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HTC plans to offer customization options for Chinese users

HTC is planning to offer smartphone customization at point-of-purchase, but will still have to determine viability, given higher production costs. Are you willing to pay a premium for a phone with your choice of hardware, software and other extras?
February 4, 2013

Build-your-own device schemes are popular in the computer market, with major manufacturers offering spec customization at point of purchase. This kind of setup might just be around the corner for smartphone buyers, that is if you’re in China. HTC is reportedly planning to offer custom-built smartphones for the Chinese market.

NetEase reports (Chinese, with English translation) that Taiwanese manufacturer HTC is experiencing poor performance in the mainland China market and plans to address this by offering customization options to consumers. Ren Weiguang, president at HTC in China, says the program is not yet in place, but plans are underway to offer these customization features in HTC’s own e-commerce store. This means phone buyers can choose their own hardware configurations, applications, services, and accessories at point of purchase.

At this point, VP for product marketing and general manager Lin Zurong says the company is still undertaking a feasibility study to determine whether giving a wide variety of choices for customers would make sense in the market. The aim here is to provide a “different purchase experience” for customers. e-Commerce in China is growing, although the downside is that sellers often face cutthroat competition. As such, customization options can be a differentiator for HTC.

The company notes, though, that this comes with many business process difficulties, especially given the number of options that the manufacturer will need to give users. A custom phone would certainly cost higher than a “standard production” phone, and viability would depend on whether this business model can scale. It would also depend on whether a buyer would be willing to pay a premium for a custom device, or whether HTC would be willing to shoulder the additional cost of customizing devices for the buyer at point of purchase.

For now, HTC admits that customizing smartphones may still be a novelty market. But if this can set them apart as an innovator in the smartphone industry, HTC can capitalize on the first-mover advantage, and offering custom retail products might just be the boost that HTC needs to reinvigorate its image as a smartphone brand.