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HTC to customize One mini phone for mid-tier expansion

2013/08/09 19:25:10

Taipei, Aug. 9 (CNA) Taiwan's HTC Corp. is aiming to expand its presence in the mid-range phone market by crafting custom versions of its new HTC One mini for different countries, a company executive said Friday.

"Customized service has been the unspoken agreement between HTC and [telecom] operators. We hope this direction will continue with the One mini," HTC North Asia President Jack Tong said at a press event that announced the new phone's arrival in the Taiwan market.

HTC's success in carrier-specific customization started with the Japanese launch of the HTC J phone in May 2012, when it worked alongside KDDI Corp., Japan's second-largest mobile operator, to make the phone a best-seller.

That success gave the company the confidence to drive ahead with more market-specific phone models, such as the U.S.-only HTC Droid DNA and the dual-SIM version of the HTC One for China.

Tong said the silver-colored HTC One mini will arrive in warehouses across Taiwan on Aug. 16 carrying a price tag of NT$15,900 (US$533), while a black version is scheduled to hit by mid-September.

Earlier in the week, the company on Wednesday announced the phone for the Hong Kong market, where it will sell for 4,298 Hong Kong dollars (US$554) upon launch.

Tong said HTC aims to launch the phone in China as soon as possible but does not yet have a finalized timetable.

The HTC One mini is the younger sibling of the company's flagship, the HTC One. The smaller model sports a 4.3-inch high-resolution 720p display with a density of 341 pixels per inch, a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor, 16GB of built-in memory and a smaller battery capacity of 1,800 mAh.

It is expected to go head-to-head with Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy S4 mini, which has been on sale in Taiwan since mid-July for NT$14,900.

The Galaxy S4 mini also features a 4.3-inch screen size, but otherwise beats the One mini in the hardware department. Samsung's mid-range champion packs a more powerful 1.7GHz dual-core processor, a slightly larger battery capacity of 1,900 mAh and a micro-SD card slot for up to 64GB of external storage.

With more handset makers expected to tap into the mid-range smartphone segment, analysts believe that HTC will face more pressure to lower its prices, leaving the company struggling to boost sinking profits.

Those concerns were reinforced by HTC's July 30 forecast that it will probably post a loss in the third quarter of the year because of high inventory in the channel, higher cost structure and a lack of economy of scale.

The sales momentum of HTC's flagship HTC One has also slowed substantially since June, said Yolanda Wang, an analyst with HSBC Securities.

"We expect lukewarm demand for HTC's mid-tier model in the third quarter of 2013 because of other brands' aggressive moves in the mid-range segment," Wang wrote in a research note dated Aug. 5.

"We believe HTC's shrinking shipment scale will lead to an inferior cost structure versus its peers. Moreover, its late start in developing flagship products for next year raises concerns over potential delays," she said.

Wang maintained her "underweight" rating and price target of NT$98 on the stock. HTC shares closed up 6 percent at NT$159 Friday on the local bourse ahead of the Taiwan unveiling of the One mini.

(By Jeffrey Wu)