Is HTC going to survive?

February 21, 2013
37 71 30

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Chances are, you used to own an HTC device. It was the first big name manufacturer for Android, even making the very first Nexus device. We’ve grown as HTC has, though many of us have grown apart from HTC. If the chances are good that you once had an HTC device, those chances are the same that you no longer do.

Factors like having been usurped by Samsung and having made questionable business moves have put HTC in a really difficult position. The HTC One has gained industry-wide praise, but is it enough? It seems HTC wants its spot atop the Android world back, but that road is long and treacherous. Can HTC do it?

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A brief history of HTC

HTC was founded in 1997, initially making notebook computers, quickly switching to handheld devices. The company made some of the very first touchscreen cell phones and tablets, making HTC a true pioneer of Android as we know it. Without its innovations, it’s possible we’d be stuck in the BlackBerry realm of physical keyboards. Yikes.

HTC initially made devices based on the Windows platform and were responsible for the Palm Treo 650 and HP iPaq. Switching from making devices for others to put their branding on to using the HTC name was a bold move, and one that paid off. It went on to release the HTC Evo 4G in 2010, the first 4G device available for purchase.

Being named “Device Manufacturer of the Year” at MWC 2011 was a proud achievement, along with being ranked the 31st most innovative company in the world the prior year by Fast Company. By Q3 2011, HTC was the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, holding a 24% market share. Samsung trailed with 21%, and Apple was a close third at 20%. HTC, it seemed, was well on its way to dominance.

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Where did it go wrong?

Going into 2012, HTC had quite a bit going for itself, as well as against it. Samsung was becoming a very respectable competitor, with phones such as the Galaxy line and its back-to-back Nexus devices. HTC purchased a large interest in Beats Audio, a curious move meant to give it an edge with mobile audio… a sector it felt was important to consumers beyond what was already on offer. It rang hollow, and was a sign HTC may not have its wits about them.

Marketing

HTC simply failed to market itself properly. Without a strong marketing presence, consumers simply began to forget about HTC. All the marketing muscle behind Samsung devices made them popular, as people tend to respond to clever or brash marketing. In comparing devices across the board, HTC was not producing second rate product, it just had a second rate marketing initiative. With a pretty impressive profit margin of about 13% in 2011, there was no reason not to promote itself.

Sense

Sense had, until the new HTC One, grown very stale. Consumers want to see something fresh, but not unfamiliar. Without an update to its proprietary skin, HTC devices would appear weak. The combination of Sense stagnating and Samsung’s rise would be a large motivation for consumers to simply ignore HTC.

The unfortunate truth is that Android is nimble and evolving quickly. Skinned devices add another layer to the user experience, but when it comes down to Android updates, updates just don’t happen quickly. Even the new HTC One is a bit behind, sporting JellyBean 4.1.2 instead of 4.2.2. It’s clear HTC values Sense over Android, which may not make a lot of sense to many consumers.

Carriers

It has been business as usual for HTC and its relationship with carriers. HTC felt it was doing everything the right way, and it was… if the business model simply hadn’t changed. HTC was giving carriers what they wanted, while Samsung was remaining indifferent to carrier whim.

If we take the One series (before the recent offering), three of the four carriers had a version of the device. AT&T had the “X” variation, while T-Mobile had the “S”, though not quite the same. Sprint (and various other CDMA carriers) had the “V”, which again had different specs, but also the HTC EVO 4G LTE (its One X version).

Verizon wisely passed on the device altogether. While the One X, EVO 4G LTE , One S or One V weren’t bad devices, having different variations was confusing. Samsung, on the other hand, simply made the Galaxy devices available for each carrier… without major hardware alterations. It was a page taken from the Apple playbook: you want the device, here it is, take it or leave it. A strategy that was working, while HTC’s method was outdated and confusing for consumers.

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Is the HTC One enough?

One device does not a company make. HTC got where it is by having a myriad of very well built devices, not one great One. Say what you may about HTC, but its top devices were always amongst the upper echelon of what was on offer. Perhaps the One S wasn’t as good as the One X, but it definitely wasn’t a bad device.

We don’t know what the corporate thinking was inside HTC. Perhaps it felt it could simply afford to take 2012 to reload, or decided to rest on its laurels. Samsung wasn’t about to rest, and its hard work paid off. With a few tricks learned from HTC (many great devices), and one learned from Apple (not giving in to carriers’ desire for exclusive devices), Samsung took a commanding lead.

With the new One device, HTC has the taken the first of many important steps toward redeeming its image and status as a preeminent Android device maker. HTC has clearly learned a valuable lesson before this weeks release, as it finally have a true flagship device with some great accessories. The specs are not only respectable, they’re impressive. Like any device, it will have its detractors, but overall it’s a stellar device capable of helping to rebuild a company in desperate need of redemption.

