On to the next One: HTC’s new direction

High Tech Computer Corporation, or HTC as we all know it, has been a pioneer in many aspects of the technology world. The majority of people do not even know its name, or what it stands for, and even less know that they made the Palm Treo, a vast range of Windows Mobile devices like the Tilt 2, and relating to Android — the Nexus One. For the most part before the debut of the iPhone, HTC was actually at the top of the mobile computing world. It was the first in a long line of firsts. HTC introduced touch screen devices, it created the pocket PC, PDAs, and even the slide out keyboard before anyone even started using the word, smartphone.

But look at HTC today and all you will see is a company that has been struggling with the lowest profits since 2004 and barely hanging on to relevancy in the smartphone market.

 [Warning: excessive usage of 'one' ahead.]

Bold, authentic, and playful

HTC has placed blame on its previous inadequate marketing and has vowed to inject more money into the promotion of HTC products, but is this too late? Their first move was to remove their long staple slogan: Quietly Brilliant. The jokes about it have been exhausted through and beaten loudly to death. Their new non-tagline-slogan is “Bold, Authentic, and Playful.” HTC’s new Marketing Chief Benjamin Ho says that the company simply has not been “loud enough” and explained that each of the three new words have a purpose. ‘Bold’ is their direction in being more aggressive in the marketing of new products. ‘Authentic’ shows that HTC is reinforcing its focus on innovation, and ‘Playful’ references HTC’s development of features that are based on consumer demand.

This is all fine and dandy, but so far the only evidence of this brave new direction is that I finally saw a commercial for a HTC phone that was not done by Verizon under the Droid name, AT&T under a share everything plan, or Sprint with a ridiculously long and pointless name for a phone. I finally saw a commercial that highlighted the HTC One’s dual frontal speakers (in English) this week. Oddly enough, it was in a movie theater and unsurprisingly, no one cared to pay attention to it after the first few seconds. Despite the reaction, at least HTC is trying — sometimes even a bit too much like bombarding the Samsung Galaxy S4 event. The results of their new-direction efforts will not be known until the numbers are in, and unfortunately for them, that will also be the time when they decide whether to start boxing it all up and go home.

The thing is, HTC did not need to reinforce its focus on innovation. Their problem in this area has always been about making those innovative elements actually function like they envisioned. In a way, you could say HTC has the problem of yelling, “First!” Take for example, the camera and sound of their smartphones. HTC has always been great at introducing new variations and innovation in these spaces, but it has almost been a given talking point for every new device they announce like slide out speakers, Boomsound, ridiculously high number of megapixels and Zoe. It is great that they focus on innovation, but instead of making something great, they should be making something that actually works great. We have already seen a much needed update for the HTC One’s camera before the phone is widely released, a positive direction that the new HTC is undertaking, but it has to take quality control seriously and push out products that are proper on day one. They cannot fall back to their old ways of correcting a problem by releasing another phone with the updates and forgetting about the old phone. Case in point: the HTC One X and One X+.

One + one = One

Remember a year ago when HTC announced that they were undertaking a new direction into creating a One series to be their flagship, so that when you entered a store and wanted to buy a phone, you merely had to ask for the One? Now off the top of your head, list all the variations of the HTC One series since that announcement until today. I got 12 : One S, SC, ST, SU, SV, V, VX, X, XC, XL, XT, and X+. Even though some of them are location based, in the grand scheme of things, that still does not mirror HTC’s original plan for the One series.

Do not poke your ears if this strategy sounds familiar — HTC is at it again one year later with the new HTC One. Only this time, HTC swears it is true. Foolishly, I actually believed HTC until they announced the new Desires, then the Butterfly/Droid DNA followup, and a new Facebook phone. I understand the argument that it is reasonable to appeal to all aspects of the market and that Samsung, has committed far worse crimes in this category, but ultimately what this comes down to is whether you can trust the word of HTC. They said only one, but they really meant only one today, in one location, for one segment. It is as if HTC has a problem saying no to anybody. They are the ultimate people pleaser except where it counts.

One tier down

It is understandable that because HTC is not a large company, they have to find a way to appeal to the masses within their budget. This was typically done by letting partners and subsequently carriers do the advertising in exchange for exclusivity and dictation in branding. HTC has also gone the extra mile to appeal to other companies for exposure like Facebook. Now, HTC is no stranger to building phones for other companies. Their former success all were built on this same methodology: the Palm Treo, Windows Mobile, and the Nexus One. They made a name for themselves this way with their manufacturing quality. However, in this day and age of wider competition and struggle for profits, it might not be the best idea to return to the old roots entirely.

