HTC announces One mini smartphone in bid to extend One brand

HTC put the rumors to rest and formally announced the One mini, the smaller version of its flagship One smartphone, which the company hopes will help extend the One brand and help it reach a wider range of consumers. 

HTC One mini

The HTC One, left, and the One mini

HTC said the One mini will be available in "select markets" starting in August and rolled out globally in September, but the company did not reveal pricing, specific availability or which U.S. carriers will offer the One mini. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint (NYSE:S), T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), Cellcom and Cincinnati Bell currently sell the original One, and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will soon start selling it as well.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Mike Woodward, HTC's president of North America, said the company is building on what it sees as solid momentum with the One, and feels confident enough in the brand to branch out and create a family of devices. (There have also been rumors that HTC will announce a larger version of the One, the One Max, but Woodward declined to comment on the reports.)

Woodward said that the launch of the One was more than a device launch--it was about the launch of a brand that would stay in consumers' minds. According to HTC's internal metrics, the company's brand awareness is now at around 80 percent globally, up from the mid-60s before the One launch (the gadget is now available in more than 180 countries through 580 operators). He also noted that consumer sentiment about the One is strong--on AT&T's website, for example, 94 percent customers who reviewed the phone would recommend it to a friend.

"Globally we're pretty excited about what we've been able to pull off. It's the most successful model in HTC history," Woodward said, though he declined to provide global or U.S. sales figures for the One. "We want to build out the foundation of the [One] brand," he added.

The One mini sports a 4.3-inch screen, compared with the One's 4.7-inch display, and the mini's screen has an HD 720p display, compared with the 1080p display on the One. However, the gadget still sports beefy specs, including a 1.4 GHz dual-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 400 processor, support for LTE, HTC's UltraPixel camera designed to let in 300 percent more light, and HTC's BoomSound with dual front-facing speakers.

Woodward declined to give specific pricing, but indicated the One mini will be cheaper than the One.

HTC is still in a tough spot financially. Earlier this month the company reported that its second-quarter net profit declined 83 percent to $41.6 million, down from $245.4 million a year earlier and missing analysts' estimates of a $66.3 million profit for the quarter. The company had hoped that sales of the One smartphone would help it rebound, but HTC's revenue also declined 22 percent to $2.34 billion, down from $3.02 billion a year earlier.

The strategy of introducing a smaller variant of a flagship device is certainly not new. Other handset makers--including Samsung Electronics with its Galaxy line, Sony Mobile Communications with its Xperia brand and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) with its Lumia line of Windows Phones--have tried to the gambit to broaden their appeal and deepen their brands.

"I think the key here is consistency," Woodward said. "Unlike some of the other attempts at this, when you look at this device you will immediately recognize it as an HTC One." He noted that the One mini sports the same metal unibody construction, the same speakers and has all of the software features of the One, including BlinkFeed, which turns the device's the home screen into a single live stream of personally relevant information that includes social updates, entertainment and lifestyle updates, news and photos.

Despite the critical praise and high consumer satisfaction surrounding the One, HTC remains outgunned by larger rivals such as Samsung and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which can spend far more on marketing than HTC can. "Clearly, it would be difficult for us to compete dollar for dollar," Woodward said. He said the company is focusing its marketing on specific features, such as the phone's speakers and audio quality.

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