Taiwan-based HTC will begin selling smartphones in China under its own name, as it begins a big campaign to create a brand presence, the Wall Street Journal reported July 27.
Until now, HTC has sold phones in China under the Dopod brand, but that will change with four new devices scheduled to arrive in September or October. According to the Journal, these include two touch-screen models, one a very high-end phone running a Windows Mobile operating system and the other a midrange handset running Google’s Android OS.
“We believe China is a good market for smartphone development,” HTC CEO Peter Chou told the Journal. “Consumers from China will love this kind of product because Internet penetration here is pretty high.”
Chou added that a strong percentage of consumers can afford a smartphone, though HTC has yet to set pricing for the new handsets.
HTC similarly worked-quite successfully-to build brand awareness in the United States, after first arriving under the badges of other brands. Some of the first HTC-made phones for American consumers were branded under the T-Mobile name. These have included the G1-the first Android-running handset in the United States-and later the carrier’s line of myTouch phones. Google’s Nexus One is also an HTC phone.
HTC has since released the HD2, the Droid Eris and-the phone thought to have solidified its standing as a major player in the U.S. market-the Droid Incredible. Following these were the first 4G-enabled handset in the United States, the Evo 4G. The Android operating system is widely considered a growing rival to Apple’s dominance in the United States, and a good part of HTC’s success here has come with its alignment with Google.
“HTC has gone from the edge to the cutting edge,” Pund-IT Research analyst Charles King told eWEEK at the time of the Droid Incredible’s launch. “It stands as evidence that the game should not be handed to Apple by default. There are people out there with great ideas and great design concepts, and with Android they have an OS to build those on.”
In 2009, HTC sold 11.7 million phones-a figure that research firm IDC has forecast to zoom to more than 60 million by 2012. Currently, 80 percent of HTC’s revenue comes from sales in Europe and United States, but China is poised to skew that figure. By the end of this year, HTC handset sales in China are expected to rise 50 percent over 2009’s total and continue heading upward.
“It’s interesting. Before we’ve come to do anything, we already have pretty high [brand] awareness,” Chou told the Journal, referring to HTC devices that have arrived in China through the gray market. Because of these phones, Chou estimates that 8 percent of China smartphone users are already familiar with the HTC brand-a good head start on the road the company is headed down.
What the gray market can’t offer, Chou added, is good services for consumers, which will definitely be part of the HTC strategy.