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HTC flagship U12+ phone to have VR and blockchain technology

2018/07/21 14:39:42

Taipei, July 21 (CNA) Taiwan-based smartphone HTC Corp. is planning to incorporate virtual reality and blockchain technology into its latest flagship smartphone model, the HTC U12+.

Darren Chen (陳柏諭), head of HTC Taiwan, said in a news conference held earlier this week that the company will continue to expand the U12+ functions by adopting new emerging technologies, such as VR and blockchain.

HTC entered the VR business in 2015 with its first VR headset -- The Vive -- and launched global sales in April 2016, in an effort to diversify its product portfolio and increase sales to offset the adverse impact of escalating competition in the global smartphone market.

Chen said the VR technology will help the U12+ build a software and hardware ecosystem in which the gadget will work with the Vive Focus -- a standalone VR headset unveiled in China in November 2017 -- and in turn consumers will be able to use more VR content provided by Vive app store VivePort.

The company has also announced it will enter the blockchain technology era with the Taiwanese brand having teamed up with the world's first and most popular non-fungible tokens (NFTs) game, CryptoKitties, to exclusively distribute it on mobile through selected HTC devices, starting with the HTC U12+.

According to HTC, CryptoKitties, which uses blockchain technology for fun, enables users to purchase, collect, breed and sell various types of virtual cats. HTC said the partnership with CryptoKitties is the first step for the company to build on the fungible, collectible marketplace and crypto gaming app store.

Blockchain technology, originally devised for transactions of the digital currency Bitcoin, is seen as the backbone of a new type of internet in which information held on a blockchain exists as a shared database.

However, Chen did not disclose an exact timetable for when the VR and blockchain technologies will be formally introduced into the U12+.

Last week, HTC said it is scheduled to launch the world's first blockchain-powered phone -- the HTC Exodus -- later in the current quarter. In addition to the Exodus, Chen said HTC will launch new mid-range smartphone models in the July-September period, adding that the HTC Desire series will have new family members.

On July 2, HTC announced it will lay off 1,500 employees in its manufacturing division in Taiwan by the end of September to optimize the company's resources through a "strategic adjustment of its workforce."

The staff to be laid off account for about a quarter of HTC's existing workforce of 6,450 worldwide. This has sparked speculation that the company will bow out of the smartphone market. But Chen rebutted the rumors.

Market analysts said it remains to be seen whether the blockchain phone will help HTC climb out of the doldrums in the global market, after it suffered massive losses due to its falling market share in the competitive smartphone sector.

In the first quarter of 2018, HTC posted a net profit of NT$21.1 billion (US$687 million), compared with a net loss of NT$9.8 billion in the previous quarter, with earnings per share at NT$25.70.

However, the first quarter results, which ended 11 consecutive quarters of losses, were boosted by a deal in which the company sold its smartphone ODM assets to Google last year.

In 2017, HTC incurred a net loss of NT$16.91 billion and a loss per share of NT$20.58, the highest since it listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange in March 2002.

(By Jiang Ming-yan and Frances Huang)
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