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HTC Hopes Branching Out Into Cameras and Software Will Help It Gain Firmer Footing

Wearables, though, will have to wait till next year.


It’s no secret that it has been a rough stretch for Taiwan’s HTC, which continues to produce well-regarded phones that nonetheless find themselves overshadowed by the likes of Samsung and Apple.

HTC hasn’t been standing still, though, having spent a good chunk of this year trying to find new potential areas for growth, several of which it highlighted on Wednesday.

On the phone front, HTC is announcing the Desire Eye, a new midrange phone that packs 13-megapixel cameras on both the rear and the front. It’s all about the selfies these days.

It’s introducing new camera-oriented software, too, also called Eye, which will work on the new device as well as on the latest HTC One and will allow users to create images and videos that mix content from front and rear cameras. Eye also uses face tracking to keep the people in the shot front and center.

And there’s the Re, a $199, periscope-shaped action camera designed for people doing things other than the kind of active sports best suited to a GoPro. Increasingly, people want to capture life’s moments, but they don’t always want to be so conspicuous in doing so or removed from the action.

The Re, by contrast, is small and designed to fit, say, in a shirt pocket. “We’ve tried to reimagine the mobile imaging experience,” says Jason Mackenzie, head of HTC’s North American unit.

The Re will work not only with HTC devices, but also with Android and iOS products — another big theme for HTC these days. Mackenzie says the Re can serve as a way to get HTC’s name out there in a world where Samsung and Apple dominate the phone business.

“I can’t necessarily paint the world green with HTC advertising,” he said.

The Desire Eye will arrive later this year at AT&T, which will have the initial exclusive. Pricing and exact availability are not being announced yet. It will be the top of a mid-range line that HTC has been using to re-establish itself in a broader part of the smartphone market.

One area that HTC won’t be diving into just yet are wearables. The company had a wrist-worn device on tap for this fall, but has opted to postpone its entry into the market until next year while it refines the product.

HTC is also expanding its move into software, an effort that began earlier this year with a beta of Zoe, a destination and app for sharing short video clips.

With version 1.0 of Zoe, HTC is adding support for the iPhone as well as a broader range of Android devices. In addition, HTC is allowing the short videos to be posted to places other than the Zoe website, including Instagram.

“For people to discover Zoe, Zoes are going to have to show up in existing places that are well trafficked,” said Drew Bamford, head of HTC Creative Labs. “We have to achieve a critical mass before people start coming to”

Mackenzie said there are more apps to come from the Creative Labs team. In the meantime, here’s a 3D rendering of the Re.

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