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HTC expects rough fourth quarter

Hit by smartphone competition, the maker of the Hero, Droid Eris, and Tilt 2 expects fourth-quarter sales to drop 15 percent.

After a string of weak quarters, mobile phone maker HTC is eyeing more of the same for the current quarter but is hoping for better results next year.

The Taiwan-based company expects sales for the fourth quarter to drop to between 40 billion and 42 billion Taiwan dollars (between $1.23 billion and $1.3 billion), around 15 percent lower than in last year's fourth quarter.

Competition from other smartphones, especially the iPhone 3GS released this summer, has tempered demand for HTC's products, which include the Hero, Droid Eris, Tilt 2, MyTouch 3G, Snap, and Ozone.

HTC's (from left) Hero, Droid Eris, Tilt 2, and Pure. HTC

Prices on smartphones have also dropped this year and are likely to continue to fall, putting further pressure on HTC, which trails the market in fourth place behind Nokia, Apple, and Research In Motion.

The company's third quarter continued its down streak, with full results reported earlier this week. For the quarter the ended September 30, HTC watched its sales drop 10 percent to 34.01 billion Taiwan dollars from last year's third quarter. Earnings fell 18.5 percent to 5.7 billion Taiwan dollars.

In a conference call this week, HTC outlined its current business and forecast for the near term. The U.S. market for HTC 's Android smartphones has enjoyed strong growth, the company said, but European sales remain sluggish due to a lack of brand awareness.

Market researcher IDC recently reported that HTC sold 2.4 million smartphones in the third quarter, a gain of 14.7 percent over last year's third quarter. But Android sales for that quarter were lower than expected, mostly due to tougher competition from other manufacturers and are likely to stay down in the fourth quarter.

The company has been striving to increase consumer awareness of its brand in both the U.S. and Europe, a goal it plans to push further next year by boosting its marketing budget.

For the holiday-shopping season, HTC will be trying to grab more shelf space and sales for its new Android Hero smartphone, released last month. Beyond that, the company is looking for strong sales volume from its overall line of Android smartphones, including the G1, Magic, Tattoo, and the new Droid Eris.

Despite its new focus on Google's Android operating system, HTC said that its Windows Mobile phones remain vital products. The company still ships more Windows Mobile smartphones than any other manufacturer and is looking to enhance their performance and touch capabilities in the near term. Hitting U.S. shores next year will be the new HD2 Windows Mobile smartphone, which has already had positive reviews.