During all the buzz around the launch of the HTC One, HTC’s CEO Peter Chou also gave some media interviews about the new phone and the direction that HTC is taking. One aspect of HTC phones, which you either love or hate, is the Sense UI which the company builds into Android to replace some of the stock user interface. One of the reasons people give for not buying a HTC phone is their loathing of the UI, which is often called bloated. But love it or hate it, the HTC One comes with Sense 5 and according to Chou, Sense is here to stay.
In an interview with The Verge, Chou was asked about the lessons learned from the HTC One X and HTC One S. What was his response? Apparently it was all to do with bad marketing! Other than the Sense UI, the other accusation leveled at HTC is that it released too many phones. To clarify this a bit, Samsung, Sony and all the other Android smartphone makers have a large selection of phones and at different price points, but HTC seemed to go through a phase of just releasing the same phone over and over again with small tweaks. The HTC One S, One SU, One SV and so on. The difference between one model and another was the lack of Corning Gorilla Glass, or a slower CPU, or the addition of LTE. All very confusing.
And maybe it is that confusion that HTC means to address with its new marketing approach. HTC’s boss did acknowledged that the company needed to improve its marketing so that “people really get the message.” Many users felt a certain level of frustration after they buy a phone then a few months later a variation comes out. Personally I think the naming is a big problem, I think the name for the HTC One is wrong. Although building on a brand like Samsung has done with “Galaxy” is important, Samsung has made sure that the names are sufficiently different but yet have the same brand. With HTC all they do is add or remove a single letter, which is way to subtle for most people!
One worrying aspect is that it isn’t clear that HTC knows who its target market is. When asked about who its core customers were, Chou replied that they are people “who are driven and are passionate about their beliefs and are looking for differentiation.” People who “appreciate innovation”, who “appreciate inspiring experiences.” Well, first that is a not very convincing, everyone appreciates innovation. When I saw my first microwave oven, I didn’t say, nah, I don’t like that, too innovative. When I had an MRI last year I didn’t harken back to the days of x-rays. No, sorry Peter, everyone appreciates innovation. In fact Mr Chou used the word “innovation” ten times in the interview as if somehow the idea of creating something new was itself something new to HTC.
When questioned about Windows Phone and Android, HTC’s top man was very diplomatic. HTC loves Android but it equally loves Windows Phone. Which does he prefer, why both of course! That is too be expected, but he was more frank when asked about other mobile operating systems like Ubuntu, Firefox OS, or Tizen. It seems that HTC is very happy to remain with Android and Windows, well for the moment anyway.
As for tablets, yes HTC is interested, but it needs to figure out how it can differentiate it from all the others that are already on the market. Wise words. The last thing HTC needs to do now in the middle of its financial troubles is release a run-of-the-mill tablet that could be mistaken for a clone of one of the myriads of tablets already out there.
What do you think, was marketing HTC’s biggest problem? Please leave a comment below.