HTC launches flagship phone

COMPETITION::While the Taiwanese maker is betting on the new product to recapture market share, Samsung is likely to roll out its latest model next month

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - Page 13

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp (宏達電) yesterday launched a new flagship product — the latest HTC One — in an attempt to regain market share in an intensely competitive market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co.

The new high-end smartphone model is seen as the company’s biggest bet to restore its growth momentum after reporting consecutive quarterly revenue declines since the second quarter of last year.

The HTC One, which uses Google’s Android operating system, is equipped with a 4.7-inch full-HD display, and an “ultra-pixel” auto-focus rear camera that has a resolution of just 4 megapixels, but is able to shoot high-quality photos or films like a 13-megapixel camera, the company said.

The HTC One is able to transmit data using 4G long-term evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless communication networks.

“Although smartphones are one of the main ways we stay in touch with people and information we care about, conventional designs have failed to keep pace with how people are actually using them,” HTC chief executive Peter Chou (周永明) said in a statement.

“A new, exciting approach to the smartphone is needed, and with the new HTC One, we have re-imagined the mobile experience from the ground up to reflect this new reality,” Chou said.

However, investor response was lukewarm, with HTC’s stock dropping 1.6 percent yesterday to NT$277.50, underperforming the TAIEX, which gained 0.86 percent.

“In our view, in terms of video and audio experience, HTC One is the best Android smartphone for the time being,” Birdy Lu (呂家霖), an analyst with Daiwa Capital Markets, said in an e-mailed note.

Lu said the HTC One was an “impressive” product, particularly its display and camera quality, especially in a low light environment.

However, the launch was ill-timed, as Samsung is likely to roll out its new flagship smartphone model, the Galaxy S4, as soon as next month to compete with the HTC One, Lu said.

Daiwa Capital Markets maintained its neutral rating on HTC and forecast that the stock price would stay resilient and trade in a narrow range of between NT$260 and NT$300 before the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Jeff Pu (蒲得宇), an equity research analyst at Taipei-based Fubon Securities (富邦證券), forecast HTC would ship 1.5 million units of the HTC One per month starting from April.

“Despite our near-term optimism, we believe HTC is still a product cycle-driven company, and therefore a solid product roadmap in the second half of the year is critical amid a highly competitive landscape,” Pu said in a note yesterday.

Fu said HTC could launch some new LTE models in the middle of the third quarter to take advantage of the rapidly expanding LTE coverage in developed countries. He expects HTC to achieve quarterly growth of 35 percent and 20 percent respectively in the next two quarters.

Fubon raised its target price for HTC to NT$345 from NT$310, and expected the stock to outperform ahead of this new product cycle.

HTC said its new flagship smartphone model would soon be available in more than 80 countries, and that it would collaborate with more than 185 operators to sell the phone next month.