2015 to crowdsource ideas for a new Palm device.

However, ZTE does appear to be letting its fans get more involved with the entire production process than Mozilla is, and is clearly more committed to developing an actual product than TCL was. In the meantime, those of you with genius ideas for the next big mobile device should probably get cracking on your submissions before someone beats you to it.