Taiwanese handset maker HTC Corp has decided to pull phone sales from China’s two largest e-commerce platforms after struggling to find a significant share of the world’s largest smartphone market.
“Due to consideration of HTC China’s long-term business strategy, we will temporarily close the HTC flagship mobile phone stores on JD.com and Tmall,” HTC said on its official Sina Weibo account, Tmall being the business-to-consumer platform of Alibaba Group Holding.
Consumers can still purchase HTC smartphones and accessories through HTC’s self-run online sales platform and its bricks-and-mortar HTC VIVE Flagship Store in Shenzhen, according to the company, without further elaborating on the reasons for scaling back its sales platform in China.
HTC, which made the first-ever Android phone in 2008 and was once a popular phone brand in China, has been edged out of the mainstream market in recent years with domestic vendors including Huawei, Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi rising to the top and securing about 80% total market share in the country.
Shipments of HTC mobile handsets to China are unknown, and the vendor has been classified into the “others” sector in research agency reports, which includes other small players in China such as Samsung and Meizu.
The struggling Taiwanese consumer electronics firm, which slashed almost a quarter of its workforce in 2018, is betting that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies represent the next wave of innovation for the smartphone market, and it launched the HTC Exodus blockchain phone in May last year.
The blockchain phone features a built-in digital wallet application that enables users to securely store and use cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and ethereum, in daily transactions. The handset can serve as a “node”, which connects to certain blockchain networks to enable trading of tokens between users. It can also act as a so-called mining rig for users to earn new tokens tied to the Exodus blockchain.
Over the weekend, HTC unveiled the new HTC Exodus 1s smartphone, a cheaper version of the Exodus 1 phone, which is expected to be shipped at the end of the third quarter.
But the new-concept crypto phones have yet to help HTC’s sales and it has even been edged out of the top five brands in terms of sales volume in its home Taiwan market, which is currently dominated by Apple, Samsung, Oppo, Asus and Huawei, according to Statista.com.
In March 2017, HTC announced it was selling a plant in Shanghai for 630mil yuan (RM382.41mil) in a strategic move to fund expansion of its fledgling virtual reality (VR) unit – the HTC Vive.
Searches on Tmall and JD.com in China on May 13 showed that HTC is now concentrating on its VR headset sales while smartphone sales segments have already gone.
High-performance VR headsets increased 60% to 3.9 million in 2018 from 2017, research firm IDC said in a report last week, adding that the number of “hard core” VR users are growing even though the overall market still has major challenges to overcome.
Sony is the world’s largest seller of VR devices, followed by Oculus and HTC, with the three together controlling a total market share of 80% globally. – South China Morning Post