HTC releases mid-range Desire phones, aims to bring sensibility of One to mass market

BARCELONA, Spain--Making good on its promise from earlier this month to push less expensive phones, HTC announced two mid-range smartphones in its Desire family here at the Mobile World Congress trade show. The smartphone maker aims to transfer the high-end design sensibility of its flagship One to products with lower price points.

HTC did not unveil a new major flagship, which will be the successor to the One; the company is holding separate events on March 25 in London and New York City to unveil that device. Instead, both HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang and CEO Peter Chou touted the company's commitment to innovation and design while also emphasizing that the company wants to address a wider segment of the market.

Last year the premium-priced One was very well reviewed and received by analysts and critics. Yet it did not revive HTC's overall sales, which continued to slump from quarter to quarter. HTC executives have acknowledged that the company needs to broaden its product portfolio. Yet both Wang and Chou said HTC wouldn't skimp on design or performance.

"While other phone makers are cutting corners to make their phones cheaper, we are doubling down on design and focusing on delivering a much more premium experience," Chou said.

Earlier this month HTC said it would concentrate on making less expensive smartphones in an effort to shore up its shrinking revenues. The company said it would focus on devices with price points of $150 to $300.

The Desire 816 looks a lot like the One and has HTC's signature dual-frontal speakers and HTC BoomSound, as well as the HTC BlinkFeed social and news reader. The phone sports LTE, a 5.5- inch screen, quad-core 1.6 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 400 processor, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera complete with HTC Zoe movie maker as well as a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The Desire 816 will be available in China in March and globally in April.

"With the HTC One leading the premiums segment it's clear that there is a huge opportunity in the middle of the market," Chou said. "So many people want to have an affordable smartphone that does not compromise."

Meanwhile, HTC also announced the Desire 610, which has the same functionality as the 816, but comes with a 4.7-inch screen, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera; it sports a quad-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 400 processor. The Desire 610 will be available across Europe in May.

Additionally, HTC also unveiled what it calls the "Power To Give" initiative, which seeks to use the combined computing resources of millions of HTC phones for research projects, including in medicine, science and ecology. The program was developed in partnership with Dr. David Anderson of the University of California, Berkeley. HTC said that 1 million HTC One smartphones, working toward a project via Power To Give, could provide similar processing power to that of one of the world's 30 supercomputers.

Once users download the Power To Give app from the Google Play store they can select the research program for which they want to divert a proportion of their phone's processing power. The app will only run while the phone is charging and connected to a Wi-Fi network, so that the phone's battery and data usage aren't taxed. The beta version of the Power To Give app will initially be compatible with the HTC One family, HTC Butterfly and HTC Butterfly S.

For more:
- see this Desire 816 release
- see thus Desire 610 release
- see this separate HTC release

Related Articles:
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HTC offers to replace cracked screens for free on One family of devices
HTC plans $150-$300 phones to boost profit
HTC banks on One smartphone successor and its first wearables for 2014 turnaround
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