HTC needs to decide whether to continue playing the role of manufacturing partner for other companies, or to become the proper mobile device company they have set out to be. The Nexus One introduced them to the Android early adopters. However, one has to wonder how long before even these folks grow tired of waiting to buy just the HTC flagship, only to be let down and forgotten when a new HTC phone is announced 4 months later, or in the case of the One, before pre-orders.

Facing manufacturing and shipment delays with the HTC One, the new HTC era is already off to a bad start. Combined with its own admittance that manufacturing partners no longer consider them a tier one company, the road ahead for HTC is looking more and more like a person parachuting unto a minefield. It is all bad. And this is before factoring in the amount of sales they will lose out to the Samsung Galaxy S4, which will have the help of physical stores.

Smart mobility

Here’s one more piece of trivia for the road: before ‘Quietly Brilliant’, there was ‘smart mobility’. HTC should go back to this line of thinking and figure out a proper plan of doing smart business in the mobility sector. They do not have to go back to the old logo and slogan, but they need to realize that the ‘throw Taiwanese noodles at the wall and pray for a success’ does not work right now. Unfortunately, after all of HTC’s achievements of being the first in just about everything, there was one thing that they were not the first at: a failing company. It is not for the lack of trying, but the lack of proper execution and direction has led HTC to enter its possible final countdown. I don’t know about you, but should HTC fail, I am hoping MotoGoogle buys them out and combine to make one magnificent line of phones under the Nexus name. Until then, just like HTC after every new flagship phone announced by Peter Chou, I’ll be saying, “on to the next one.”

What do you think is the one step HTC needs to make now?

 

 

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  • Bob G

    Great read! Poor HTC :(

    • bluevoodo

      No its not! This Author (or sorry excuse for one) criticizes HTC for a flagship, midrange, and a phablet sized phone, if that is failing some one should tell Samsung. Im starting to see a lot of double standards when it comes to Samsung and HTC.

      • Bob G

        Dude, you need to calm down. Calling the author a moron while acting like one does not help whatever argument you are trying to convey.

        If you don’t think that this article has a place, then I urge you to go take a look at Androidcentral and see that their Editor-in-Chief has an editorial that talks about the same thing this guy did. I guess that guy should also not be allowed to post articles because he is clearly a moron that only runs a site into one of the biggest Android blogs out there, eh?

        I don’t think Phandroid has a bias towards Samsung. I think this article is out now because the HTC One is going to be sold widely now. I bet they’ll have criticism for the Galaxy S4 when it gets sold too. Your Apple argument doesn’t make sense because there is a difference between still selling old models like the 4S and selling new phone models in different ranges. It’s not like Apple is selling lower end iPhones alongside the 5 and the 4S.

        Seriously, don’t rage and post.

  • Mr. Smith

    Throwing noodles at the wall ? Really

    • Mike Reid

      I hate to try and be an “armchair CEO”, but…

      – IMO taglines are NOT important. I don’t remember what Samsung’s is. I DO know it’s pretty safe to recommend high end Samsung devices to anyone who can afford one and asks.

      – IMO two things are important: (1) Marketing dollars, and (2) A phone that ticks’ EVERY single checkbox on the lists of important features.

      (2) is important because reviewers usually recommend phones that have, eg, all 30 of 30 identified important features. If it only has 28, due to no SDCard and no removable battery, and the S4 has all 30, the S4 wins the review and MANY more people buy. Doesn’t matter if people really need those features or not; listen to your customers, don’t tell them what they need or don’t need.

      (1) look at Samsung. They seem to spend as much on marketing as on R & D ! As a techie I hate that, but dang it, it works.

      If they have to borrow money to saturate people’s minds with images of wonderful Ones’, then so be it. Better to take on some debt than end up bankrupt. Gotta spend money to make money.

      I think them crashing the S4 unveiling was a good move. Only a small part of the plan, but I think well worth it, for the little cost. And yes, marketing dollar efficiency is important; you can’t just throw the dollars anywhere. But TV, radio and Internet ads target-ing young people with money probably can’t go too wrong, if you contract to some good ad agencies. Just get the phone in peoples heads and the sales will come. Heck, carriers might come chasing you.

      — end of pretending to be a CEO…. :)

  • No_Nickname90

    Bring out a high-end Qwerty device. HTC G3 maybe? The G2 was one of my fav-phones. Software keyboards just can’t keep up with me. Although I still have my E4GT, so that could be a reason as well. Hmm…

    *patiently waiting for HTC to make the next Nexus phone*

  • ac

    Absolutely agree with this article.

