HTC adds some bells and whistles to the Vive Focus ahead of Western rollout

As HTC gears up for a stateside launch of their Vive Focus standalone headset, the company announced a number of changes that they’re bringing to the device currently available in China.

The company has long fancied itself the “premium” brand of VR, but at its annual developer conference it was tasked with showing off features that showed the company had more to offer than middle-of-the-road products with premium prices.

Some of the most notable announcements were that the device would be gaining phone integration with HTC devices, beginning with the company’s new U12+ smartphone, which will basically allow users to check out text messages and notifications without removing the headset. The feature seems to be a junior version of functionality available on the company’s PC-based Vive headset, which can deliver similar notifications but can do so from any Android or iOS device while also allowing users to send messages as well on certain devices.

In addition to the phone stuff, HTC talked about a lot of new content partnerships, but also a hardware partnership with Seagate that will be making an odd little device add-on that doubles the Vive Focus battery life and adds additional memory as well. The company has spent a good deal of energy building out options for cash-laden VR fans to buy better experiences, whether this market is as ripe for a device powered by a smartphone chipset is a little dubious though.

HTC’s first virtual reality product, the Vive, arrived first to market with a splash of enthusiasm that made them the VR company du jour. But they have certainly had trouble maintaining that enthusiasm in Western markets as the field has gotten more crowded with competitors that are perhaps less sensitive to hardware margins than HTC. This month, Lenovo released the $399 Mirage Solo, a headset specced fairly comparably to the Vive Focus, but based on Google’s Daydream platform, while Oculus released a more basic, but still very capable, headset called Oculus Go for just $199.

The blue Vive Focus headset has yet to crack into consumer markets in the West, but as the company began shipping dev kits to developers in the past several weeks, it’s clear that an announcement is probably around the corner.