The HTC One has been unveiled a few hours ago and in the meantime we covered most of its ins and outs. It’s a great Android handset, hopefully the kind of device HTC needs to get back on its feet. But how many times since seeing the press photo leaks did you think the HTC One looks very much like an iPhone, and specifically an iPhone 5?
Is this HTC’s iPhOne? This time around Apple will not sue, because the two companies have long laid down their patent warfare. In fact, they have signed a multi-year licensing deal which means that HTC can use certain iPhone and iOS features without fearing another lawsuit coming – and HTC wasn’t doing that great in the winning-in-court-against Apple department.
With that in mind, we have noticed various elements that suggest HTC has picked up a few lessons from Apple when it comes to making, branding and launching new products, so let’s check them out.
Standing out in the Android universe where a new handset is launched every few months to capture the mind of the public is very difficult, so design should be very important for all OEMs.
Sure there are exceptions, just remember the disappointment related to the Galaxy S3’s design at launch, but the device still went on to sell over 40 million units and counting.
It finally looks like HTC is ready to play in the big leagues with a handset that screams “high-end” when it comes to design. There’s no plastic here, as company has emphasized the various design features of the handset, focusing on the “full metal” unibody, the “zero gap construction,” and the slim profile.
But looking at the handset from the front, and from the distance, its clearly resembling the iPhone 5, although the One is bigger. Not to mention those chamfered edges.
However, the One is slightly bigger and thicker, and when looking at the handset’s back, one would immediately spot the curved back.
When performing the iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 drop tests we noticed the former’s durability thanks to its build quality. Is HTC going for the same kind of build quality?
What’s that patent?
Since we did mention the all-metal aluminum unibody – which prevents users from replacing the battery – we will move on to antennas next.
As we already know, starting with the iPhone 4, the iOS phone’s antennas are on the outside. But Apple has just obtained another patent (U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610) that describes microslot antennas that embedded in metal. Future iPhones could make use of the technology, but until then the HTC One may be one of the first handsets to use it, although there’s nothing that confirms it.
The Next Web mentions the fact that the “company has been a able to use 12 years of R&D to incorporate all its antennae into the metal, using a complex system of patented technologies to automatically utilize antennae not obscured by your hand when you use it.” But what patents are we talking about? Is Apple’s latest patent also included?
Less buttons is more button presses, silly!
For some reason, HTC decided to drop one button – the multitasking one – from the One. The handset has a big HTC logo between the back and home buttons. These are capacitive buttons, not physical buttons, which are kept in place, so one has to wonder why HTC didn’t eliminate them altogether.
How is that related to the iPhone? Well, by dropping a button HTC had to come out with a different button press order for the Home button so that the phone can offer the same functionality as any other Android device.
You’ll have to press twice the Home key to enable multitasking, while a long press on the same button will bring Google Now to life. If that doesn’t ring a bell then we’ll tell you that’s how you do multitasking on the iPhone and how your bring Siri out of her hiding place and into action.
Not a hardware race, a features one
The HTC One is ready to blow some of its competitors out of the water when it comes to the first benchmarks, but HTC is not in a hardware race with its competitors, or at least not anymore.
In case that sounds like something Apple would say on stage during a new iOS device’s launch, at least indirectly by highlighting features rather than mentioning specs, then you’d be right and that’s what HTC has done throughout the event
The display falls into that category but at the same time, not necessarily. It’s a 4.7-inch display instead of the 5-inch you’d expect – considering that all the other Full HD phones out there competing with the HTC One have 5-inch displays, the HTC Butterfly / Droid DNA included. So HTC did not feel tempted to go to 5-inch with this one.
But at the same time, by maintaining the 4.7-inch display and using a Full HD resolution, it managed to surpass everyone else when it comes to Pixel Per Inch (PPI) density. Whether or not it wanted to do it, HTC did apply here Apple’s Retina Display strategy of the iPhone 4: keep the screen size in place but increase the number of pixels. And the HTC One will marginally beat every 5-inch Full HD display out there.
How about some sound?
Even if it wanted to, it wouldn’t been able to increase the size of that display because it decided to offer two front-facing speakers for some serious BoomSound, and to place them on top and beneath the display. Is this an Apple-like sound-related play? With the iPhone 5, Apple also focused on the sound by introducing redesigned headphones. HTC came up with a way to improve sound on those occasions where you don’t want to use a headset.
UltraPixel-ing the camera
The HTC comes with a 4-megapixel main shooter that has UltraPixels (which is just a marketing naming gimmick) capable of allowing in more light and therefore of offering better pictures. That’s way lower than what the competition has – 8- to 13-megapixel cameras – but HTC is not afraid to call out the megapixels race between handset maker. Sure, HTC has been in that race itself, but it’s ready to focus on quality than on hardware only.
