HTC’s saving grace isn’t the One

March 11, 2013
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    HTC One [aa] 600px (1)

    I have been an avid follower of HTC for a long time, not because they make great phones, but because they are such an interesting brand to observe. It’s three years since the highly acclaimed HTC Desire and HTC Legend launched, and today the Taiwanese company is farther than ever from its glorious days of Android domination.

    To a certain extent, the HTC brand is kind of endearing to me. I started my Android journey with an HTC Legend. However, the last few years of horrible brand names and lack of innovation have estranged me from HTC.

    Unlike movies and books, in real life Goliath (Samsung) has already triumphed over David (HTC) and will continue to do so. The question is why?

    htc-one-vs-samsung-galaxy-note-2-front[aa]

    HTC’s diluted branding is its downfall

    Let’s be honest about the last few HTC flagships in the market.

    The HTC Desire was brilliant. It was ahead of its time. Everyone who would use one wouldn’t even consider a Samsung. It was, in a way, better than the original Nexus One. As a result, many who had a Nexus One ran their phones with a HTC Sense ROM belonging to the HTC Desire.

    After that, came the Sensation. HTC decided to ditch the Desire brand name. After all, they corrupted it themselves with the subpar HTC Desire Z and HTC Desire HD, with its short battery life. But they didn’t stop there. Not long after that, they released the Sensation XE, and practically screwed everyone who had the original Sensation.

    htc sensation Credit: Wikimedia

    Then the Sensation brand name died, and it was replaced with the One X. It was great for a breezy moment, until Samsung stunned the world with the Galaxy S3. Further down the road, many consumers were complaining about burnt chipsets in the HTC One X. I had a friend here in Malaysia who had to send in his phone four times for service (and for the same problem). This friend, who was an ex-HTC employee, vowed to never purchase HTC again, and quickly switched to another Android brand.

    Now we have the HTC One. Honestly, the design of this phone takes my breath away. Nevertheless, I am perfectly sure everyone who intends to buy a phone in the near future is holding their money until the Galaxy S4 is revealed. Samsung, like Apple, has probably the smartest brand-minded people in their offices. What HTC had to learn the hard way over the years, Samsung never had any trouble to begin with.

    Who in the right mind would call the successor to the HTC One X  the HTC One? Any non-tech person who doesn’t have a clue about smartphones will always choose the One X over the One (thanks to evil sales personnel who need to clear out old stock). Has anyone in HTC even thought this new name through?

    htc-one-leftaa

    HTC’s PR practices are frustrating

    I’m not sure about you, but I certainly noticed the way Western media (both traditional and online) heavily praised the One X last year. It was amazing how HTC’s global team managed that.

    Unfortunately, the opposite can be said of what happened here in Asia. I am not sure about other traditional or online media, but I do sense some sort of silent hostility from HTC. In my two years writing for this site, I have NEVER been asked to do a phone or tablet review. When the HTC One X was released, I had to “beg” for a review set from their PR agency, and until this very day, I have not seen the phone they promised to me. Shouldn’t it be that manufacturers pounce on every opportunity they get phone reviews from eager enthusiasts?

    Samsung Malaysia, on the other hand, has very strong relationship with bloggers, media, and online audience. When the Galaxy S3 was launched, their social media and PR arm performed a miraculous feat. Journalists went home with review devices on the same day the device launched, which is something relatively unheard of in Malaysian tech.

    Even ASUS Malaysia hasn’t done badly in this area. Their internal PR personnel follow up with review requests and respond quickly with press releases. Although ASUS Malaysia doesn’t employ an external PR agency for its correspondence with journalists, they have done a rather commendable job. HTC could learn something from its Taiwanese counterpart.

    htc-one-x-logo

    HTC Malaysia and their PR agency here… It’s kind of frustrating dealing with them. They don’t keep you updated with their latest product introduction. From a marketing standpoint, this is bad, because you’re not fully utilizing “free” media. As a writer, I will find it impossible to recommend your device when I have no experience with it. My experience with HTC is that I’m forced to always scout their roadshows for content. Once, in reply to my request to review their phone, they simply answered, “check out our roadshow at this mall…”

    As a result, I’ve always recommended a Samsung or ASUS device to peers and my circle of influence, just because I wasn’t sure if a HTC was something they needed.

