HTC Unveils Desire 816 for Growth in Cheaper Smartphones

HTC Corp. unveiled a lower-priced smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as the unprofitable Taiwanese smartphone maker chases growth in cheaper devices.

The Desire 816 is a smartphone priced in the “mid-tier” and will be available in China starting in March and in other countries beginning in April, Chief Executive Officer Peter Chou said at a press conference yesterday.

HTC this month forecast its third consecutive operating loss as shrinking sales and rising competition erode market share. Taoyuan-based HTC is counting on initiatives including wearable devices and a new version of its One phone to help reverse two straight annual declines in revenue as Chinese competitors including Xiaomi Corp. sell smartphones for as little as $100.

“With the HTC One leading in the premium segment, it’s clear that there’s a huge opportunity in the middle of the market,” Chou said. “Many people want to have an affordable smartphone that does not compromise.”

The company’s shares rose 1.9 percent to NT$132 in Taipei today, paring the decline to 6.4 percent this year. The stock has dropped about 90 percent since a peak in April 2011.

HTC plans to demonstrate the first of three wearable devices this week in Barcelona, a person with direct knowledge of the plans said last week.

Smartwatch Prototype

A smartwatch prototype based on Qualcomm Inc.’s Toq device will be previewed to carriers at the Mobile World Congress and HTC also is developing a watch using Google Inc.’s Now service, the person said, asking not to be identified because the details haven’t been released.

Separately, the company announced the Desire 610, which it calls a “compact entertainment hub,” with a 4.7-inch (12-centimeter) screen, a quad-core processor and fourth-generation LTE connectivity. It will be available across Europe from May, according to a press release.

The Desire 816 has a 5.5-inch screen, 1.6 gigahertz quad-core processor and a 13-megapixel rear camera, with fourth-generation LTE connectivity. Prices weren’t disclosed.

Better marketing and customer service this year will help HTC convince consumers to buy its devices, which received strong reviews last year while posting declining sales, Chairman Cher Wang said this month.

HTC, which makes only smartphones, had a 30 percent drop in sales last year following a 38 percent decline the year before.

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