HTC: do you still want to be “quietly brilliant”?

by: Ankit BanerjeeMarch 25, 2012

I have always been a huge fan of HTC’s devices, right from the introduction of the first Android OS phone, the G1, all the way through to the Sensation series. With the One series just on the horizon, what does HTC have in store? Last year represented a drop in both market share and mind share for HTC, as they acquiesced from their top spot atop the Android podium. Even I was not surprised that HTC squandered its Android-device dominance from years past to the likes of Samsung, which released some exceptional products last year. Sadly, and as was expected, this translated into a very mediocre year for HTC in 2011.

It now seems that the company from Taiwan has learned a great deal. They appear to have implemented changes that will hopefully bring back the former glory they once knew.

Here’s how.

HTC plans to release fewer phones

One of the major problems HTC had last year was that it ended up flooding the market with products that only featured minor differences between each. Quite simply, their inability to truly back and market one device or series of devices hurt them. On the other hand, Samsung had the right approach, with its intense marketing strategy for the Galaxy S2 line, which definitely paid off. While HTC seemed to eventually figure it out with its Sensation series, it was already too late in the year to affect the company’s bottom line.

Learning from last year, HTC has confirmed that it will be drastically cutting down on its portfolio for 2012, and will instead be aiming to improve the quality of its phone lineup, focusing on only a few, high-speced, devices this year. We have already seen this in the works with HTC’s announcement of its One series, at the recently concluded MWC 2012. Plus, HTC is closer than ever to debuting its HTC One series on the global stage, beating Sony, LG, Samsung and others to market. While there has been controversy regarding the fact that the U.S. market won’t be receiving the quad core variant of the HTC One X, it still will be packing Qualcomm’s S4 SoC which is an absolute demon of a dual core, as far as performance is concerned. In this business, timing is everything.

Sense UI

HTC’s Sense UI  has always been a welcome addition over the stock Android experience. It added a certain panache to what was a somewhat tame UX (user experience). After its first release, HTC’s Sense UI built upon a solid foundation by adding more animations, wallpapers, scenes, and widgets, until suddenly, it was a weakness. Even HTC admitted that its UI had become bloated, cluttered and slow, providing a sluggish experience on even high-end dual core devices.

With the release of Sense 4.0, HTC is promising a much simpler version of its (in)famous UI, removing a lot of the bloatware and by going back to providing the best user experience possible. This time, it also allows a lot of Android 4.0 features to shine through, instead of trying to completely mask the OS, as has been the effort in previous versions.

This doesn’t translate into a less “fun” experience for the user – far from it. With some interesting animations, scrolling options, and features designed to augment the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, you can see some of what Sense. 4.0 has to offer on HTC’s latest flagship device, the HTC One X, in the video above.


DropBox Integration

Cloud storage has become the new way to meet many users data storage needs. With Apple and ASUS creating in-house cloud storage services with iCloud and ASUS Access, HTC appears to have acted in a similar fashion. While they haven’t brought their efforts completely in house, they have inked a new deal with DropBox to provide owners of their smartphones with a tightly integrated cloud storage option. An already popular name in cloud storage arena, all users owning HTC devices will have free access to 5GB storage with DropBox. This was a smart move, dispelling the need to create their own Cloud service. Reinventing the wheel isn’t always the wisest course of action, after all.

If you were worried about HTC getting rid of microSD card support with its new One series, then you shouldn’t. Consumers that opt for any HTC One phone will receive 25GB/year free storage for two years, which is a huge advantage considering DropBox charges $9.99 per month for the same feature.

Beats Audio and MOG

The next step in HTC’s plan to provide a better device for users is to improve the music experience. HTC is now the major shareholder of Beats Audio, and all future HTC Sense 4.0 devices will feature Beats Audio integration for all first- and third-party apps, providing a superior music experience.

With the ever increasing popularity of online music streaming services, it is only understandable that HTC would find a way to implement this as an integral part of their devices as well. HTC and Beats Audio are also in the process of acquiring MOG, an online music subscription service. It is only natural to expect free or at the least, severely discounted, subscription availability for HTC users. Free would be great though!

HTC ImageSense

The cameras in our smartphones have become our primary cameras of choice, and for good reason. To put it mildly, our smartphones go with us absolutely everywhere. They are thin. They are constantly connected. They are the most favorite, beloved devices we own. More importantly, the media they are capable of capturing continues to make huge strides, year after year, and HTC’s cameras this time around look to be packing some of the most advanced technology to date. Still though, there have always been complaints regarding the quality that our smartphones are capable of capturing, especially in a low-light situations. With the announcement of the Nokia PureView 808, and it’s ridiculous 43MP sensor, a whole new bar has been set for camera technology in our mobile devices. Every manufacturer, not just HTC, absolutely needs to step up their game in this area, and in a big way at that. Regardless, HTC has attempted to do so with its ImageChip and ImageSense technology.

According to HTC’s website, ImageSense now rivals traditional digital cameras with improvements to every part of its camera including the lens, the sensor, and the software. This new tech boasts features such as ‘Superfast’ captures, good photos in adverse conditions like low light situations, and the ability to capture photos while shooting video.

Below is a short video to see the new features of HTC’s camera technology, as well as Beats Audio integration.

