What does HTC's shift in focus bode for its future phones?
As the long fall of HTC continues, the phone maker says it's turning its focus to cheap smartphones in emerging markets.
The announcement came during an earnings call, in which HTC said to expect worse revenues than analysts expected, and either steady or shrinking profit margins, Reuters reports. It's unclear exactly how the shift in focus will affect HTC's roadmap for high-end phones in the United States and other developed markets. (HTC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.)
HTC enjoyed huge growth during the early smartphone boom in 2010 and 2011, thanks in large part to its popular high-end phones. Handsets like the Droid Incredible and the HTC Evo 4G were among the earliest decent alternatives to the iPhone, at a time when Apple's handset was still an AT&T exclusive.
Even after the iPhone launched on Verizon, HTC still came up with hits like the Thunderbolt, which was one of Verizon's first 4G LTE smartphone.
In the United States, HTC has struggled to get broad availability for its flagship phones. In the United States, only AT&T carried the One X earlier this year, while Sprint opted for a variant, dubbed the Evo 4G LTE. T-Mobile sold a smaller variant called the One S, and Verizon sold the mid-range Droid Incredible 4G LTE. Only AT&T picked up the One X+, an updated version of the phone. Compared to Samsung, which is able to get both the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II on all four carriers and aggressively advertise them as anti-Apple alternatives, HTC doesn't stand much of a chance.
HTC has also placed some bets on Windows Phone, with handsets like the Windows Phone 8x. But Microsoft's mobile operating system hasn't gained much traction, so it's unlikely that HTC's efforts have paid off.
Although HTC seems to have soured on the high-end market, the company still has products in the pipeline. Its next flagship phone, the M7, is rumored to have a 4.7-inch 1080p display, a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor, a 12-megapixel camera and a new version of HTC's Sense user interface. The phone will likely be announced at a press event on February 19.
Despite its poor performance, HTC's phones have been reviewed favorably. The One X+, for instance, was a personal favorite last year, and the Droid DNA deserves praise as the first 1080p smartphone in the U.S. market. Let's hope HTC's new interest in emerging markets implies a sharper focus on a smaller number of high-end phones, rather than a complete abandonment of what the company used to do best.