Analysis

HTC Poised For A Remarkable Turnaround?

After a tumultuous year that saw HTC (TPE:2498) struggle to find success with its handset division, it now looks like the Taiwanese vendor is all set to stage a comeback. Whereas 2013 saw HTC focus on a single device, the One M7, this year the hardware manufacturer has diversified into various growth categories with a smorgasbord of devices, some already available, and a few scheduled to launch later this year.

Nexus 9 and Android One

The most interesting device to look forward to from HTC is the Nexus 9 tablet. If success of the first two generations of the Nexus tablets are anything to go by, it is clear that HTC’s association with Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) will be able to vastly affect the Taiwanese vendor’s fortunes. As for the specs of the tablet, the latest batch of leaks reveal that HTC has decided to stick with a similar matte-style finish at the back, while choosing to go with a more squarish form factor. It is unclear whether the form factor has to do with the screen, or the inclusion of BoomSound stereo speakers, but it is evident that we don’t have to wait long to find out as Google is rumored to launch the tablet later this month.

Another interesting collaboration between the two organizations is in the entry-level segment, where HTC is scheduled to launch its Android One device later this year. Interestingly, HTC is one of a few major recognized vendors that have signified interest in the Android One ecosystem, with other manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and LG instead deciding to offer devices of their own in the entry-level market.

Both the Nexus 9 and the Android One device could significantly turn things in HTC’s favor. Furthermore, this year has seen HTC actively focus on the mid-tier segment with the launch of new Desire handsets after largely neglecting the segment last year. While Desire models may not be selling as much as what other manufacturers offer in this segment, it is good to see that HTC is catering to users looking for a decent device in the mid-tier category.

Desire Eye and One M8 Eye

If Samsung (KRX:005935) has shown us anything over the years, it is that differentiation and a strong product portfolio often win out long-term, and it looks like HTC is following the same ideals this time around. The Taiwanese vendor has launched a plastic-clad of its One M8 called the One E8, and also launched mini variants of the device. In addition, HTC announced new devices targeted at a younger audience in the Desire Eye and the One M8 Eye, both of which feature 13 MP dual camera sensors along with frontal LED. While Microsoft, Samsung and Sony have also launched selfie-focused handsets, HTC is the only one to do so in the high-end segment, and the only vendor to offer such high-resolution imaging sensors for the front cameras.

It will be interesting to see the hardware that the One M8 Eye will feature, and the mainstream consumer attention the handset will garner. HTC has famously stuck with its UltraPixel technology for the last two generations of its flagship devices, so it is interesting to see how the One M8 Eye will fare with its dual 13 MP camera configuration.

One area that HTC has not yet ventured into is the world of wearables, and although there were leaks from earlier this year that suggested that the Taiwanese manufacturer was looking to launch a smartwatch, they were unfounded. HTC has abandoned its smartwatch efforts, citing the lack of a “wow factor” as the main reason for deciding to not continue with a watch. While not exactly wearable territory, HTC is now rumored to launch a unique camera accessory called the REcamera at an event in New York later this week. The accessory is said to feature a 16 MP shooter in a rugged casing that connects to mobile devices via Bluetooth.

Challenges to overcome

Although HTC has a lot of exciting devices in the works, the manufacturer faces key challenges going forward: the high-end segment is witnessing diminishing growth, which means that manufacturers are more aggressively targeting the entry-level and mid-tier segments. With the new Desire line of devices, HTC has a strong series of offerings in this segment, but the vendor will be able to benefit greatly by augmenting its wares in these categories.

Another key area that HTC has lagged behind is in marketing and advertising. It does not make much sense to make a great device if no one knows about it, and this has largely been the reason as to why HTC did not see a lot of success with the One M7 last year, even though the device itself was widely considered to be far better to the Galaxy S5 in most regards. Whether HTC will actually manage to turn things around remains to be seen, but it is great to see the manufacturer heading in the right direction.