    Underestimating your opinion makers will cost you dearly. But maybe it’s just me. I have been known to be critical towards Android manufacturers… There is no such thing as a perfect phone, and every product out in the market has some of flaw.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if an Android manufacturer showers me with review phones. But the question is, does it matter enough to HTC to offer them to journalists? Perhaps HTC (like Apple) doesn’t take criticisms that well.

    galaxy s3 vs htc one x video review

    HTC’s launch timing is causing them to lose money

    If you consider Apple’s marketing strategy, the last few years, they have targeted the Christmas crowd. It’s during this time that they try to maximize the impact of their money-making iPhone.

    Samsung on the other hand, targets the Galaxy S flagship at the start of the year, and the Note flagship towards the end of the year. This is a double win, because you target the Christmas shopper, as well as individuals receiving their bonuses (in Malaysia, bonuses are released in Jan/Feb, during the Chinese New Year season).

    HTC has always been the first to launch a flagship phone at the beginning of every year. This means that they lose the Christmas crowd and directly compete with Samsung for mind share towards Chinese New Year. Considering its track record since 2011, HTC has been doing pretty badly against Samsung.

    How do you solve this challenge then?

    Could I perhaps suggest that HTC keeps this strategy, but swaps the launch around – their mobile flagship before Christmas and their phablet flagship towards the start of the year? This would perhaps help HTC rise from their mind share problem. Although HTC considers Samsung its direct competitor, there is absolutely nothing you can do when your offerings are clashing against a more powerful competitor.

    Samsung isn’t stupid. When HTC released the HTC Sensation with 768MB of RAM, Samsung gave the Galaxy S2 1GB of RAM… and that made a big difference in terms of device experience. Even playing games on the Galaxy S2 was smoother thanks to that 1GB of RAM. When the HTC One X came, Samsung gave the world S Beam, Smart Stay, Direct Call, and other delicious add-ons to Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean, damaging any chance for HTC to recover. HTC has made few alterations to their OS, clutching too tightly to their precious HTC Sense.

    Although it does feel like Samsung is reacting to HTC’s “launch lead”, I’m pretty sure that Samsung has several prototypes in development and simply selects the best device. Because of this, you can mark my words, the Galaxy S4 will most likely arrive with an aluminium unibody and be better than the HTC One in terms of hardware and software. It may be ever prettier than the HTC One, although Samsung might struggle with the build quality.

    htc-one-best-buy 2

    HTC isn’t able to spot new market trends accurately

    Let’s take a few of HTC products in the last few years. Compared with any other Android manufacturer, HTC has been bolder with their product differentiation but they were unable to pull through their sales.

    The HTC Flyer can be considered a ground breaking device. It came with a stylus and was a new product for a completely new market segment. It was going against the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and, in almost every way, it was more innovative.

    But HTC lost the lead and after that. The Flyer died. So what went wrong?

    Next, the HTC Sensation was a really solid device. I have personally used the Sensation XE for several months, and, on Ice Cream Sandwich, I was really happy with the smoothness of the device. It did lack the hardware to run high-end games, but it wasn’t in any way a deal breaker.

    And there’s also the HTC Desire Z (a.k.a. G2), which was a really interesting concept but without proper technological support. It was a great device that didn’t last long in the marketplace. After the Desire Z, HTC hasn’t made any other physical keyboard with a Z hinge was ever made by HTC.

    HTC also started well with the aluminum HTC Legend. The phone was recognized with awards for its design. Then, surprisingly, HTC dropped aluminium unibodies, and created the HTC Sensation. Although aluminium, it wasn’t a unibody. The 2012 flagship, the HTC One X was a polycarbonate phone, and it was followed by the HTC One, which saw HTC going back to its aluminum roots. HTC’s initial lead was squandered and it’s not surprising that, with the release of the iPhone 5, HTC was outplayed at their own game.

    To wrap up, HTC’s history is riddled by their inability to spot trends (and stick with them).

    Conclusion

    HTC could still make a return, but it’s doubtful that they will, in anyway, surpass Samsung. Recent rumors suggest that the Galaxy S4 would be made of polycarbonate, and that it will have new software features such as Eye Scroll. Samsung’s dominance is very much ensured by software, and it clearly shows.

