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HTC, Verizon bet on purple with Rhyme phone

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - HTC Corp is hoping to attract fashion-conscious customers by adding color and accessories to its smartphones as it tries to expand into a new market segment amid slowing growth.

HTC said on Tuesday that its latest phone, the Rhyme, will sport three shades of purple and will come with three accessories, all for $199, when it launches on September 29 at U.S. market leading network Verizon Wireless.

"This phone is particularly important because we're trying to attract a new type of consumer we don't typically do business with," Jason Mackenzie, HTC's head of global sales told Reuters, adding that HTC phones have not previously been known for their looks, "HTC is known as being technology led."

While HTC was one of the first phone makers to support Verizon's fastest wireless data network, one drawback to the Rhyme is its lack of support for that network. But sticking with Verizon's older network reduced the price, so that HTC could include the accessories for $199.

It also helped to keep the phone slim-looking, Mackenzie said at the device launch event, which was held in a New York shopping district, steps away from a major store of HTC's bigger rival Apple Inc.

The Rhyme will come with three accessories: a docking station where the phone is laid to charge; a purple tangle-free headset; and a purple attachment called the charm, which can be clipped on a handbag and flashes to warn of an incoming call.

While the U.S. market is only getting the "plum" version of the phone, Taiwan-based HTC is selling two other colors overseas, a light gray version and an aqua-green model.

HTC has made a lot of progress developing its brand in recent years, but analysts say it needs new markets to sustain its growth as it faces intensifying competition from bigger rivals Apple, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd around the world.

Rhyme, which is based on Google Inc's Android software, will be available globally weeks after the U.S. launch, HTC said.

NPD analyst Ross Rubin said Rhyme could potentially expand HTC's reach among women, but he declined to speculate as to whether the new color scheme would appeal to them.

"It's an interesting direction for HTC, which has built a lot of its reputation on attacking the high-end, addressing the fastest network available," he said.

"This is a nice counterbalance to the Droid, which has had an uber-masculine campaign attached to it," Rubin said referring to Verizon's marketing of its Droid line-up of Android phones with ads featuring robots.

The Rhyme will also go on sale in Target Corp's stores. Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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