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Amid Struggles, HTC Takes Aim at Midrange With New "Desire" Phones

The company is saving the launch of its new flagship phone for a March 25 event.

Ina Fried

Despite the challenges her company faces, HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang says there is nothing keeping her up at night.

“Actually I sleep very well,” Wang said, kicking off a press event in Barcelona.

At the event, HTC launched a new midrange model, the HTC Desire 816, complete with a 5-megapixel front camera, 13-megapixel rear camera, quad-core Snapdragon processor and a 5.5-inch display. The device will hit the market beginning next month in China and then roll out to other countries in April.

“There’s a huge opportunity in the middle of the market,” CEO Peter Chou said. “So many people want to have an affordable smartphone that does not compromise.”

HTC is saving the launch of its new flagship device for an event next month, instead using Mobile World Congress to try to reassert itself in the heart of the smartphone market.

“We have to keep the surprise for one more month,” Chou said. “On March 25 we will show you the world’s best smartphone is about to get even better. It will be a masterpiece you want to own.”

The once high-flying Taiwanese phone maker has struggled for some time now amid intense pressure from larger rivals, including Samsung, Sony and LG.

Sales and marketshare have been in decline and what was once a highly profitable company is struggling to break even. The company’s financial woes continued into the fourth quarter of last year, where the company barely managed to eke out a profit during what is traditionally the best quarter of the year.

HTC’s event was also marked by the fact that Chairwoman Cher Wang was front and center. Peter Chou, the longtime CEO, has stepped back from the limelight to focus on products, with Wang playing a bigger role at the company.

When he did take the stage, following Wang, Chou talked up the work that HTC has been doing.

While other companies are cutting corners to save money, “we are doubling down our effort on design,” Chou said.

In addition to the new phone, HTC kicked off a “Power to give” effort to use excess smartphone power to help in various distributed computing efforts, much the way PCs were harnessed by SETI@Home to search for extraterrestrial life.

Update: Actually, HTC introduced a second midrange model, the Desire 610, though it apparently didn’t merit an onstage mention. That phone, with a smaller 4.7-inch display, is due to ship in Europe in May, HTC said in a press release.

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