    At the end of the day, there is little that HTC can do against Samsung. The ball is in Samsung’s court, and the question is, will Samsung hand its hard fought victory to HTC? That’s an answer that we will soon discover, on March 14th.

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    Comments

    • Brian

      Might want to get that chip on your shoulder examined. Why on earth would anybody read past the point where you made it clear you had an axe to grind with HTC because you’re not a high profile reviewer?

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        Although you could say that, I wanted to show you a difference between the PR practices from the main Android players here in Malaysia.
        But the fact is this – HTC does need opinion leaders, and they are unwilling to make the effort to get this done.

        If this is a trend that continues, then it says that their Marketing Manager isn’t paying enough attention to the market.
        This article isn’t about having received review devices, but it’s also the way they respond to review requests.

        They are ‘hesitant’, dragging their feet…

      • Komeil Karimi

        Read a further paragraph and you realize why he’s not a high profile reviewer

    • Kwadwo Firempong-Boakye

      This is an awesome article!!!

    • MasterMuffin

      SGS4 will be plastic!

      • http://www.facebook.com/raaj978 Raaj Ra

        SGS4 will be made from Unobtanium! I tell you!

        • MasterMuffin

          Ununoktium would be cool!

    • Amos

      Any manufacturer that does not support unlocked bootloaders/rooting and doesn’t publish source/binaries/docs so the mod community can easily port the latest Android to it has zero chance of getting my business. Failing to provide me with the ability to add/fix/update functionality is exactly why my iPhone 4 is in a drawer waiting for ebay and my Nexus 4 is in my pocket. ICS/Jelly Bean were finally worthy of switching. Then I had to watch to see which phone was going to have a good camera, get timely updates, and allow the flexibility my iPhone lacked.

      Sony had the right idea with their AOSP support of the S, and had me considering a purchase in the fall, but then instead of announcing AOSP support on the T, they dropped it. They make nice stuff but could have made a lot more people excited if they threw a couple developers onto the AOSP and supported stock Android on their devices.

      If HTC were really smart, they would steal some of Samsung’s GIV thunder by announcing some full time people to work on AOSP and a commitment to opening up the HTC One. It won’t win the war for them this year, but if they can stick with it, it would add them to the list of brands I would consider recommending (which right now is only the Nexus.)

      • MasterMuffin

        I don’t understand why HTC “hates” developers and adds their locked bootloaders etc.

        • Mike Reid

          It’s because their customers, the carriers, tell them to do it, and they agree. HTC’s slight pushback has been the partially effective unlock program they have for SOME phones.

          Is HTC in a position to dictate terms to their customers ? I have no idea and I think most of us here don’t, despite opinions about what they SHOULD do or aren’t able to do.

          How many Sony products do you see US carriers selling ? Much more popular outside North America.

          • MasterMuffin

            I see none because I don’t live in USA :) Well it’s true that carriers are “evil” and Verizon seems to be the most evil of them!

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        I do get HTC’s stance on bootloaders though.
        Unlike a HTC, a Samsung phone can be root and custom rom-ed within half an hour?

        HTC phones aren’t that easy to crack.

    • Banana

      It looks like an iPhone 5. :-/

      • coconut

        the back of iPhone 5, to be exact

    • thrive

      this guy definitely have issues with HTC. However, to be fair, whoever that thought of using the name “One” in succession of “One X” ought to be fired. What next? HTC On?

      • http://www.facebook.com/raaj978 Raaj Ra

        LOL!
        I was thinking on the lines of HTC Last One.. but the HTC On steals the show!

      • Reginald Spence II

        HTC TWO. You heard it here first.

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        Like i said to another comment in the thread, it’s to highlight the differences between PR practices among Android Manufacturers.

        At the end of the day, it’s just a phone, and within a few months, it will most likely be ‘outdated’.
        And it’s not like Android Authority pays me a million bucks for exclusive content.

        That said, it’s really hard to recommend a product to friends/family/readers without having used a review device.
        Worst is to run to a roadshow every time they make a new product – JUST BECAUSE HTC has no review sets here.

    • Bone

      HTC certainly did the right things with the One – which not a terrible name because how many ppl. know about the One X? Exactly – UltraPixel is a nice marketing platform, and BlinkFeed differentiates Sense from the average UI.

