HTC postpaid disappears from websites of AT&T and T-Mobile

HTC phone
Like many of its rivals, HTC is struggling to compete in a worldwide smartphone market that has largely plateaued. Image: HTC

HTC’s presence among major U.S. carriers is waning as the company is shifting its focus away from low-end smartphones to more expensive handsets.

The Taiwan-based company said earlier this week that it plans to streamline its handset portfolio this year, dropping entry-level, low-margin phones from its lineup in favor of mid-range and high-end devices. That news followed yet another tough earnings report from HTC, in which it posted an operating loss of $117 million and a 13% year-over-year drop in revenue.

Meanwhile, both AT&T and T-Mobile have stopped selling HTC postpaid phones on their websites, according to a new report from Wave7 Research.

“As noted in January, with the removal of the $139.99 Desire from T-Mobile’s website weeks ago, there are no HTC phones on the websites of AT&T or T-Mobile,” Wave7 wrote in a note to subscribers. “T-Mobile reps sometimes mention the $139.99 Desire as a prepaid option. On paper, Verizon is selling two HTC devices, but at many stores checked, there was no in-store inventory of either device.”

AT&T declined to comment on Wave7’s report, while T-Mobile pointed out that it continues to sell the HTC Desire 530 to prepaid users. Wave7 also reported that HTC claims only 2% of sales at Sprint, which is the exclusive U.S. carrier for its Bolt smartphone.

Like many of its rivals, HTC is struggling to compete in a worldwide smartphone market that has largely plateaued. The company reportedly laid off workers in Seattle in November as part of a larger corporate restructuring, and T-Mobile quietly dropped the HTC 10 from its portfolio just weeks after the flagship handset hit the market.

Cliff Maldonado, an analyst at BayStreet Research, said in December that HTC likely won’t release another flagship in the U.S. this year, opting instead to design devices for specific customers who in turn sell them to consumers.

“We believe the launch of the Pixel at Verizon and the Bolt at Sprint, combined with the recent headcount reductions, indicate HTC will follow more of an ODM business model going forward,” Maldonado wrote in a report. “We believe HTC has astutely restructured to compete with their hardware design strengths and partner with brands to lower marketing and distribution costs and overall risks. It will be interesting to see how and with whom HTC partners with next.”

*This story was updated Feb. 16 to note that T-Mobile still sells HTC phones to prepaid users.