HTC hasn’t had a spectacular past few years. Back in 2011, they began their downward spiral, after being the top smartphone maker for a few years (having made the first Android smartphone that debuted on T-Mobile – the T-Mobile G1 or HTC Dream in other parts of the world – and also making the first Nexus in the Nexus One). That was also the year that they released over 80 different smartphones – that includes exclusives and devices for specific markets. The following year they paired it down to the HTC One X, One S and One V at Mobile World Congress with a few other models coming out later on. In 2013 they introduced the HTC One M7 at Mobile World Congress. This was a notable release, because it was going to be the same name across all the carriers and around the world. Additionally it was the company’s seventh flagship or hero device. With the HTC One M8, the company attempted to beat the pack by announcing the One M8 ahead of Mobile World Congress and thus had it out and available ahead of the Galaxy S5. The HTC One M8 sold decently, although it wasn’t a hit out of the park. HTC was able to start getting back into the black though as far as financials were concerned.
With the HTC One M9, they returned to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain and announced their flagship on the same day as Samsung announced the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. Which means that HTC didn’t get much time in the spotlight, more people were interested in Samsung’s new models, especially with their revamped design. The HTC One M9 wasn’t all that spectacular either, with largely the same design as the previous two models. The biggest difference, perhaps was dropping the Ultra Pixel camera and went with a 20MP camera from Toshiba, unfortunately it didn’t really help matters for HTC. As HTC saw their sales decline by 50% in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with the year prior. That’s a big blow to a struggling smartphone maker. And that’s not even the biggest drop in the past year. In June 2015, they dropped over 60% compared to June 2014. Not a good thing considering that was only a couple of months after the One M9 was made available on all four carriers in the US and many other countries throughout the world. Following the announcement of the HTC One M9, then CEO Peter Chou decided to step down and the company’s chairwoman Cher Wang took over the company.
Typically, HTC announces the One M series flagship at Mobile World Congress or around that time (between February and March in the past 3 years). So far, rumors have stated that HTC are not heading to Mobile World Congress to announce the One M10 – however they will still be there, likely showing off HTC Vive since they start pre-orders the following week. Deciding to announce a smartphone at MWC is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one side you have all the press already there that can head to your event. But on the flip side, you have all your competitors there announcing their flagships, that you have to compete with. Then if you decide to announce it shortly before or after MWC, you’ll get beaten to market by your competitors with their new smartphones. Which leaves many customers upgrading before your smartphone is available for purchase. Either way, it’s less than ideal for HTC, especially in their current situation.
The HTC One M10 was leaked just last week. Specs weren’t a huge surprise. Leaks showed us that the HTC One M10 would feature a 5.1-inch 2560×1440 resolution AMOLED display, powered by the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor along with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. However the surprise is the camera here. HTC is rumored to be bringing back the Ultra Pixel camera that they took off of the back of the One M9 and put on the front. This time with a 12-megapixel sensor. However we also have laser auto-focus included, which will be better for focusing in low light and faster focus overall. This Ultra Pixel camera does fix a few things that we had issues with before. And that is the number of megapixels. In the One M7 and M8, HTC used a 4MP camera, and pictures taken with it just fell apart when you zoom into images. With a slightly larger 12-megapixel camera, we should have a much better experience. The Ultra Pixel camera features larger pixels, similar to the Nexus 5X and 6P, which allow for more light to be let into the camera which allows for better pictures.
By all accounts, the HTC One M10 seems to be a pretty good smartphone according to the leaked specs. Which of course we should all take with a grain of salt. We did also hear that it would resemble the HTC One A9 a bit, which does look an awful lot like the iPhone 6/6S. That may not be a bad thing, as HTC has said that the One A9 has been selling really well for them since announcing it in early October. The HTC One A9 is also getting updates pretty quickly from HTC, as they did promise updates within 15 days of when the Nexus line gets their updates.
The billion dollar question, should HTC make their way to Barcelona to announce the HTC One M10, or wait until after the trade show? That’s a tough question. Although announcing it at Mobile World Congress would definitely make sense, not to mention it’ll get the company much more coverage on their smartphone. However, they also will have to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7, which has been pegged to be announced on February 21st in Barcelona, as Samsung started sending out invites over the weekend for their press event. Not to mention the LG G5 is also debuting the same day, and users have been abuzz regarding the G5 for a few weeks now. But waiting to announce their smartphone means that it’s going to be longer before the One M10 is actually available. This can be bad for HTC as customers will have other choices in regards to their next smartphone. It’s a tough choice, however, out of their last three flagships (One M7, M8 and M9) the one that did the best was the One M8 which was announced a few weeks ahead of Mobile World Congress. Perhaps that’s their thinking behind announcing it later on, instead of in Barcelona.
The other billion dollar question is whether the HTC One M10 be outdated by the time it’s available? That’s a big possibility for the company. If they announce the product in March, we typically won’t see it actually available for customers to purchase until around mid-April. By then, everything from Mobile World Congress will be out and available. Which include flagships from Samsung, LG, and others. With Samsung taking the most spotlight, it’s going to be tough for HTC to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge and the LG G5 after they have already released and beaten HTC to their customers. Many customers when they are upgrading, aren’t waiting to see what’s coming, they need a phone and need it now. So skipping MWC could be a pretty big mistake for the Taiwanese manufacturer.
Talking about HTC struggling seems to be a broken record now. However, HTC is not the only smartphone maker struggling right now. The smartphone industry is pretty saturated. The only makers that are really making any money, also have other businesses. Take a look at Samsung. They make smartphones, tablets, RAM, storage, processors, refrigerators, washing machines, laptops and a ton of other things. They have even seen their profits dip in the past year or two, and are struggling to get back to where they were. But as a company they aren’t losing money because of their other businesses. It’s much the same for LG and Sony as well. Sony saw smartphone sales decrease by 15% in the fourth quarter, but still brought in a profit of $1 billion. Because their other businesses offset the costs of running their mobile division. HTC has said before that they are looking to invest in other business sectors now. With their HTC Vive being a pretty big part of that. HTC has also been looking at smart home and IoT for other ways to make some money as well. Which started (and looks like ended) with the RE Camera. Vive is likely to be a bit of a success for HTC, but it won’t be an instant success. Pre-orders for the Vive are set to start on February 29th and shipping in April. So far there’s no pricing on it, and it’s entirely possible that HTC could lose money this year due to the Vive. Hopefully the HTC One M10 will be the hit that the company needs it to be, no matter when they announce the smartphone.