      Yet when it comes down to such a small time frame to push as many Ones out as possible as the SIV and Googorola X is upon us, manufacturing CANNOT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD go wrong, and it’s did, and HTC will only produce 800k in the next 3 month then Samsung will sell over 8 million.

      It took guts for HTC to bet everything on UltraPixels, but it looks like the very technology will be their ultimate downfall. I want one, but can I GET ONE before nex gen rival phones hit the market?

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        “how many ppl know about the One X”
        Exactly my point… they aren’t getting enough awareness, and they are skimming through journalists and not getting their phones out in the market enough.

    • vampyren

      Pretty much agree with most of the text.
      But I do think Galaxy s3 is pretty much perfect for me at least . Next I hate htc for not having SD and crapy sense.
      Lastly I doubt s4 will have aluminum. Actually I hope it doesn’t. With current design I can change the cover when scratched. I love that. Plus I can change battery when traveling.

    • steve

      MICRO SD, REMOVABLE BATTERY

      Two features that are consistently left out.

      Did they really think the DROID DNA stood a chance against the Note 2 without those 2 basics?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017022109 Ryan Allen

      I sure will mark your words about the galaxy s4 being aluminum and I’ll come back here and throw it in your face when you’re inevitably wrong.

      • Jordan Awkward

        Only going to have aluminum sides.

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        haha… sure, we can banter about it a bit i guess…
        But if Samsung releases a ‘partial’ aluminium phone, they would really need the OS additions to justify a purchase… which from the recent eye scroll leaks, might suggest that they are that confident.
        That said, durability has always been a challenge for Samsung

    • Piyath Alawatte

      I don’t think htc will come back to their previous momentum, not soon. Because Samsung has learned the art of making smartphones and they sell very well even if they are made of plastics. Samsung has proved and shown the world that plastic phones sell well and has a better build quality than aluminium or any metal and I too have to agree with that.

    • http://twitter.com/MassStash Scott Lantow

      This is really hitting the nail on the head here. Unfortunately, HTC’s ignorance/pompousness will not allow them to learn from these constructive criticisms. Should stay with polycarbonate. Not mess up the lockscreen, one the things actually going for sense. Why imic a 13yr finger painting exhibition put on by Samsung last yearish with played down 2d silly colored icons? Thank goodness windows phone tiles were also imiced here with all my 13yr social media hearts desires. Who buys htc? Not children that’s for sure. Also, theme support dies? No more hub? Sure was a novel idea the nerd thmers really perfected. Too bad. HTC doesn’t team up with the developers, would have been nice to “ColorMod” my BlinkFeed…. You are totally correct with they’re failings of paying any attention to trends. Drop features that are actually trending, add features that trends have come and gone already. Things are getting rough here for sure. Here’s to hopeing the One is just another 3D camera “let’s throw stuff at the wall and see what, hey what’s this other thing over here….” I think HTC needs to prescribe everyone some aderol or something…

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        I wished that they did too.
        “Traditional Asian businesses” do have a problem with arrogance some times.
        It just say that HTC is ‘human’ after all.
        But to see them on a steady decline for 3 years in a row isn’t normal.
        It’s more likely a leadership problem.

        Maybe it’s time for Peter Chou to go.

    • Guest

      I always though HTC have great engineers and designers.
      But boy guys from the top suck balls!
      The worst PR ever, the worst decisions ever. Samsung got ONE high end phone per year. HTC makes 2 and still suck balls. Too many phones released, updates are late for older models, it just annoys the shit out of me ethat I buy a One X and not much later One X+ shows up… how the fuck can HTC guys not understand that pisses the shit out of customers. Common sense is not so common.

    • Guest

      I always though HTC have great engineers and designers.
      But boy guys from the top suck balls!
      The worst PR ever, the worst decisions ever. Samsung got ONE high end phone per year. HTC makes 2 which is contraproductive.
      Too many phones released, updates are late for older models, it just annoys the shit out of me that I buy a One X and not much later One X+ shows up… how the fuck can HTC guys not understand that pisses the shit out of customers. Common sense is not so common.
      Pardon the swearing, sky above me, earth below me, fire within me ;)

      • Jordan Awkward

        Samsung has two flagship phones a year but that’s because they’re the best

        • http://www.facebook.com/reynaldocor Luis Reynaldo Corcino A

          What he meant was that they upgraded their flagship some month after it came to the market, while Samsung just went with the S3 and never “upgraded” it.

