HTC loses China edge in absence of flagship phone

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 - Page 13

Smartphone maker HTC Corp (宏達電) saw consumer awareness of its brand decline last month in China, where its most popular model, the Butterfly, has yet to officially hit stores, according to US brokerage Morgan Stanley.

HTC’s mindshare — a measure of consumer brand awareness — fell to 7.9 percent last month from 9.2 percent in the previous month, dropping it to fifth place from second in November, Morgan Stanley said in a report on Wednesday.

“HTC’s ranking dropped out of the top three with the biggest share lost owing to the lack of a flagship model, which might not come as a surprise given that the HTC Butterfly is not yet available through most channels in China,” Morgan Stanley analyst Jasmine Lu (呂智穎) said in the report.

Among other global brands, Apple Inc’s mindshare rose from 8.6 percent in November last year to 9.1 percent last month thanks to the official launch of the iPhone 5, placing it second behind Samsung Electronics Co’s 20.3 percent, Morgan Stanley’s data showed.

Finnish handset maker Nokia Oyj enjoyed the biggest gain among global brands of 0.8 percentage points, pushing its mindshare to third in the rankings at 8.4 percent.

The company’s new Windows 8-powered Lumia 920 is being sold through China Mobile Ltd (中國移動), the country’s largest telecoms operator.

Among Chinese brands, Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想) closed its mindshare gap with Samsung, Apple and Nokia to rank fourth, backed by broader distribution and competitive pricing for its flagship models.

Ray Yam (任偉光), president of HTC China, said in November last year that HTC would start to benefit this year from its patent settlement with rival Apple as the company focuses greater efforts on product innovation.

Many of HTC’s projects have started to proceed at a faster pace, and the Taoyuan-based company has changed the way it negotiates with telecoms operators, Yam said in an interview with China’s Economic Observer.

China Mobile president Li Yue (李躍) visited Taiwan last week for a summit on cooperation in 4G technology, which could bring new business opportunities for local manufacturers, analysts said.

Among the local tech heavyweights Li was expected to call on were HTC chairperson Cher Wang (王雪紅), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) chairman Morris Chang (張忠謀), Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) and MediaTek Inc (聯發科) chairman Tsai Ming-kai (蔡明介).