Razer, known for computers, keyboards and other gear aimed at avid video game players, is now trying to take on the biggest smartphone makers.
For Razer, which recently moved its headquarters to San Francisco and is planning to go public in Hong Kong later this month, the move is a punch above its weight. On Nov 1, it took the wraps off its first smartphone, a US$700 (RM2,959) model designed to appeal to customers who use their phones primarily to play games and stream video.
The Razer Phone will be sold on Amazon and in its own stores, with a limited special edition model available in the company's Westfield San Francisco Centre location downtown.
The 5.7in display phone has all the usual smartphone features, but adds touches designed for gamers, such as amplified speakers, one of the larger batteries available in a smartphone, and control buttons that won't get in the way while playing a game, said Eric Lin, product marketing manager.
Razer is a new entrant in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung.
According to research released this week by Parks Associates, Apple and Samsung own more than 76% of the US smartphone market, widening their lead over also-rans LG and Motorola. While Google made a splash with its Pixel phone and is running ads for its Pixel 2, as of August, it had less than 1% of the market. Moreover, Apple's newest flagship that some pundits are already calling a potential game changer, the US$1,000 (RM4,230) iPhone X, hits stores Nov 3.
"The mobile industry is quite mature, and it might seem kind of crazy to be just entering the market at this point in time," Lin said. However, he said interest in mobile gaming is growing, so Razer believes "it was time" for a gamer-centric phone.
"We think there's a huge audience out there looking for a high-performance phone with a big battery," he said.
The Android phone, which includes dual 12-megapixel rear cameras and an LCD display with a fast refresh rate, has control buttons and the fingerprint sensor positioned so a gamer holding the phone horizontally, in landscape mode, won't accidentally hit a button "shutting yourself out of the victory," Lin said.
The company has loyal customers who are most likely to buy another Razer product, and 93% of them play mobile games, according to a report from the game industry research firm Newzoo. But about 39% of Razer customers already own a Samsung phone, while 31% own an Apple phone, meaning Razer will have to compete directly against those bigger companies, Newzoo said.
Analyst Joost van Dreunen, CEO of the industry research firm SuperData, said momentum in the PC games market places Razer in a strong position, but he was sceptical about the phone's chances.
"What's less obvious is how a mobile gaming device fits into the equation," he said in an email. "Razer would likely seek to cater to high-end customers, but faces two big challenges, the need for compelling content that will convince consumers to buy the unproven device, and competing with both Apple and Samsung, which have set their sights on the high-end smartphone market themselves."
Lin said Razer is working with top game developers and will have mobile versions of Final Fantasy XV, World of Tanks and Arena of Valor, an English version of the popular Chinese multiplayer online battle game Honor of Kings, ready when the phone goes on sale.
The phone will be available Nov 17 in North America and Europe. The company began taking orders as soon as CEO Min-Liang Tan announced the phone at an event in London. Meanwhile, it's getting more financial oomph: Razer is seeking to raise at least US$400mil (RM1.69bil) in its Hong Kong IPO. — The San Francisco Chronicle/Tribune News Service