  • http://twitter.com/PhaseBurn PhaseBurn

    I think the HTC acquisition of Beats was a horrible decision. It brought them nothing to the table that a licensing deal wouldn’t have done far cheaper, and they still aren’t making use of the brand properly. All they’re doing is slapping the Beats logo on their phones and including a software profile to make non-Beats headphones sound crappier. Why aren’t they using the Beats brand to promote their phone devices? Why aren’t they engaging the Beats community for marketing potential of phones?

    As for the Nexus One, I was very very happy when it came out. I loved that phone, and still do in a lot of ways. I was sad when Samsung was reported to be making the next Nexus, because I knew it would be plastic compared to the aluminum body I was accustomed to. But I got over it, because HTC hasn’t made a product I’ve wanted since the Nexus One, so I had to take what I could get. To be totally honest, since I first got my Nexus One in December of 2009, I haven’t seen another HTC phone I’ve wanted. And that was over 3 years ago.

    HTC needs to put up or shut up. They aren’t a Tier 1 provider any more by their own admission because they haven’t been really innovative in years. The One vs the S4 is a very close call for most consumers who are looking for an upgrade – and “close” is the last thing HTC needs. They need to flog the S4 so hard Samsung has to redesign it from scratch to keep up with them. Otherwise, why would I choose HTC, with their delays and “meh” features over Samsung, which is significantly more popular with my peers and friends? If the features are the same, popularity will win almost every time.

    I think HTC is on the right track with the Facebook phone, the First. While I’ll never *touch* the thing, I’m far from the “average” consumer, who likely will very much appreciate it. It would have been better for HTC if Facebook would have agreed to make their new home launcher a First exclusive, at least for a while. But that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about – giving customers what they want. While I still have yet to be impressed by their offerings, this new phone of theirs looks like it just might impress a few other folk.

    I’d love to see HTC release a phone with 4 gigs of RAM, and 64 or 128 gigs of on-board storage. It isn’t that hard, and it would eclipse anything Samsung could muster up for 6 to 9 months at least. This is what they did with the original Nexus One – more RAM than any other device at the time, the fastest processor available on the market, they beefed the hell out of it for Google. It was the first “Superphone” (Zeus how I hate buzz words, but the point still stands). HTC needs to reclaim that mentality, and give up what they’re currently doing. It hasn’t worked in forever.

    • http://twitter.com/tedleaf1 ted leaf

      f…book devices will probably be the death of htc.
      if they should listen to anyone, try xda forum.
      try actualy building what folk want, big screen, solid chassis, msd slot, swapable battery, decent camera, simpler sense, or just stock android.
      get rid of beats as pricey mistake, its not worth the hassle.
      if yer mates thought it was cool to try jumping off cliffs, you would follow ?
      because every other cloned zombie i see is using a samsung is exactly why i would never get one not counting all the things I think wrong about samsung kit,
      and the price to produce such an uber phone, would have to be sold at a loss, and prey there is mass trickle down sales, risky path.
      otherwise yer looking at a £1k+ phone that would sell in very small numbers, providers would not risk huge subs on it.

      • Vasboz

        I’m sorry not everyone wants a big screen. Oh and don’t even get me started on the external SD. It’s a MOBILE PHONE… which part of that isn’t clear to people. All of my previous Android phone’s and the Galaxy S3 had an external SD slot. What has it been? Nothing but a pain in the ass.

        Would you like to backup some select few photo’s then you’ll have to make sure you look in the INTERNAL SD and then also the EXTERNAL SD… Really?

        The Galaxy S3 also had the “sudden” death syndrome on 4.1.1 (Optus-Aus i9300) which was due to it corrupting the internal SD. Then there is 4.1.2 that corrupts external SD cards…

        I bought a SANDISK EXTREME MOBILE 32GB card… what for? So I can chuck on sooo much music/files and be essentially LAZY which how I manage my phone? Not necessary. Internal SD of 16, 32 or 64GB should be more than adequate.

        I was misled on this ‘must have an external SD’ bandwagon and I regret it… Why slow down the experience of your phone? It’s a weak point having an external SD and then to better it, installing apps on an external SD just makes for a ‘not-as-good’ app loading experience..

        Not having an external SD is a 1st world problem that’s really not worth debating. Go for the Apple, Nexus, HTC experience. No removable battery is a benefit, and so is no external SD.

        Give me 1080p in 4.3″ and I’ll be a happy camper.

        This mobile phone world has gone Crazy (blame Samsung for this)… I had a Dell Streak before 5 was even popular, and the best form factor is 4-4.3″ for single handed use.

