HTC hasn’t been a big name in phones for a while. The company’s last mainstream flagship was the mid-2018 HTC U12 Plus. Since then, most of its phones have been budget affairs with releases few and far between. For those that cling on to the notion of HTC’s return to glory, we have some (sort of) good news. On Monday we learned HTC wants to go back to making premium handsets. The current CEO of HTC, Yves Maitres, admitted the company “has stopped innovating in the hardware of the smartphone”. My how times have changed.
It’s hard to say if HTC can pull off a return to form, but we have serious doubts. The saddest part is that HTC was once considered the king of premium design, though this reign was short-lived. The year was 2013, and the phone was the HTC One M7.
At a time when most of the world clung to plastic designs, HTC delivered unique premium features that set it apart from the competition. Even today, the HTC One M7 includes some impressive features. Let’s take a look back at what was arguably HTC’s highest point as a company.
HTC One M7 – an impressive design few could rival
The HTC One M7 was made of an aluminum body, which wasn’t particularly commonplace in the Android world at this time. This made the phone look and feel much better than the majority of plastic-based smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S4. We also have to mention the phone’s two front-facing BoomSound speakers, which saw a massive step forward for built-in mobile speakers. Even today many phones don’t feature nearly as an impressive audio setup.
The HTC One would soon be followed by dozens of other metal-clad devices from manufacturers big and small. And while the metal trend has since been replaced by glass-and-metal sandwiches, the HTC One still remains a beautiful device.
HTC One M7 – excellent software and display
The HTC One M7 had 4.7-inch display with a 1080p resolution. That was very impressive for 2013. The phone also used the company’s own UI, HTC Sense 5, which many people at the time liked better than the stock Android experience. HTC Sense 5 also had BlinkFeed. It was a less successful attempt to offer up a different home screen experience with an emphasis on social media posts. While it wasn’t a huge hit at the time, it did show that HTC was a bit forward-thinking on UI design.
Ultrapixels made low-light photos better
Today low-light photography is all the rage, with night side and night modes helping to make the experience better than ever. In 2013, HTC hoped to tackle the low-light issue with its own unique solution.
Technically, the rear camera on the HTC One M7 had just a 4MP sensor. The key difference was the larger sensor size. At the time most companies focused on increasing megapixel count, but HTC’s Ultrapixel camera was designed to bring in more light. The final result was that this HTC phone could create better photos in low-light settings.
In the end, the HTC One M7 was an extremely impressive smartphone. It was a true milestone product for the company itself, and for the smartphone industry in general. It’s been a long, long time since HTC has released a handset that has even come close to the innovations and quality of the HTC One M7. For the past few years, HTC has concentrated on its VR hardware and software business.
In 2018, after years of struggling to keep it together, HTC would sell off most of its smartphone division to Google. This deal included many engineers and employees, which Google would put to work on furthering its Pixel devices. This left HTC with very few resources relating to phone development.
In August we reported HTC’s latest phone wasn’t even made by the company at all — the HTC Wildfire. This budget-level device was actually built by China-based One Smart Technology, basically the same strategy as we’ve seen from Blackberry. This makes us wonder what a modern “premium” HTC phone could look like and if HTC would really even be that involved in its development.
HTC isn’t what it used to be and it’s sad to see how far they’ve fallen. What do you think, can HTC still turn this ship around and make a Nokia-esque comeback? Do we even want or need an HTC comeback at this point? Let us know what you think in the comments.