It was in August last year that I contemplated purchasing my first Android phone. At that time, I loved the HTC unibody Aluminium concept and I was totally sold to the HTC Sense coloured bokeh look. I became a proud owner of a HTC Legend.
At that time, the HTC Desire was also a phenomenon on its own. The HTC Desire was the cream of the crop. It defeated the iPhone 4 to become T3’s “2010 Phone of the Year” and propelled HTC to the top, with them receiving accolades like the “Tech Brand of the Year”. You could imagine Peter Chou smiling ear-to-ear, while Steve Jobs must not have been very pleased about the loss.
After the Desire, HTC decided to milk the Desire brand name so much so that they released the Desire Z, Desire HD and Desire S – all of which, did not meet the same hype of their original iconic handset.
Their latest dual-core device – the HTC Sensation – has also moved away from the strong Desire brand name.
So, what happened?
Problematic Propriety Z Hinge
The revolutionary HTC Desire Z also had an evolutionary problem. The Z hinge became loose after months of usage. Although normal wear and tear was expected for phones, the Z hinge in the Desire Z and G2 wore out in relatively short period of time.
What was meant to be a new frontier in technology, quickly turned out to be a nightmare. No other phones with Z hinges were released after that.
Desire HD, A Battery Guzzler
Released at the same time was the HTC Desire HD. Coming with an all-new 8MP camera sensor was enough to create excitement, that is, until users started to realize the battery left a lot to be desired, and with a 1230 mAh battery on board, HTC played a really bad, bad joke on all Android lovers.
Fast boot or not, the battery still drained extremely quickly. And with it, went HTC’s market share as well.
HTC’s Move To SLCD Hurt Their Market Share
After HTC decided to move the Desire to SLCD, the consumers in my country went on a buying frenzy. While HTC Desires were already being snapped up like hot cakes, consumers hunted only the AMOLED sets. Almost every forum and online bidding site had their AMOLED Desires sold off in a heartbeat, while the SLCD version received significantly less attention.
This meant one thing – consumers wanted AMOLED. They didn’t care that SLCD performed better in direct sunlight – and I’m located near the equator – where it’s bright and sunny almost every other day. No one in my country will ever want to stand under direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time to read their text messages. Instead, the screen that better appealed to the senses sold – and sold well.
The AMOLED shortage didn’t help HTC at all. In fact, it hurt their marketshare. Consumers started paying more attention to Samsung and their AMOLED technology. The XDA Developer forums started to become packed with requests for an HTC Sense port for Samsung devices. It was a very loud and clear signal: people wanted HTC Sense + AMOLED.
Anyone who loves Cyanogen will have a headache with HTC. I have rooted many Android phones, and HTC phones are the ones that I dislike rooting the most. Creating the goldcard is already a challenge for some, downgrading to an engineering build is another pain in the unmentionables.
However, it is to HTC’s credit that they are taking this problem seriously and allowing users to unlock their bootloaders online at no additional cost. The annulment of the device warranty is a different story for another day.
But what if HTC had the guts to tell power users that they will honour the warranty, even if the phone’s bootloader is unlocked – this is a place which no Android manufacturer has arrived at – yet. Samsung’s pitch and offer to the Cyanogenmod team with free SGS II’s has also put HTC in a difficult position. Samsung devices are one of the easiest to root and the recent acquisition of Steve Kondik spoke even louder about their love for the development community, or their smart marketing strategy.
Samsung’s Strong Front Is Giving HTC A Tough Fight
Samsung tore apart their SGS2 and reconstructed the phone to rival the Sensation. It in not a surprise that they are winning. They have sold about 5 million SGS2 in the last 90 days. In a world without the SGS2, the Sensation would be a clear winner.
Undoubtedly, Samsung is also the second largest mobile manufacturer behind Apple.
The Future Of HTC & Beats
I am undecided on this issue. On one hand, Beats will add value to HTC, but the potential increase of prices of these devices might be a turn-off. I would be willing to give HTC phones with Beats a try. I believe this has more potential than Sony’s Walkman phones anytime.
The only way HTC can win with Beats is to offer the earphones and headphones right out of the box. A redesign of the phones to look more “hip and happening” (imagine a white-red aluminium unibody) could be very exciting. They have certainly acquired a company with value, but how they merge Beats with Android will be what makes the difference in the near future.
What Can HTC Do Now?
Here’s 5 ways HTC can win further with Android:
- Redesigned coloured Aluminium unibody – is this even possible? People love sturdy phones, but what if HTC can make them as thin as the SGS2. Samsung’s plasticky phones will be in trouble.
- Hire individuals from Tesla Coil (Widgetlocker) or Paul O’Brien (Modaco) Widgetlocker can boost HTC Sense, while Paul will definitely be a good addition to their Android development efforts.
- Bring back the Desire brandname, but don’t milk it like before. The Desire brand is a strong name. I believe consumers want to see an HTC Desire 2.
- Be bold with the bootloaders – offer warranty even if unlocked. No Android phone manufacturer has the guts to offer this yet. Be bold, take risks. If you make your phones easy to unlock and development friendly, more people will buy them. Position your engineers in XDA, to help people troubleshoot, before having them send their device in for a warranty claim.
- Put a better screen on your phones that can rival AMOLED. Super AMOLED Plus is the benchmark to beat.
Need I say more?