HTC ONE Press Shot

How can HTC avoid more costly mistakes?

HTC has suffered disappointing quarterly profit, made some suspect business moves, and spread itself very thin. If HTC is to rebuild a once mighty empire, it must make sound decisions from now on, and yes… that’s a Beats Audio pun. The involvement with Beats Audio yielded very little results, as consumers simply weren’t as concerned with premium sound in a mobile device as HTC had hoped. The technology is good, but the reception to it has been mixed. Spending $250 million for interest in the company was top dollar spending for a less than solid return, proven by the fact that Beats purchased much of HTC’s shares back from the company.

Showing a little conviction in the devices it produce swill do wonders for HTC. If you have an HTC One on AT&T, yet I have an HTC One “W” on T-Mobile, the perception is that those are two different devices, even if they’re not. A special device color is one thing, but altering specs is another. If HTC really believes in its products and the direction it’s headed, it will put a stop to engaging in this silly game it plays with carriers. Sales occur with supply and demand, and consumers demand excellent products. The HTC One is just that.

 

Click the image for full resolution.

Conclusion

Sometimes we wonder just who HTC is. Is it a premium device maker, or one who makes any and every device it’s asked to? What HTC has been until now is the latter, and we know exactly how that has served the company.

We exist in a time when premium devices win the day, and there is no shortage of them. If HTC intends to regain its post at the top of the chain, it needs to build on the good work it’s done with the HTC One. A great device, tons of accessories, and plenty of hype… this is how great devices are born, and HTC hit a homerun this week.

We’re all terribly impressed with the HTC One, but not HTC… yet. If HTC intends to build on its momentum, which is entirely possible and realistic, it would be best served by following this week up with another just like it a few months on. Not much will make your competitors and fans take notice more than back-to-back homeruns.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.eldin.7 Adam Eldin

    They won’t make it, they shot themselves in the foot too many times and are making the same mistakes again. I love my EVO LTE on CM10.1, and loved the EVO 3D before that. But if this ugly, over-bloated, over-rated phone is all they have to show for, then I am moving to the Xperia or Nexus lines for my upgrade

    • Cory Lay

      If you think this phone is ugly get your eyes checked because you are blind. And a idiot.

      • longbottom

        phone’s features are sexy. I love those stereo speakers, and vivid s-lcd3 display.

        but phone design is ugly. ugly as hell. I prefer One X design over this One.
        if you can’t see the ugliness in there I think you got eye cancer. :)

        oh, and one more thing,
        please learn to not resort to insult when other has different taste/ opinion than yours..

        cheers.

        • le_lutin

          In your opinion the design is ugly.

          In my opinion the design is very nice.

          Opinions, yeah?

        • Jason Deveau

          I really like the design and hardware. But again they let me down with no removable storage. Is it really so hard to pop a MicroSD slot on there? Even under the battery and I’d settle for it.

        • KC

          I agree! The HTC One X is the best designed device by HTC thus far. It has sexy curves, and beautiful arches. unlike the current crop of devices (iPhone 4, LG Optimus G Pro, Samsung, Black Berry Z10, HTC One) which seems to lookalike. These current 5 are all iPhoney-lookalike – straight top, straight flat looks with little imagination.

          I will not touch these 5 devices with a 10 foot pole. So ugly!!

          • oliolio

            i think you’ve got it wrong.which part of an s3 or note 2 looks like an iphone?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ichuck7 Charles Chambers

    And yet they named the same phone the droid dna and htc butterfly. They are trying, they are just being dumb. RIM is the company that rested on its laurels.

  • oliolio

    i have to say you’re probably one of the few who were ‘impressed’ by htc one,i think its a decent but nothing special phone that will do anything to help htc.

    • Cory Lay

      You are stupid.

      • oliolio

        you are what they call a fanboy,ALMOST AS BAD AS APPLE FANBOYS,i’ve seen all your comments clearly you are a HTC fanboy.i think im clearly entitled to my own opinions as much as you?i say this phone has great build quality,but what nice design when front it looks like a blockberry z10/i5 copycat with the placement of logo same as the z10 and design,and the back it looks like the sony xperia z?no removable battery,external memory,

    • oliolio

      *do nothing

  • Roland

    you have to update your phones in a timely matter HTC

  • dandroid13

    Hopefully not!

  • john

    I think HTC have done really poorly in marketing point of view: ineffective advertisements, stupid naming conventions that just confuses everyone, lack of public image/presence.

    They used to make descent phones, but their new upcoming phones lacks distinctions and look very VERY stale. Look at Samsung, LG, and Apple, they produce ads about the new features, new components, etc. HTC’s One is hardly anything new, 1080P screen is already a market norm, SoC and other IC components are same old stuffs, Sense UI was cool back in the 08 and 10 but stale atm, 13M camera…seriously?