        I’m not a short person either at 6ft2″ but I struggle with the Galaxy S3 to hold it and use it single handedly, whereas I have never had this issue with an iPhone. I’m not here flaming but even the S1 and the S2 were more practical.

        If you think it’s too small, hold it a few inches closer.. no big deal.

    • Vasboz

      How is the HTC ONE a close call to the S4?

      Look at the design differences between the ONE X and the ONE.

      Then look at the design differences between the S3 and the S4.

      Now look back at the design differences between the ONE X and the ONE.

      Oh wait… They have proper stereo sound on the HTC ONE now!

      They also have speakers on the top. My god it’s not rocket science but what’s the point of Samsung having a “flip to silence” phone feature, when the speaker is on the back so you need to turn it over to get maximum sound quality. What happens next? The phone mutes! Excellent….

      See Apple wouldn’t release such features just for the sake of it to pretend to be falsely innovative…

      Really guys… and you think Samsung is leaps and bounds ahead of HTC in design/quality? I can only laugh at this, and this is as an S3 owner.

      Whatever happened to the speaker port on the Galaxy S4? Looks like they have looked at their old Galaxy S1 and thought they’d use the same technique! Vibrations in plastic is just wonderful.

      When it comes to the screen, PPI is PPI and HTC flogs Samsung’s 5″ phablet in this regard.

      Having buttons on the ‘EDGE’ is something that has pissed me off with the S3 and wait… they still have them on the S4! Wonderful.

      People need to realise HTC is the innovator, Samsung is the sausage maker.

      • bluevoodo

        worst yet is that Samsung cheats you out of 33% of the pixels it advertises by using a pentile arrangement.

  • http://twitter.com/tedleaf1 ted leaf

    er, if i remember htc statement correctly, they actualy said only one, uber, beast model at a time.the only other phone that will be available(possibly) as wwe is the desire, all the rest are not wwe, try getting a butterfly in the uk.
    htc’s biggest mistake was jumping into android with both feet,everything has gone badly for htc since the end of winmo 6.5 and the htc hd2(possibly still the best smartphone yet)been an htc user for years, but hd2 was end of good era for htc, but i will still probably still get another one soon, when/if they make what i want/need.

  • Jayshmay

    If the Tilt 2, and front facing stereo speakers of the One were merged, that would be the ultimate smartphone!!! Of course with with expandable/removable battery & memory card.

    • Keith

      I still have my Tilt 2 around somewhere, comes in handy when I’m traveling overseas and use a prepaid sim.

    • Vasboz

      Get over the expandable/removable battery.

      You people are an extreme minority. I work in IT as a systems admin and even I would not use an external memory card (kills your phone’s experience it was designed for).

      As far as a removable battery. Why? Just another hassle/paint in the arse.

  • bluevoodo

    How stupid is the author? Seriously name one (sorry) phone manufacturer that only sells one phone? Even Apple still sells the iPhone 4s. David Ng you are a moron, and its enraging that you are allowed to post articles here, I expected something of such low quality maybe at best on reddit.

    • BulletTooth_Tony

      Apple only introduces 1 phone per year. Previous years models were once the flagship and continue to receive support… HTC introduces dozens of phones per year, and abandons each nearly instantly. Huge difference.

      Blind fanboyism, you have it on lock.

      • bluevoodo

        Apple isnt only a phone manufacturer, it sells computers, tablets, music, books, etc etc, and it is pretty damn profitable in all of those areas. Samsung, Sony, Motorola, LG do the same, Samsung has actually done the better of the bunch. So far this year HTC has announced One flagship model, teased about the continuation of a phablet sized phone, and two lower range models for overseas. How is that too many phones?

        • BulletTooth_Tony

          This year will be a new phenomenon if they follow thru. But it sounds like a new Incredible is coming soon. And it’s still just the 2nd week of April. Give them time for the replacements to come and the One to be abandoned. Probably with a One+ with a camera that doesn’t suck.

      • Vasboz

        You telling me Samsung doesn’t release countless handsets per week… Seriously wake up.

        • BulletTooth_Tony

          Do they? Because it looks like the S3 and Note 2 are only separated by screen size. Then there’s the Mini. Nothing else. The dual sim versions sometimes get other names, but they are the same phones. Another blind fanboy.

          • bluevoodo

            Lmfao Just today they released the Galaxy Win.

    • Vasboz

      You sir are a champion. Well said.

  • fredphoesh

    ONE less customer here… I often use a second battery as I do a lot of commuting by train… so as much as i’d love the HTC One, its gonna have to be Samsung AGAIN…

    • iwave

      Me too. I’m still using a Sensation and have been hanging on for another HTC with removable battery and storage, but they’re absolutely determined to pander to the iPhlop crowd.

