Building a better HTC by helping you take a better selfie

HTC chair and co-founder Cher Wang speaks during an interview at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Oct. 5, 2013.
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images
HTC chair and co-founder Cher Wang speaks during an interview at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Oct. 5, 2013.

As Apple and Samsung duke it out over market share in the fiercely competitive smartphone market, HTC is betting on a comeback.

Cher Wang is the chairman and largest shareholder of the Taiwanese smartphone maker, which has largely been forgotten in the smartphone wars. One of the wireless industry's most successful women, Wang is betting that a reinvigorated product line reinvents the struggling company she co-founded in 1997 and returned to a day-to-day operations role in late 2013.

"We are producing one of the best smartphones in the world," said Wang. Both she and her husband were named Taiwan's richest citizens before struggling sales led to a 90 percent drop in HTC's market value between 2011 and 2013.

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"We have to be consistent," she said. "And you just have to make people love you. It takes time."

Nowadays, there's nothing consumers love more than taking pictures of themselves. One way HTC is trying to endear itself to that crowd is by launching the new Desire Eye, a new smartphone billed as the perfect "selfie" device.

It is also the company's first foray in cameras, and carries a small, portable lens called a RE. The 2.3-ounce, plastic camera has no viewfinder, few buttons and a 146-degree wide angle lens.

"It's very easy to carry with you," said Wang, who touted the camera's light weight and ease in contributing to the selfie craze. "You don't want to miss any time of your life, (so) just go anywhere and shoot anytime you want."

The RE, which is being touted as a challenger to upstart GoPro, is expected to be priced at about $200 when it is available to consumers later this month.

'Made for people's needs'

Branching beyond phones
Branching beyond phones   

Wang stepped back from a leadership position when HTC was a lower-profile brand, building and manufacturing phones on the Android and Windows platforms for Google and Microsoft. As recently as 2011, one out of the every six smartphones sold in the US was made by HTC.

Today, the iPhone and Galaxy control about half of the global smartphone market, while HTC's flagship One brand struggles for consumer recognition. In her return to marketing and product development at HTC, Wang has focused on improving the brand's messaging.

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Wang knows about the patience required for product design. As a young woman, she traveled throughout Europe, managing direct sales of heavy computer motherboards for First International Computer, a company founded by her sister.

"The desktop machine was very heavy," recalled Wang of the work she performed nearly 30 years ago.

"I had to drag (motherboards) up and down the train" to be able to demonstrate the machine's performance abilities firsthand to customers. Sitting on the train, Wang began day-dreaming about handheld computers.

She's hoping some of that heavy lifting will translate into helping HTC muscle up against its competition.

"The best product is made for people's needs," she added.

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