HTC unveils Flyer tablet computer

BEIJING – Taiwan-based smartphone maker HTC Corp unveiled its first tablet computer, HTC Flyer, on the Chinese mainland on Thursday, and analysts said its price is higher than expected, which could make it hard to challenge Apple Inc’s dominant position in the market.

The HTC Flyer, priced at 5,500 yuan ($852), will be launched at the end of July on the Chinese mainland. The 7-inch device runs on the Android 2.2 operating system and supports both Wi-Fi and China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd’s third generation WCDMA network.

The official price of Apple Inc’s iPad 2 is starting from 3,688 yuan. The iPad series held 74.3 percent of China’s tablet computer market in the second quarter, slipping 5.14 percent from the previous quarter, according to research firm Analysys International.

“We did not expect the HTC Flyer’s price to be that high,” said Sun Peilin, tablet computer analyst at Analysys International. However, the device comes with a digital pen, which caters to Chinese users’ preference for handwriting .

HTC also launched Weike, the first social-networking smartphone on the mainland, on Thursday. It is similar to the Salsa sold in the United States, a smartphone with a button to connect directly to social networking website Facebook.

HTC Weike is tailored for Chinese Sina Weibo users. It has a button connecting them directly to the Twitter-like Sina Weibo services, simplifying the sending of micro blogs, photos and shared music.

“This is the first time for a handset company to cooperate with a Chinese Internet giant, and I think this could be a trend when the mobile Internet era catches on,” Ray Yam, China president of HTC Corp, said at a Beijing briefing.

Sina Weibo had more than 140 million users and produced about 60 million micro blog postings a day by the end of April. Cao Guowei, chief executive officer of Sina Corp, said that the company has seen an amazing growth in Weibo users in recent months.

HTC entered the Chinese mainland market on July 23, 2010, and has aggressively expanded its distribution channels and built its brand in the past year.

An HTC official surnamed Zhang said the company has increased the number of retail booths and outlets on the Chinese mainland to 2,000 and intends to have 5,000 in a year.

HTC estimated that its smartphone shipments tripled in the past 12 months, Zhang said.

Liu Donghai, founder of Beijing Digital Telecom Co Ltd, which owns more than 1,000 electronics outlets across China, said HTC has been a strategic alliance of the company since last year, and sales of HTC smartphones are better than expected.

However, the high pricing of HTC smartphones in official outlets has been a deterrent in gaining a larger share in the Chinese smartphone market, said Lu Libin, analyst at Analysys International. He said many Chinese buyers still prefer to buy an HTC handset on the gray market, which may be at least 500 yuan cheaper per unit.

“Launching a social networking smartphone with Chinese Internet firms may be a good method to prevent people from buying gray market HTC handsets, because no overseas HTC device has that function,” Lu said.

Source: China Daily

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