htc quietly fading

Meet the HTC (don’t call me S, V or X) One, HTC’s last best hope.

February 20, 2013 - Written By Randy Arrowood

“if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it does it still make a sound?”

We’re a day passed the unveiling of the newest iteration of the HTC One, and feelings are mixed about the new bestest of the best from HTC. Some loved it. Me? I didn’t get that warm fuzzy feeling from seeing it. All that aside, it’s time to look at the newest version of the One, where HTC failed with their One series the last time, and what it all might mean for them going forward.

Last year, HTC announced their One S, V and X models and declared that they were finished with flooding the market with crap phones, focusing instead on fewer higher quality handsets. It was a great idea in theory, but it didn’t last long. Verizon flipped the One series the finger, and support from the other US carriers was tepid at best. AT&T carried the flagship One S, but HTC’s new found focus on a single higher quality line of devices fell on deaf consumer ears.

Instead of a unifying line of handsets that HTC could use as a springboard for their rebirth, we got another load of Evo and Droid branded handsets that followed the same-old-same-old path that got HTC stuck in the mud in the first place: allowing the carriers to determine what the HTC handset road-map would look like.

HTC one red black and white

Now, a year or so later, here comes HTC again with this One phone. And this time they mean “one” phone. Personal opinions about the design influences aside, this version of the One is maybe the best looking device that HTC has made to date. As last years very nice looking One series proved, good looks and really good specs simply aren’t enough to move devices any more.

There was a time, back in the beginning days of Android when HTC was the king with their oddly shaped and oddly intriguing G1 on T-Mobile. HTC reigned supreme as the undisputed king of Android OEMs. That was also the time when they were the only Android OEM.

Since Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony and myriad other wannabe OEMs entered the fray, HTC has been on a slow but steady, painful decline in market share. The whole thing came to a head for them last week when Gartner shared numbers showing that HTC had fallen out of the top 10 amongst handset manufacturers.

If you listen to HTC CEO Peter Chou, HTC doesn’t do enough marketing of their devices. Best Buy seems to agree with Chou, with Allister Jones, Best Buy head of marketing saying this after the big One unveiling:

“The reason why we’re excited about this one is we need HTC back in the market,” said Best Buy head of marketing Allister Jones in an interview. “We need customers to have more than two choices when it actually comes to smartphones. So we’re excited not just about this phone from HTC, but to see what else comes from HTC this year.” Jones went on to add that 2013 is “going to be an exciting year for smartphones.”

Having Best Buy in your corner doesn’t carry the same weight for HTC that it would have a few years ago, as Best Buy is on a pretty steady decline of their own. But it will make a positive difference for HTC as they try to stabilize their business today so that they can build for the future.

Lets face facts: HTC needs all the help that they can get. After getting pushed around by the likes of Verizon and Sprint for years, the HTC name that used to mean something to consumers is now an Android afterthought.

Lack of marketing didn’t get HTC to where they are today, and better marketing alone won’t be enough to dig HTC out of the hole, even with Best Buy spending their own marketing dollars to help prop up the new HTC One. I’m pulling for HTC to turn their fortunes around, but if this new One phone isn’t enough to get it done, I fear that HTC won’t get another chance to make it happen.