HTC revenue falls 50 percent in January, but new devices wait in the wings

Once the king of the Android smartphone world, Taiwanese handset maker HTC has slipped from its throne in recent months, usurped by Samsung’s powerhouse lineup, as well as stiff competition from Apple and Nokia. In a trading update (pdf) released Monday, HTC said that it earned revenues of NT$16.6 billion (US$564 million) during the month of January 2012 — a drop of more than 52 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Thanks to a troubled January, HTC, currently the world’s fifth largest smartphone maker, says it expects its first quarter 2012 earnings to drop 33 to 36 percent year-on-year to between NT$65 billion and NT$70 billion (US$2.2 billion to $2.4 billion).

This dismal announcement accompanies a disappointing fourth quarter earnings report, which shows that the company’s quarterly profits fell 26 percent year-on-year during the last three months of 2011.

HTC’s chief financial officer Winston Yung assured investors and reporters during a conference call on Monday that “Q1 is not normal. We expect this to be a transition.” He added that the company has plans to resolve many of the issues present in its current device line-up, including poor battery life, which plagues most 4G LTE-enabled handsets.

“In 2012, these problems will be resolved and see significant improvement,” said Yung. “So using these LTE phones won’t mean having a compromise.”

HTC is rumored to have four new devices set to debut at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, later this month. This includes a new ultra-slim, super-fast device (codenamed “HTC Ville”), which is expected to come loaded with a quad-core processor, and 4G LTE connectivity. The release of a high-end device that sets itself apart from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and, of course, Apple, is a must for HTC. Its most recent release, the Rezound, was mostly a flop, as best we can gather. The main feature–Beatz integration–was poorly implemented, providing a somewhat miserable user experience. As a whole, the device couldn’t stand up to Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, or Motorola’s Droid Razr.

Obviously, mobile customers and investors alike will be keeping a close watch on what HTC has to offer this year. If it can release a high-quality 4G LTE device that doesn’t run out of battery after only a few hours use, we’ll be the first to sing its praises. Poor battery life remains one of the few reasons to avoid 4G LTE, at the moment. If HTC can solve this problem, it deserves to reap the rewards.