Is HTC doomed to follow the fate of Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, Nokia and BlackBerry? Motorola was saved by Google, Sony-Ericsson by Sony and Nokia is in the process of being saved by Microsoft. BlackBerry is still in search of its white knight.
A few days ago HTC posted an operating loss of US$101.3 million, the first operating loss of the company since it went public in 2002. In a market where 260 million smartphones are sold a quarter (that is almost 2.6 million per day) HTC sold only 6 million handsets in the previous quarter. But a one hundred million US dollar loss is not a debilitating loss for the Taiwanese manufacturer which has total assets estimated at about US$7 billion. It is really more of a question of where it goes next.
Between Samsung’s dominance, a resurgent LG, and a revived Sony on the one hand and low-cost Chinese manufacturers on the other, HTC is being squeezed out of the market. Several review sites have hailed the HTC One, as the best smartphone in the world today. Despite this, consumers gobbled up the Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and the Apple iPhone 5S instead. It has been three years since HTC’s Desire was crowned by some as the best smartphone in the world. The return of the award of this title by several distinguished reviewers to HTC has not changed the company’s fortunes.
While many would dispute that the HTC One is the best smartphone in the world, few would dispute that it deserves a place in the top five. The problem is that there seems to be only room for two: an iPhone and the top Android.
While pundits predicted that an Android handset with a premium build was what the market demanded, consumers themselves were not averse to plastic. Interestingly, HTC did not just build a smartphone from premium materials, it went as far as innovating in 2013. HTC came up with the low light-friendly Ultrapixel camera, Boom Sound, BlinkFeed and Zoe which differentiated it from its Android competition. HTC launched a Facebook-centric phone and is now coming out with a China-centric Android operating system. However, on the road to building the HTC One, HTC dropped the expandable storage and user replaceable battery which many Android owners value in 2012. It also lost in the megahertz war. Basically, HTC built iPhone-like smartphones for the Android world.
HTC is not ready to throw in the towel yet, and the company will have another turn at bat. If HTC wants to survive, it has to go back to its roots. It is an Android smartphone manufacturer, first and foremost. Android buyers and Apple buyers are very different creatures. Sealed batteries and built-in only storage go against the Android buyer’s psyche. It has to put the largest display, highest clocked processor, and biggest battery into the slimmest and narrowest phone it can build which can still fit in a hand. It has to have an HDMI port and support USB on-the-go. Then it has to pray that it beats what Samsung, LG or Sony has to offer.
A writer I highly respect calls all this “MOAR”. A good friend argues specifications do not matter, it is the experience that counts. As true as all this may be, that is not the Android way. People who buy a Ferrari neither buy it for a comfortable ride nor to race it on a track. Seriously, driving a Ferrari is not a practical way to commute. They buy a Ferrari because it is a Ferrari. The top Android has to be a Ferrari. That is the Android way. HTC is not Apple, but it does have a Rolex-like appeal. If HTC does not realize that and manage to use it to their advantage, well, then it really is doomed.
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