HTC turns to mid-range smartphone models for survival

June 12, 2019 12:10
The latest smartphone models, U19e and Desire 19+, seek to lure HTC users and convince them to upgrade. Photo: Bloomberg, HTC

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC has been shifting most of its resources to the virtual reality business, where it has been doing quite well it has been selling VR solutions to corporates and the medical industry for professional training and other uses.

But the company is not neglecting its core smartphone business. In fact, it has just unveiled its first smartphone models for the year.

Facing intense competition in a crowded market, HTC is finding it difficult to position itself in the market primarily because its market share is too small to have an impact on the sector. But given its strong and loyal user base in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the company sees to it that it introduces a new smartphone regularly to maintain the interest and support if its users.

Still, HTC said it may not launch a flagship model before the 5G launch in Taiwan market next year.

HTC on Tuesday unveiled two mid-range smartphone models: U19e and Desire 19+. The HTC U19e has a dual camera setup on the rear – a 12MP f/1.8 regular snapper and a 20MP f/2.6 2x telephoto camera. The selfie camera is a 24MP f/2.0 snapper and there's a 2MP Iris scanner for secure unlock. There is a traditional fingerprint scanner at the back as well.

HTC Desire 19+ has a 6.2-inch HD+ display with a water-drop notch, housing a 16MP selfie camera. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio P35 chipset with 4GB or 6GB of RAM and a 3,850mAh battery. At the back, the phone has a triple camera with a 13MP main sensor, 8MP ultrawide angle and a 5MP depth sensor.

The new phone will go on sale in Taiwan in early July, priced at NT$9,990 (US$317.86) for the 4GB/64GB model and NT$10,990 for the 6GB/128GB one.

HTC fans have been waiting for a new smartphone from the company for more than half a year. The company did not launch its flagship this year. Instead, it has positioned U19e as a light flagship smartphone.

HTC Taiwan general manager Darren Chen said the company will launch more smartphones in the second half of this year or next year. However, he stressed that as other manufacturers are still developing 5G products, HTC will also consider the 5G potential in Taiwan before preparing for the release of its new flagship.

That could disappoint many HTC fans, who have been holding on to the flagship U12+ for more than a year, while some of them may be still using the U11 series, which was launched two years ago.

Recent flagship mobile phone models were priced at more than NT$30,000 each, which is quite expensive.

Besides, sales of 4G flagship models are likely to be affected by the widespread anticipation for the launch of the 5G network in Taiwan. That's why HTC has decided to release a light 4G flagship, the U19e, to serve the market first.

While HTC is strategically abandoning the flagship smartphone market for the first time, the company said mid-range smartphones at the price level of NT$15,000 still have huge market potential.

Chen said HTC's 5G plan will follow Taiwan operators’ 5G rollout schedule, which means it will launch a 5G smartphone next year. The company has been conducting 5G trials with Taiwan operators.

As far as smartphones are concerned, HTC appears to have abandoned the global market. Its new models were announced only in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which may be the only markets it will focus on for its latest models.

Chen also said that given the current market situation, HTC will not launch a 4G flagship just before the launch of 5G next year.

The company’s latest models are meant for HTC customers who may want to upgrade their U11, U Ultra and U11+ units.

This potential trade-in market is not insignificant, it's around 350,000 HTC users.

HTC has also launched several special offers to further lure HTC customers to trade-in their old phones for new ones at cheaper prices. That should help HTC to maintain its momentum in the smartphone market.

But HTC management may have misjudged the current market situation, particularly in view of the ban on Huawei Technologies, which is effective not only in the United States but in other markets as well.

HTC could take advantage of the situation to boost its sales. However, the company doesn't seem interested in winning back customers who had switched to Huawei over the past few years.

But will its two new mid-range models be able to attract smartphone users to stay in the HTC fold? Well, let's see.

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EJ Insight writer