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HTC’s Christmas miracle

December 6th, 2012 at 9:00 AM

In November, HTC (2498) managed to snap a six-month losing streak and finally show month-on-month revenue growth. Steve Ballmer plays Santa Claus — the sales driver was most likely the Windows Phone 8X. The 23% sales bounce from October is impressive, because in 2011 HTC’s sales declined by nearly as much between these two months.

The question now is this: How much of the November bounce was derived from initial shipments of Windows Phone models and how deep is the actual demand?

It is puzzling that the HTC Windows Phone 8X is now at No.41 at Amazon Wireless considering how strongly HTC used to perform at this site in 2011. On Expansys’ UK site, the 8X is lagging behind such non-entities as the Motorola RAZR and Acer Liquid Glow. At Expansys Germany, the 8X has already dropped out of the top-20, though the notably cheap HTC Windows Phone 8S does hold the No.7 position.

Expansys is not a perfect reflection of European demand, but it is very popular and tends to reflect early adaptor demand in Europe particularly well. It is a site where HTC used to reign supreme in 2011.

The Windows Phone 8X’s fast fade in Germany and the UK is not a good sign, but it is possible that the aggressive pricing of the 8S may finally give HTC a toehold in the value smartphone market. HTC’s proud pricing has been the bane of the company over the past year — a cavalcade of relatively expensive HTC models have crashed and burned in direct rivalry with Samsung (005930) models.

But right now, the HTC Windows Phone 8S is retailing at 300 euros in Europe compared to 550 euros for Samsung ATIV S and 650 euros for the Nokia Lumia 920. The ATIV S is delayed until the end of December and the Lumia 920 is widely sold out. Availability of HTC’s 8X and 8S smartphones is clearly wider than what Samsung or Nokia can offer in December, implying HTC may be cruising towards another solid month.

At least until Samsung starts large-scale Windows Phone shipments and Nokia ramps up Lumia volumes, HTC has found its Christmas miracle. It handled the fourth-quarter 2012 Windows Phone model roll-out better than any other vendor in the world, both in North America and Europe, by rolling out a cheap alternative rapidly and by ensuring both the high-end 8X and the budget 8S had sufficient production volume.[bgr-post-bug]

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