Asustek Computer Inc (華碩) on Saturday said it is ready to make a push into the mainstream smartphone market this year with its low-cost ZenFone range, which is gaining traction among consumers worldwide.
Asustek chairman Jonney Shih (施崇棠) said that after the launch of the first-generation ZenFone in January last year, this year will be the year the company plays a bigger role in the worldwide smartphone market.
Earlier this month, Asustek unveiled its new ZenFone Zoom at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, displaying an Android smartphone with an optical zoom camera.
The firm also introduced the second-generation low-cost ZenFone range, dubbed the ZenFone 2, which is set to go on sale in March at US$199, while the ZenFone Zoom is to be available in the second quarter at US$399.
“The ZenFone gave us a chance to play in the minor league, and now we are ready to challenge the major league,” Shih said at the PC maker’s annual year end banquet, or wei ya (尾牙), for employees on Saturday.
In November last year, Asustek CEO Jerry Shen (沈振來) estimated the company’s smartphone shipments for last year were 8 million units, and forecast shipments of 16 million units for this year.
Shen said the company plans to expand the availability of its ZenFones from 14 markets last year to about 20 markets this year, concentrating more on China and Japan. The firm’s smartphone business is expected to turn profitable this year, comprising about 15 percent of total revenue, he added.
Asustek is scheduled to report its earnings results for last quarter on Feb. 13 when it will outline its business outlook for this year.
Investors are cautious about the firm’s foreign exchange risks in emerging markets, potential smartphone profitability and growth prospects for desktop and motherboard businesses this year.
“While we believe Asustek’s smartphone shipments will continue to grow in 2015, we have concerns over profitability, as competition from Chinese companies like Xiaomi [小米] in emerging markets is growing and there is potential for a cut to Intel’s smartphone CPU subsidy and promotional support,” Barclays Bank wrote in a client note on Thursday last week. “Potential Russia and emerging market demand slowdown from currency weakness is also a concern.”
Asustek on Saturday also hinted that its next smartwatch might come with a battery life of up to seven days, thanks to the adoption of simplified chipset and mobile operating system designs.
“The ZenWatch is defined by us as a companion to a smartphone, and we think it still has a lot of room for improvement,” Shih said. “As a companion device, its central processing unit and operating system should be more simplified than the current version, so that I can use it for up to seven days on one charge, rather than for just two days.”
Asustek’s first smartwatch, dubbed ZenWatch, was launched just before the IFA electronics trade show in Germany in early September last year. The smartwatch has a battery life of up to two days.
At the launch of the first ZenWatch, priced from NT$5,990 (US$192), in Taiwan on Dec. 24 last year, Shen let slip that Asustek was planning a second-generation ZenWatch for the third quarter of this year, and that the upgraded device would offer a new level of independence from smartphones by allowing voice calls without being tethered to a handset.
The company also intends to unveil two other “wristband-like” devices at a lower price, with health management features such as the ability to measure footsteps, heartbeat, pulse and blood sugar, Shen said, without elaborating on a timetable.
Additional reporting by Kevin Chen
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