27 Mar 2014

HTC pins its hopes on Android

7:10 am on 27 March 2014

Taiwanese phone maker, HTC, has launched its new android smartphone, hoping it will help turn around weak earnings. The HTC-1M8 features a new camera and a bigger screen.

The company says the device should boost earnings and market share.

The BBC's technology reporter, Leo Kellion, says the first reviews of the new phone are favourable.

But he says Samsung and Apple's bigger marketing budgets will continue to put HTC at a disadvantage.

Research shows that HTC shipped only 6.4 million units of the original HTC One model last year.

That compares with 43.3 million shipped copies of Samsung's Galaxy S4 and 39.5 million shipped units of Apple's iPhone 5S.

The slow sales of the original HTC One were despite it winning several awards.

The firm said that part of the problem was production delays caused by its use of a unibody metal case and a new type of camera.

Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corporation (HTC) chairperson Cher Wang

Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corporation (HTC) chairperson Cher Wang Photo: AFP

"We just didn't educate our vendors to do the mass-production well," Cher Wang, the firm's co-founder, told the BBC.

HTC's chief financial officer added that this caused a consumer backlash rather than the positive word-of-mouth effect hoped for.

"The first wave of people is actually quite important - they tend to be most vocal," said Chia-Lin Chang.

"They were waiting and couldn't get it and had to vent, and that's unfortunate.

"But I'm glad to say this year that will not happen because you will see availability right away."

Depth sensor

HTC's new flagship 1M8 Android smartphone features a depth sensor to let owners change what appears in focus in photos after they are taken.

The information is used by an app to allow the owner to mimic the effect of changing focus after a photo is taken, keeping selected objects sharp but blurring others.

It also allows users to add stylised effects to a photo's background while keeping its main subject unaltered.

The company said the device should turn around recent weak earnings and help it recover market share.

But experts said Samsung and Apple's bigger marketing budgets would continue to put HTC at a disadvantage.

"This is a make or break device for HTC," said Ben Wood, chief of research at tech consultancy CCS Insight.

"Although last year's HTC One was widely considered the best smartphone of 2013, the company failed to capitalise on this."

Swipe features

Another innovation is the ability to activate the phone without having to press its on-button. Swiping the screen in different ways takes the user to either what they were last doing, the home screen or a feed of news stories and social media updates.

The company also boasts that battery life is 40 percent better than before even though it has a bigger, 12.7cm screen.

However, it lacks a fingerprint scanner despite the firm's inclusion of the security feature on the One Max handset.