      • Vasboz

        removable storage is not all it’s hyped up to be. Believe in the better, faster, more consistent experience which is an internal SD only.

    • Vasboz

      You sir are ONE in a THOUSAND people that needs a second battery.

      Here in Australia trains have powerpoints. What’s the problem? If your commute is that long, plug it in.

      You think the average Joe even wants to open up the phone to replace the battery?

      I’ve had the S3 and I’m getting my hands on the HTC ONE. I’m sick and tired of the Galaxy S(ausage)3 and now the ‘4’.

      • droid user

        You sound stupid we all don’t live in Aussie land!

    • Chris Brown

      so you’re going with Samsung AGAIN after having to use a second battery for your current Samsung? You know there are mobile battery packs that cost less and can quick charge to full 3-10x. Not to mention, I can’t imagine that you commute for more than a couple of hours at most..don’t you plug-in at work? I plugin whenever its available (and that logic has applied to my former iPhone, android phones and iPad).

  • Jose Garcia

    Great article. Impresive. In my opinion HTC is going in the right direction when it comes to the HTC One. Sometimes is not the direction alone that matter, but what you are doing while driving yourself. If you stop to many times, competition will get there first. If you dont let people your are driving you will go by unnoticed. HTC is not making enough noise.

  • iwave

    I don’t think there’s any great mystery here. HTC is good at hardware, always has been, so in the Windows era (the smartphone that existed before Steve Jobs, god and innovator, “invented” smartphones) when several manufacturers were producing hardware that ran one o/s, they were easily the best (they beat the pants off HP, for example). In the current Android climate, things have changed, hardware has become commoditized so there’s no profit in it, and if you’re going to produce a complete package, then you need a cosmic-class marketing machine to compete with Apple and Samsung, etc, which HTC don’t and never will have.

    • Vasboz

      There is still something to be said about DESIGN. Sorry, Samsung hasn’t got this nailed, and the bigger they get, the more they are killing off the smartphone experience for the end user. I have an S3 which is being replaced in a few weeks with a HTC ONE. Never will I recommend another Samsung.

      Out of the current crop of handsets the iPhone 5 and the HTC ONE are classy. Looks matter. The S4? Not so sure about it.

  • Vasboz

    “barely hanging on to relevancy in the smartphone market” really? The OP needs to actually rethink how they write articles.

    Relevancy has nothing to do with sales, HTC is a pioneer in what it does.

    I have currently a Galaxy S3 plain I9300 Quad Core, and I cannot wait to piss this device off.

    I’m getting my hands on a HTC ONE on April 23rd. Already preordered it.

    I’ve had an iPhone 3GS, 4, Dell Streak (way before when 5″ was deemed a phablet), Motorola Atrix and the Galaxy S3. Apart from the iPhone’s which of my Android’s has had that ‘premium’ feel? None of them really… Not even the S3.

    You can’t even give the S3 to anyone without them holding it and inadvertantly pressing the ‘Back’, ‘Option’ keys… why they would put buttons right on the edge is beyond me. This also makes 1-hand usage near impossible.

    You look at the HTC ONE in other news and you see you can hold it top or bottom (as it has speaker ports… ) so you’r enot accidentally pressing buttons.

    Secondly, the back and home button on the ONE are outlined, hence anyone accidentally holding it that hasn’t held one before knows that there is a button there! Pure logic really… Pitty Samsung hasn’t thought of this. (Yes I know I can permanently turn the light on my S3, but again it’s not the same)

    When you consider why Samsung is as big as it is, it comes down purely to marketing and the fact they can spend so much on marketing.

    To me, Samsung is just a sausage factory, mass producing handsets.

    The OP mentions how there are 12 HTC One XXXX variants… how about how many Variants Samsung has? From a Galaxy with a projector, to a Galaxy Camera… seriously?

    When my mate got his One X just before I got my S3 I always and still do believe its build quality is far superior. The handset just looks ‘premium’.

    HTC is in a nutshell the bespoke handset designer. Samsung is the sausage-factory-mass-produced-handset maker.

    I think enough said.

  • bmagicspot

    Good article. HTC does appear to be circling the drain at this point.

    • bluevoodo

      “Circling the drain” with the most positively reviewed android phone since probably ever?

  • droid user

    All you Apple Hater’s are killing my ears!

  • master94

    How many times do I need to tell you. Your friends aunt is a prostitute. Stop bragging about it, its not a good thing.