HTC has an interesting history full of ups and downs. Founded in 1997, it was once among the biggest players in the smartphone industry, though it hasn’t been able to keep up with the competition in recent years. Sales and market share have both fallen drastically since the company’s peak in 2011, resulting in Google buying most of HTC’s research and development division back in September 2017 and the recent decision to cut 1,500 jobs — that’s more than 20 percent of HTC’s workforce.
These are just a few interesting facts about HTC.
HTC started out as a white label manufacturer
Before it started making and selling phones under its own brand, HTC was a white label manufacturer. It manufactured devices for other companies, who sold them under their own names. The list of early products it made includes the HP iPAQ Pocket PC and the Palm Treo 650, which was one of the first handsets to run Palm OS.
Then there’s the Wallaby, the first phone HTC ever made. It was sold under many names including the O2 XDA, T-Mobile MDA, Dopod 686, Siemens SX56, and Qtek 1010.
HTC still makes devices for other companies from time to time. It has a great relationship with Google and manufactured a few smartphones for the tech giant over the years. These include the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Nexus One.
HTC launched the first Android, Windows, and 4G phone
HTC was a step ahead of the competition back in the day. The company released the first-ever Android phone in 2008, called the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1 in the U.S.). It received fairly positive reviews and was quite popular, selling over a million units in the first year.
The tech giant also launched the first-ever handset running Windows Mobile. Called the HTC Canary (in a coal mine?), it debuted in 2002 and was sold in Europe and China. Additionally, HTC released the first 3G-capable Windows Mobile phone in the world as well. It was called MTeoR and revealed in 2006. Sadly, Windows Mobile didn’t end up faring much better than HTC.
In 2010, HTC took the wraps off the HTC Evo 4G, a high-end smartphone sold by Sprint, the first 4G smartphone available in the U.S.. It’s ugly compared to today’s handsets, but it was extremely popular back in 2010, selling approximately 150,000 units over the first weekend alone.
HTC developed the first Android skin
HTC was the first company to add a customized skin on top of Android. Called Sense even back then, it debuted in 2009 on the HTC Hero. Virtually every manufacturer has followed HTC’s example since then. Galaxy phones have the Samsung Experience on top of the Android OS, Huawei uses EMUI, and Xiaomi’s devices come with MIUI on board.
HTC Sense was my favorite skin for a long time. I used it on my HTC One M7 years back and loved it. It had a gorgeous design and added a number of useful features to the device that weren’t available on stock Android. The value-adding custom UIs that came in Sense’s wake helped introduced many new features that ultimately got absorbed by Android itself.
Sense isn’t quite as good now, in part because HTC hasn’t done a great job at updating its apps over the years. The HTC Weather, Dialer, Messages, and Clock apps are all nearly unchanged from the versions that launched on the HTC 10 two years ago. It’s still one of the least offensive custom skins around though.
HTC was once the biggest player in the US — seriously
HTC peaked in the third quarter of 2011. According to a report by Canalys, the company was the biggest smartphone maker in the U.S., capturing almost a quarter of the market. It shipped around 5.7 million devices in the period, 800,000 more than Samsung in second place. Apple came in third with sales of 4.6 million units.
On a global scale, HTC ranked as the fourth-largest smartphone maker in the third quarter of 2011 — behind Samsung, Apple, and Nokia. Sales grew by 115 percent compared to the year before and reached 12.7 million units, giving HTC a market share of more than 10 percent.
The company was also named the “Device Manufacturer of the Year” in 2011 by the GSMA. HTC looked like it had a bright future, but things didn’t turn out as planned. The competition was ultimately too strong and HTC slowly lost market share. It currently doesn’t even rank in the top ten smartphone makers in the world. If the company doesn’t find a way to become relevant again, it might soon have to leave the smartphone market altogether.
HTC is more innovative than you think
HTC has a bad rap these days, but it’s always been at the forefront of innovation. It ranked 31st on Fast Company’s list of the “Most innovative companies of 2010”, ahead of tech giants like Samsung and Microsoft.
HTC was the first company in the world to launch a smartphone with a dual-camera setup, working just like those in today’s smartphones. The HTC One M8 (pictured above) featured a 4MP main sensor and a secondary 2MP camera that allowed you to add bokeh effects to images. Sure, it didn’t work brilliantly, but that’s not the point. HTC introduced this technology in 2014, years before manufacturers like LG and Samsung started catching up.
The company also kicked off a premium design trend with the One M7’s gorgeous metal body in 2013. Samsung, as well as most other manufacturers, still used plastic, which gave devices a cheap look and feel. Additionally, the One M7 also featured plastic antenna bands on the back, which then quickly became standard on most metal smartphones. It was also the device that popularized dual front-facing speakers.
Next up is Edge Sense, the innovative feature that lets you open an app or launch an action by squeezing the phone’s frame. It debuted on the U11 but is also available on a few other HTC devices including the U11 Life and U12 Plus. The technology is present on the Pixel 2 XL and HTC-built Pixel 2 as well, but it goes under a different name — Active Edge. It sounded gimmicky at first, but it’s actually super useful and works like a charm.
Let’s not forget about HTC’s other recent efforts, either. The U11 Plus introduced a transparent back, letting you see the internals of the device. The same design appeared with the U12 Plus and was recently copied by the Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition. It’s entirely possible this will turn into a trend (fingers crossed).
These are a few of our favorite lesser-known facts about HTC. Pretty neat, right? Would you add anything to the list? Let us know in the comments below!