      • Ken Lee

        HTC is going down the drain because it didn’t give updates to my DHD. that pissed me (and 13000 other DHD owners on record, and don’t know how many others not on record) off. This became a snowball effect, 13000 potential customers became haters of the brand, we wouldn’t recommend HTC to ppl, and after only 1 year, HTC had lost 10 times that much potential customers. HTC can’t get new customers if they can’t retain their loyal ones, that’s a fact.

    • Sdf

      bc htc decides are ugly

    • 2 see mike smith

      I would say the downall, imho, has more to do with s lack of sd slot and removable battery than anything else

    • I just wasted 5 minutes

      ok so basically some dude with hardly any credentials writing his opinion on the internet. I might as well read a review on smartphones from “someguy” on a facebook page.

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.khoo Randy Ashar Khoo

        No disrespect buddy, but I have 8 years of experience in branding, advertising, marketing and social media.
        I have worked with brands like Coca-Cola, Ford, Acer, Castrol, etc.

    • lalala

      you hit it right on the head with everything.great article!the 1st downfalll i see is they are using hard to mass-product materials like the ‘ULTRAPIXEL’ camera which other than better than normal low light pix is not great.the picture quality is at best mediocre overall and those aluminium casing with precision drill holes is gonna take long to make A casing so htc effectively limited their production/target sales there.i for one dont mind plastic/polycarbonate as it is easy to change,light and at the end of the day i sure as hell is gonna put a casing on it so its gonna feel the same at the end of the day(malaysian/asian thinking).and blink feed is simply annoying after awhile,if i wanted flipboard i can just install the app.good luck htc,you’ll need it!now onwards to the SGS4!

    • Greg Lamb

      Good article. So true. I’ve had a few HTC phones and they were definitely the favourite of Android phones I’ve had. Then I was excluded from updates one too many times and I was soured by the brand. Rooting and flashing can become far too tiresome and buggy.

      I tried the SGS2 and SGS3 and decided that the phone hardware is ok if not a little boring and lacking in design. TouchWiz I’ve decided is not for me.

      When I broke up from HTC I sent them a very long winded email why I wouldn’t be buying a HTC phone anytime soon and what I thought they should do to keep their customers happy and keep the brand growing. I doubt my suggestions went anywhere.

      There’s some really obvious things HTC need to do to get themselves back in the game quickly. Get developers onside by unlocking boot loaders. Get the loquacious faithful on side and have the word spread in an evangelical manner.

      HTC can also take a leaf out of Apples book and cater to the consumer who wants a device the can plug in to all sorts of accessories. By all means have a flagship and and low end and mid range model to keep bases covered. Absolutely no more models. Design them with a common plug/dock location and market all the accessories especially taking advantage of their Beats relationship. Two quick wins that will get the frenzy going.

    • Greg Lamb

      Good article. So true. I’ve had a few HTC phones and they were definitely the favourite of Android phones I’ve had. Then I was excluded from updates one too many times and I was soured by the brand. Rooting and flashing can become far too tiresome and buggy.

      I tried the SGS2 and SGS3 and decided that the phone hardware is ok if not a little boring and lacking in design. TouchWiz I’ve decided is not for me.

      When I broke up from HTC I sent them a very long winded email why I wouldn’t be buying a HTC phone anytime soon and what I thought they should do to keep their customers happy and keep the brand growing. I doubt my suggestions went anywhere.

      There’s some really obvious things HTC need to do to get themselves back in the game quickly. Get developers onside by unlocking boot loaders. Get the loquacious faithful on side and have the word spread in an evangelical manner.

      HTC can also take a leaf out of Apples book and cater to the consumer who wants a device the can plug in to all sorts of accessories. By all means have a flagship and and low end and mid range model to keep bases covered. Absolutely no more models. Design them with a common plug/dock location and market all the accessories especially taking advantage of their Beats relationship. Two quick wins that will get the frenzy going.

    • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael

      You forgot about HTC EVO 3D, Design 4G and Rezound series…! That’s the problem.

    • djsaklas

      Do you think it will be 2014 or 2015 when smartphones have the battery power to last 4-5 days without charging?

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