Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC is turning to the blockchain as the company tries to breathe new life into its flagging business.
But some analysts are not convinced the plan to build a product around the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies could turn things around for HTC after years of losing market share.
HTC announced plans in May to develop a new smartphone called the Exodus with greater emphasis on security and data. The phone, which the company said is aiming to “expand the blockchain ecosystem,” is being developed under Phil Chen, HTC's chief crypto officer who previously ran the Vive virtual reality headset business.
The phone will reportedly run on Android software, have a universal wallet to store digital coins and support major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether. It will run decentralized applications, which are digital programs that operate on the blockchain and fall outside the control of a single authority. Beyond that, details about the phone's hardware specifications have been sparse even though HTC said it would start shipping later this year.
The Exodus is not the first blockchain smartphone that's been announced. Sirin Labs unveiled a similar device called the Finney that has a price tag of $1,000 and uses component specifications found in many mainstream smartphones. While HTC did not disclose any price range for the Exodus, the company said it would be "comparable to the Sirin Labs device."
Some analysts said the Exodus may not appeal to a large number of smartphone users — at least not in the short run — and that HTC is simply jumping on a bandwagon.
"The target users are going to be very limited for this device as very few people understand this technology and the upcoming benefits associated with it," Anshika Jain, an analyst at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC, adding that the company was "trying to gain mindshare, which necessarily in this case won't translate into market share."
Jain explained that companies like BlackBerry, Blackphone and SIKUR have had little success with their privacy-focused devices when compared to the likes of Samsung, Apple and Huawei. The Exodus would "find it difficult to acquire shelf space alongside the iPhone X, Samsung S9 and other premium models due to the brand value and more meaningful feature sets associated with the competing devices," she said.