HTC Releases Action Camera as Smartphone Sales Decline

HTC Corp. released an action camera, its first consumer electronics device, as the company moves into new products to reduce its reliance on falling smartphone sales.

Named “Re,” the waterproof camera is on sale for $199 at the company’s website and Best Buy Co. stores in the U.S. before being carried by wireless operators and Amazon.com Inc. by the end of the year, Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC said in a statement. Unveiled at an event in New York, the device features a wide-angle lens and 16-megapixel sensor, and will compete with GoPro Inc. and Sony Corp. for sales of action cameras, a market forecast to grow 16 percent annually through 2018.

Stiffer competition and a decreasing marketing budget resulted in HTC posting 12 consecutive quarters of declining sales, consistently missing analyst estimates. Once the largest smartphone supplier in the U.S., HTC last year created an emerging devices unit as part of Chairwoman Cher Wang’s plan to broaden the company’s product focus.

“This is the first time we have introduced something significant beyond the smartphone, and we want to see a continuation of that,” Chief Financial Officer and head of global sales Chang Chialin said in a phone interview from New York. Wireless connection to smartphones and a planned cooperation with Youtube will allow the camera to live-stream directly to Google Inc.’s video-sharing site, Chang said.

Major European markets as well as India and Australia will get the device by the end of the year, Chang said. He declined to provide sales targets, gross margin details or say which company assembles the device.

‘Desire Eye’

A mobile application for Android and Apple Inc. smartphones will also be released soon, allowing images from Re to be sent to users’ phones.

Also released at the New York event is a new smartphone called HTC Desire Eye, which the company says is designed for self-captured photos, or selfies. The device has 13-megapixel cameras on both the front and back as well as three microphones.

Mike Woodward, the HTC executive appointed to lead the new emerging devices division, left the company about a month ago to take a senior role at Amazon, he told Bloomberg News in a phone interview yesterday.

Global shipments of action cameras, defined as those with high-definition sensors used for sports photography, may climb by an average of 24 percent annually from 2014 to 2018, with sales to increase 16 percent a year as prices fall, Sandler Research said in July. Worldwide smartphone shipments may climb by an average of 12.7 percent over the same period, according to IDC.

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