That’s something Apple would say and do, after all it didn’t really keep up the megapixels pace with its own iPhones. From a different point of view though, HTC is more and more interested in offering an improved camera experience to HTC One buyers, something it started with the previous One models.
Processor and RAM size do not matter
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 is quite fast according to benchmarks, even if it’s not the very latest model in town, something you’d expect of every Android OEM’s flagship device. But did it get mentioned during the event? What about RAM?
When it comes to processors, Apple never mentions actual characteristics, although it always highlights the overall performance of the new SoCs found aboard the devices it introduces, focusing on speed and graphics. Nor does it say how much RAM is found in its iOS devices.
Granted, HTC has revealed those details in press materials and on its website, unlike Apple, who doesn’t officially acknowledge them even after the event is over
Branding is king
Apple creates strong, remberable product names, introducing with some product launches new names for devices, features or components. Some of them get stuck in the vocabulary of buyers, creating more publicity for the company, while others don’t.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Let’s look only at iPhone-related product names: iPhone, iOS, iSight (camera,) Siri (virtual assistant,) Lighting (new charging cable.)
In case you followed closely HTC’s One presentation, you may have seen various new names emerge, which could help HTC further down the road. We’ve seen One, Sense (strangely not called HTC Sense 5 on stage,) UltraPixel, Zoe, BoomSound or BlinkFast.
These are not correspondents to the Apple products I named before, but HTC’s marketing department is definitely trying a few Apple-like moves here. It remains to see which names will actually stick.
Content is… also king
In addition to smartphone functions, smartphones can do a lot of other things, all related to digital content, whether it’s about consumption or creation.
HTC emphasized today the importance of that content via its new HTC Sense feature called BlinkFeed, a portal to news and social networks. How is this Apple-like?
Well HTC focused on its own software that can highlight what third-parties have to offer in terms of content. It even invited a third-party representative on stage to talk about their content – in this case ESPN’s president of global customer sales and marketing Ed Erhardt – to talk about its content.
Granted though, HTC’s initiative isn’t completely comparable to Apple way of presenting new iOS apps during media events, because Sense is not an OS for which developers are creating such new apps. But it’s sure looks like a sales page from Apple’s keynotes playbook.
Worth noting is that HTC did not mention Google, Android or the Google Play Store at all during the event. In fact, from the looks of it, you would have thought that Sense is the OS that’s being sold together with all its new features, right alongside the HTC One.
Selling the package?
During an Apple event, the company manages to present the package in such a way that in the following weeks millions of sales are registered. Will HTC experience great HTC One sales in the coming month? That remains to be seen, especially since the Galaxy S4 will be unveiled soon.
But HTC at least tried to sell the package in an Apple-like way on stage. It had the show, it focused on the user experience and on the unique features of the smartphone, it involved third party partners, and it even had videos highlighting various HTC One characteristics. Not that there’s a patent on how to do these things.
That’s the half lesson it can borrow from Apple. It’s not quite a full lesson, because it’s yet to sell the HTC One in an iPhone-like – or even Galaxy S3-like – manner.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Did HTC copy Apple today? You could say that some iPhone/iOS features and/or technologies may have been intentionally or unintentionally used, Not that Apple is suing this time around. Although Apple could never sue HTC for also borrowing marketing and/or presentation guidelines. Again, not that Apple is suing this time around.
Overall it was a good presentation, the HTC One is a great product, one that you’ll certainly enjoy in case you want to buy it.
What’s the bad thing about the whole thing? Maybe the fact that HTC needs to learn a few other lessons as well, including dialing down the number of leaks and rumors preceding an event, and actually releasing the device sooner after being announced. Maybe HTC should find its own way of creating impressive product announcements ready to bring back to the company lost customers, and ways of keeping up the buzz for more than just a few more months after the device launches.
The ugly is yet to come – and hopefully it won’t be here for a long time – and it concerns HTC’s profitability. The HTC One may indeed be a make or break product, so HTC’d better sell millions upon millions of Ones in the following quarters. But it won’t be easy in this current Android environment against the likes of Xperia Z, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 3 or Motorola/Google X Phone, and that’s just naming its most important Android rivals.
What would Apple make of all this? If these were medieval times, Lord Apple would surely enjoy making peace with a rival Knight like HTC only to see it rise stronger and attack some Sir Samsung. Is this what Apple is doing, settling with HTC so the Taiwanese could claim back some lost ground in the Android environment, and maybe start hurting Samsung’s bottom line and share in the process by using some of Apple’s tech?