Can a smarter smartphone help HTC slug it out in one of the most competitive segments in the technology world?
The Taiwanese hardware maker says its new Android phone, dubbed the One M9, automatically adjusts to suit users' personal needs and environment. U.S. HTC America president Jason MacKenzie tells CBS News that the device, which went on sale online in the U.S. on Friday, is "contextually aware, so it actually knows am I at home or work, and will serve me up the applications that I am mostly using at home or work, or that I am using on the road."
He also expects customers to respond to the company's pledge to replace the phone once within 12 months of purchase if it is damaged, calling the policy "a massive differentiator" in the crowded smartphone market.
The One M9 will hit the shelves at major carriers and retailers on April 9.
HTC, which in January reported its first quarterly sales growth in more than three years, has a lot riding on the M9's success. Revenue at the company, which once held a 10 percent share of the global smartphone market, has been largely flat after a steady decline during the past two years, with HTC continuing to lose ground to competitors including Apple (AAPL) and Samsung.
In a March 5 research note, analysts at Morgan Stanley said HTC's February sales fell short of their estimates, and added that whether the company "can live up to expectations remains to be seen."
HTC also faces the challenge of gaining traction following a management shakeup, with Peter Chou recently relinquishing his CEO title to chairwoman Cher Wang to lead product development as head of the HTC's new Future Development Lab. HTC's lead designer, Jonah Becker, also announced Thursday that he is leaving the company.
Although the One M9's commercial appeal remains to be seen, some analysts have been lukewarm on the device, saying it is not all that different from the previous M8 version. Another product, a virtual reality headset made with a technology partner that HTC plans to introduce later this year, will likely make its market debut too late this year to boost HTC in the short-term, according to Morgan Stanley.
But MacKenzie said the headset, called the HTC Vive, will arrive just in time for the critical holiday shopping season. "We're going to launch a virtual reality product that is going to blow people's minds before the holidays this year," he said.
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