HTC’s CEO says company sticking with Sense, blames marketing for its problems

by: Gary SimsFebruary 22, 2013

peter-chou-htc-ceoDuring 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.

  • Honestly, yeah, I think it was was marketing. Samsung did well with convincing the world that “the Galaxy” was the perfectly alternative to the iPhone, besting it in some regard thanks to numerous ad spots. After awhile, the world started to believe it.

    The One X? Well, it was just another smartphone. Slid under the radar for the most part. Most people didn’t even know it existed.

    On another note, I think it’s silly to expect that ANY manufacturer will ever ditch their UI in favor of stock Android. Aside from partnering with Google for a Nexus, it will never happen and it’s exactly the reason why Android was created and open sourced in the first place. For OEM’s to do with it as they like, and make it “their own.”

  • MasterMuffin

    HTC One X, X+, Butterfly, One. All these flagships in less than a year. That’s the problem :)

    • forenz

      that’s right, inconsistency. confused costumer.

      I think they only need 2 things:

      1. Consistent naming for each class (flagship, mid-end, etc), just like the good old htc.

      2. Listen to what consumer need.

      they already have good build quality, good screen display, and some other plus.
      so in terms of technology they are in par with samsung, sony.
      they only need to organize it better. a better convergence.

  • cycad007

    Marketing is certainly one of HTC’s problems. Competing against Samsung & Apple on a limited budget is a definite handicap. But here’s what I think HTC should do:

    1 Tell the HTC Story…
    HTC has a story no other OEM can claim…they were the very first manufacturer to support Android. Without HTC, there may not have been a Samsung Galaxy S3, Note 2, LG Nexus 4, etc..

    2. Guarantee to update & support their existing flagship headsets for 2 years.

    3. Keep scaling down HTC Sense *BUT* add great 3rd party apps.
    Ideally, replace the HTC Sense UI with a HTC weather clock widget. Partner with SwiftKey to include their keyboard on your phones. Partner with Symantec or Lookout for phone security.

    4. Compare & make fun of Apple & Samsung phones.
    Seems to have worked well for Apple & Samsung….join the crowd!

    5. Agree on a better name for your flagship phone! The One? Okay…but what’s next after that?!

  • I think they are making some great looking, powerful phones. The problem is that they don’t LISTEN to customers. The only thing keeping me from returning to HTC is that they still don’t want to put a proper battery in there. For a quad core phone with a 5 inch 1080p display, 3000mAh should be the absolute minimum.

  • StarNoStar

    This all started back in the evo days when HTC decided to add a bunch of extra security to bootloaders. Afterwards they offered to “unlock” the bootloaders on phones, which turned out to be a load of crap as some partitions remain write protected.

    …. Then there is HTC’s deathgrip on sense… which, in terms of OEM skins, is the slow kid in the back of the class that eats paste all day.

    …. Then there’s the horrid battery life.

    HTC lost my business a long time ago when they decided to pee all over the dev community, which is the very customer base that the non-techies ask when they need advice on what new phone to buy. There isn’t really any point in hinting HTC about what could save their company, because they aren’t going to listen.

  • “…improve its marketing so that “people really get the message.”…”

    That should work both ways, Peter. Are you listening to the message from the people about what they want in a phone?

    Judging by this week’s event, I doubt it. Looks to me like the same routine; wheel out some gimmicks, while stubbornly ignoring things for which people are really asking.


    “…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.”… who “appreciate inspiring experiences.”…”

    What? Is it me, or does that sound kinda like he’s describing a cult?

    • Mike Reid

      No. IMO he/they AREN’T listening.

      He’s spouting marketing gobble-de-gook. Differentiation ? That’s marketing-speak. Nobody says “I want differentiation” except carriers.

      “appreciate inspiring experiences.” ??? “appreciate innovation” ???

      He’s claiming their phone’s are “inspiring” (whatever that means) and “innovative” in a round about way. Like that stupid job interview question “what are your weaknesses?” which you answer “I work too hard”, or for marketing jobs “I’m driven…” (to excellence and other current buzz words.)

      2 years ago, HTC was the OEM most trusted to deliver Android updates instead of abandoning phones.

      It was nice at that time, HTC. Now move aside for Sony and other OEMs. Unless there’s a big shakeup at the top, including you Chou, you will continue to sink into irrelevance.

  • Daveydog

    Absolutely marketing. The only people who complain about htc phones are the folks like us on these boards. If the one x had been on the big 4 carriers, same name on all, and they had launched a galaxy s 3 like campaign, it would have been huge. Most “avg” people I know, love sense… It’s the apple of android.

  • Marketing isn’t their only issue, but it is definitely a major one. Most people I speak with about smartphones haven’t heard of any of the flagship phones that HTC put out. The most known device was the EVO and sadly most people only know it for its terrible battery life. They also need to decide on a flagship device and stick with it.

  • capn

    Unbelievable. No wonder HTC is going down the drain. Denial gets you nowhere. Marketing wasn’t HTC’s problem.
    Sense is an utter piece of bloated, fugly crap.


    Denial!!! Can’t be marking, as they were doing well before!

    It’s their software team creating crap software like that bloatware SENSE, and making half-ass hardware with minimal specs and preaching it as high specs. I used to own the HTC Desire and thought it was a great phone until I started using it and wanted to add apps to it…… Not enough memory, Not enough memory, etc… When I dig deep into the phone and found that there were truly minimal, minimal memory in there and lots and lots of shit-ware in the phone that I can’t uninstall or remove!!! On top of this, I had to replace/repair the phone like 5 times before worked properly…

    HTC’s problem is definitely NOT marketing! It’s end users (like me) wise-ing up after trying their phone once or twice and finding it to be shit-ware. HTC phones are ok nice to look at from a distance, but once you get into it and started using it… like me, you’ll find it’s crap!!! Basically, overpriced shit-ware!

    To fix their problems, just completely replace their software division, replace their SENSE crap, get a proper hardware designer, put proper specs into the phone; in other words, just make a proper decent product! And stop paying lip-service about the “greatness” of the phone, when in fact it’s anything but great. Just get their head out of their ass, essentially. The market shares and profits will follow suit!!!