    All these stuffs coupled with a lackluster battery life is going to be a disaster. They should design a new flagship to compete with others or go for a heavily featured phone that aim’s at narrower target consumers.

  • http://fnords.org/ Markoff Chaney

    I don’t think people forgot about HTC, I didn’t, I remembered the shitty build quality, and refusal to repair known issues under warranty when I bought my next phone, from Samsung.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gsinghkular Gurvinder Singh Kular

    they should increase the support for old devices!

  • Benmartin1974

    I had been considering ordering a htc evo for a while. I read loads of reviews and this one was very helpful http://search4reviews.net/ , I got my delivery last month and am very happy. I Would highly recommend to anyone still unsure,

  • Note II

    I would love to own another HTC device… BUT im sure after a few months releasing the HTC ONE their gonna release an enhance version of it like what they did with the HTC Sensation and the HTC One X.. They make a smartphones like disposable and as a consumer they prove that they’re not a good choice of investment.

  • Ivan Budiutama

    HTC One, their last hope. So far is not impressive. at least on the field they consider as their powerful feature.
    In sound department, I never really fond on Beats Audio. I prefer a more balance output like Sony did. The Beats Audio is too high on the bass to my taste.
    In Camera, well how do I start, the leaked captured pictures so far are very sub par. I can’t even tell the differences between my Galaxy Nexus and HTC One. Hopefully this one still not fully optimized and the current build still not grasping the whole function.
    So HTC One needs to be very careful of what they will do next. Optimizing everything is very important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dacha.liceknjiga Dacha LiceKnjiga

    I own galaxy s3, note 2 and Droid dna. No complaints here but HTC is way better quality. When you hold the device you can just feel it and that’s it. All of them are good, but when I take pictures I use DNA. They all sound great with my monster miles Davis ear buds, but DNA sounds better with beats and that’s it. I will always look for HTC first before Samsung, if Sony has 4G let in the states, I would look for new Sony but I’m waiting…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001002463377 Ashish Romea

    i feel Xperia Z is a better device and can make sony relevant…. i wonder why ANDROID AUTHORITY aint feeling sony can be potential threat for samsung & apple

  • Garry DeWitt

    I hope HTC can pull it out. I love the way their devices feel in the hand. Sadly sense seems like a superfluous addition to android, much like touchwiz but more so. I hope by the end of this year they release another flagship, I’d very much like to try an HTC phone.

  • Mark

    In my opinion HTC dropped the ball when it didn’t develop the Evo. The Evo 3D was gimmicky at best andto bulky to be considered “next gen”. It was their flagship device but it didn’t evolve fast enough. They moved to slow and lost their place as #1.
    e the

  • hardik patel

    HTC is a great hardware company but it’s terrible in terms of software i.e sense software on HTC devices even though its jelly bean A.K.A jelly bean it sucks. It is full of lags and immature software plus they have no proper developer support or aren’t that open in terms of letting people install custom roms instead of their shitty sense ui. Samsung lets people install custom roms, look at cyanogenmod almost all of samsung devices are supported and it increases the life of the device. HTC you better make windows phone and R.I.P

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelRecruits Michael!

    I think they have a shot. I currently have a ONE X. Love it. complaints: lack of memory, when you release a 16 Gig phone, it only has 9 gigs. They seem to have solved that. Great. However Sense, is umm, dated. The real problem, their support of devices on the market. My One X – I havent had 9 months,the ENTIRE 9 months, I have been told I will be getting Jellybean. Hasnt happened. No estimate on when. Really HTC? Case in point, this shiny new device, already an update version behind. WOW! I hope they can make it, but they need to fix the holes before the ship sinks. I will be waiting to see what the new Galaxy 4 has to offer before I upgrade.

  • nishantsirohi123

    sealing shut the battery and no memory slot
    when the one-x was launched it had a sealed battery of a smaller capacity than the s3.

    and then the board of director must be whining in the meeting about loosing sales to samsung

  • Jason Deveau

    Shame really, they have superior hard ware to Samsung. But always manage to mess it up. IE, No MicroSD, despite everyone begging for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dennis.htc Dennis Htc

    And they keep on making mistakes with that HTC One. Bad design, still no 3g. I don’t understand HTC. Just put the Butterfly on the european market and get rid of that HTC One. It definitely is an ugly phone, i agree on that. I’m switching to Sony Xperia Z now. HTC lost another customer. Agree with Adam. Nexus or Xperia Z. for me it’s gonna be Xperia Z. Nexus don’t have 4g and sd slot and i like the bigger screen on the xperia z