I was once told that it takes a big man to admit his mistakes and the ability to move on and correct the mishap. HTC has appears to have learned  from its past errors and is moving forward to create not only the best device available, but to also provide the best user experience it can.

With the imminent announcement and release of the Samsung Galaxy S3, and an expected arrival of the iPhone 5 later this year, HTC will be up against the strongest competition it has ever faced. And that’s not including the market share hungry companies like ZTE or Huawei bringing to market excellent devices in their own right as well. As a veteran in the field though, and with the investments in both cutting edge technology and a more refined user experience, it appears that HTC’s new lineup has the makings of something truly great. As we all know, the mobile business is among the most competitive in the world, and changes day by day, week by week, and year by year. Now is the waiting period, where we all wait for the delightful technological temptations teased to us at CES and MWC become available to the greater public at large, via the carriers, and other international resellers. Has HTC done enough to impress you to open your wallet for one of their latest and greatest? Let us know below!

  • Amine Elouakil

    Of course they did, I can say that there are two let downs for the perfect device, the first one is the battery, even if 1800mAh is decent, is not a match to the monster battery in the Razer Maxx, and the other which is a less concern to me tbh, is micro SD, But in that aspect, I’d say the price is amazingly competitive, 549, 449 and 349€ that’s I’d say some great effort.

    And btw here are some benchmarks of the One XL (LTE Variant) although I don’t belive in benchs numbers, they are quite impressive, I’ll let you judge for yourself :

    Also Beat and HTC are buying a music service, like spotify I’d bet we will see that some time soon

  • Adam Smith

    By releasing the products first they can hope to grab hold of people who are ready to upgrade their contracts, and with early upgrade options available from carriers, peope like myself who are due in October can upgrade in July. With what could possibly be the fist Quad-Core phone available in the UK they can tempt everybody with the whole wow factor and having the best. It could be a great beginning for HTC and with success carrying on through summer.

    • i never get handsets at telco’s , they’re full of bloatware spyware and you never get to get the model you really wanted. not to mention the fact that they are 30% (at least) then in a free market , i get all my phones in hong-kong and got my gnexus for 400$ , it is sold here in canada 780$ plus taxes
      telcos are a rip off

  • too litle too late , i was hot for a 10″ tablet from HTC , but none was out and the Gtab was just too fab. when it came down to upgrading my DesireHD , i looked at HTC , seen the ONE , but not in the mood to wait for it and the Gnex was out , great fit to my Gtab.
    i went samsung and nexus for one thing : available and downloadable drivers to cook my own AOSP roms , yes i know that htc has a opensource site , but have you tried to get something (recent) out of it ? more a smokescreen then anything
    i’m now on 4.0.3 right out the oven a couple days ago , first functional rom for a device , now i’m learning java for dalvik and have a couple (good) ideas for some apps.

    now this is how you give back to the android community , provide the sources and users do wonderful things with it. flooding the market with barely different devices and different names in different market just confuses and dizzies you customer

  • trojjanhorse

    Excellent article. Enjoyed reading it very much. I admired htc when they came to the Android scene but slowly lost interest as they concentrated on quantity over quality. I’m looking forward to the future of htc.

  • Ditto_cheah

    Was interestd to replace my current HTC Desire with this, but when I learnt that has a embedded non-removable battery (of standard non-impressive rating) and no expansion slot for microSD, have decided against it now. I use a lot of microSD cards interchanging, and even a mobile battery power pack is barely sufficient juice for me. Sorry HTC!!!

  • Bob Burgess

    I’ve loved my original HTC Desire, but despite it still going strong I’m starting to feel pangs of jealousy when I look at my friends’ Galaxy SII’s and my girlfriend’s Sensation. I considered the GNex and the RAZR, but wasn’t sold on either (didn’t like the camera and plastic body of the GNex, and for the RAZR I figured I wanted a phone built for ICS, rather than had it updated to ICS).

    I held out on upgrading, hoping HTC would announce something brilliant at Barcelona, and boy did they do that. So glad I waited, the One X is top of my shopping list.

  • sabrina D

    Nice model!!!

  • I can find the improvement from the past model, they are having good panel also

  • David Kinlay

    Excellent article, well done!

  • yodb

    Can’t wait to put my fingers on a One X. I have a Desire and until now there was no phone that I really wanted to get. I saw tons of new HTCs, but I was like: why would I change? And in general I don’t really like Samsung. But at last the time has come, HTC is back in the business again!

    Ah, and the article was great indeed!

  • Great piece! I’ve never really liked HTC for their over-bloated Sense UI. Now with Sense 4.0 and the incredible looking HTC One X I’m leaning more towards them.

  • I tried all three Ones, and I am maybe more tempted by the One S: SuperAmoled and built material are simply fantastic, plus I always preferred Qualcomm over Nvidia. I’ll decide soon if more storage and quad-core will win over it :)

    Anyway, consider that:

    v Best camera
    v Cloud
    v Beats + Music service
    v eBooks
    v Watch
    x Free Offline Navigation

    Next step IMHO should be full free access to HTC Locations, allowing offline turn-by-turn navigation. Who would need another smartphone then?

    (For the Americans: I know Gmaps is as good and flat data rates are affordable now, I do use Gmaps when at home a lot, but especially here in Europe it’s very common to travel abroad also for work, so roaming is not an option as it would be too expensive).

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