When rumors of a possible plastic-made, low-cost but otherwise top-shelf HTC One M8 counterpart first cropped up, most of us laughed. No way could HTC afford shrinking their profit margins so drastically, we thought to ourselves.
After all, build materials, no matter how “premium” or shoddy, make up merely a tiny piece of a smartphone’s overall bill of materials. Not to mention the BOM doesn’t account for the actual manufacturing costs and marketing, with the two sometimes doubling a gizmo’s base valuation.
Bottom line, it was really, really, reheheheally difficult to buy that HTC would just replace aluminum with plastic and cut M8’s retail price in half. It sounded way too good to be true, and more often than not, that makes a story, well, not true.
When fantasy meets reality
Yet one quiet, peaceful morning a couple of weeks back, the OEM’s Chinese arm dropped the bombshell. The One E8, aka M8 Ace, aka M8 Vogue Edition broke cover with surprisingly little fanfare. But rumor was we were looking at a China-only handheld, so even if HTC wanted to make a fuss about the launch, no one would listen. Well, except for folks over in the Middle Kingdom. Hope you know how lucky you are.
The story’s twists however didn’t end there, so a second, slightly noisier announcement came, telling us to expect the E8 “globally” in “select markets” starting early June. Um, what? In “select global markets”? Isn’t that kind of a contradiction?
No matter, the important thing is this budget-conscious flagship is headed for certain non-Asian markets. Some European countries probably, and maybe even America. And what do you know, the pricing speculation was spot-on, as the MSRP over in China is around the equivalent of $450.
Meanwhile, the all-aluminum M8 costs roughly $850. So HTC basically did the impossible, lived up to a fantasy we never thought would become reality, and yet no one’s talking about the One E8. Not really.
Sure, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find the occasional hands-on preview here and there. And pretty much everyone covered the breaking news about the international release last week. But where are the glitzy, expensive, high-concept promos and teasers? The hype-building opinion pieces? Yo tech bloggers, you’re always looking for the “next big thing”, so why not admit this could be it and let the entire world know?
Well, let’s take the matters of contention one by one.
HTC One E8 – a trailblazer like no other
First off, is the E8 truly a game-changing device? I mean, when it comes down to it, the 5 incher looks exactly like the original One M8, and the first-gen One before it, only chintzier. There’s no “hook” in its spec sheet, no unique software features, no hardware innovations. In a way, it feels right to ignore it.
But let me ask you a question. How do you define mobile innovation in 2014? That’s a toughie, eh? And don’t even think about answering with fingerprint recognition or heart rate monitor BS. Nope, “true” octa-core chips, 64-bit architecture and 4 GB RAM aren’t satisfactory answers either.
Battery life breakthroughs? Now you’re talking, but I’m afraid everyone from Samsung to Apple is stuck in that particular department. Flexible displays? I’m with you there too, but we’re still a few good years away from real advancements.
Which brings us to affordability. Bang for buck, if you will. Sure, it’s nowhere near as spectacular as what most of you have in mind when thinking “innovation”. But look around you. It’s all about saving a buck nowadays, and getting as much as possible for your expense.
And the E8 offers basically everything the Samsung Galaxy S5 does… at a fraction of the price. It’s that simple.
Boot Iron Man, stop living in the past, step it up, HTC
Look, I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but we’re living in an unfair world. A world that money makes it go round maybe more than ever. And where money brings more money, and more, and more. They say you have to spend to make, and HTC doesn’t have but a tiny fragment of Samsung or Apple’s dough to invest in marketing and advertising.
And the thing is marketing tends to be particularly scanty when there’s peanuts to make off selling a product like the E8. So you can understand why HTC is reluctant to aggressively promote the polycarbonate powerhouse.
Then again, at this point, gambles and long-term investments with high risks are the only chances HTC’s got to survive. Screw Tony Stark and Commissioner Gordon, no one’s going to buy a phone just because they say so.
Instead, make your voice heard, HTC, and make it clear Samsung, Apple, LG, Sony, none of them have a high-end gizmo as spectacularly cheap as this thing. Buy TV publicity space, put up billboards, product placement, whatever it takes. Just don’t let the E8 go unnoticed, no matter the short-term financial losses. You’ll win ten times as much in the long haul if you pull it off.
What about the media?
Without pointing any fingers, I must say I’m terribly disappointed about One E8’s media reception so far. Granted, HTC isn’t helping its own cause, but isn’t it our duty as bloggers, journalists, “influencers”, whatever to send people on the right path?
How long have we been complaining that high-end gadget prices are too damn high? Well, this is our chance to change all that, and instead of uniting to support HTC’s initiative, we give it the cold shoulder. Why? Because some of us have personal beef with the mobile phone maker, while others are hardcore Samsung enthusiasts. There, I said it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think there’s an avalanche of hateful comments to come, so I should probably enjoy my final moments of peace and quiet. By maybe replaying Engadget’s hands-on HTC One E8 preview. Who knows, maybe others will follow their suit after all and build the buzz the affordable 5 incher deserves.