When HTC announced they had acquired half of Beats Audio in 2011, it was a bit of a head scratcher. While audio in mobile devices is important, many wondered if it was $300 million important. While the joint venture yielded some mixed results, the audio from HTC devices using Beats was noticeably improved. Unfortunately, it was a double-edged sword of proprietary: an HTC phone with the Beats algorithm needed Beats headphones to work to its fullest extent.
For HTC, this is probably a good time to focus energy where it’s needed.
As HTC began a slow decline, signs of a fractured relationship emerged. HTC was unable (or unwilling) to meet financial obligations to Beats, and sold back half of their stake in the company. With a mere 25% holding for HTC remaining, it seems the Beats team is looking to sever the tie that binds completely.
Beats has emerged as a staple for high-end headphones, and the partnership with HTC probably had nothing to do with getting them there. Aside from packaging Beats in-ear headphones with mobile devices like the HTC Rezound, the actual partnership was confused. The algorithm was good, but easily reverse engineered to provide the same experience to anyone who wanted it.
In turn, the Beats branding found on HTC devices did little to actually increase sales, and was often overlooked as a feature to the device. Good software like the Beats algorithm can’t help poor speakers, and those are usually the focus of any review that discusses audio performance. The front-facing speakers on an HTC One are often touted as featuring “BoomSound”, not Beats audio, which is also included.
For HTC, this is probably a good time to focus energy where it’s needed. Meeting an obligation to an outside partner is a headache they can readily live without at this point. They’re also in desperate need of a solid follow-up to the One, and a proper marketing scheme to back it up. Hopefully, parting ways with Beats is another step in the right direction for HTC.