In the middle of 2011, one in ten smartphones sold around the world were HTC devices. That share has dropped to one in fifty. HTC are making top tier handsets so why aren’t people buying? At first hand the issue appears to be very much associated with marketing or a lack thereof. Apple has no problem bending the
smartphone truth every year telling the public how industry leading their devices have been but now the new one is so much better, plus demand is deliberately restricted during the early months to keep people wanting it. My local superstore appears to have devoted the first floor to Samsung products. HTC? In the UK we have the occasional network-sponsored commercial and that’s it. HTC doesn’t have the marketing clout to back up the headline flagship devices. It also hasn’t made the same inroads into training and development of the salespeople helping customers pick out a device: Samsung give devices away, HTC do not. And whilst HTC have tried some of the more gimmicky features, they’ve tended to shy away from heart rate monitors and suchlike and instead given us BoomSound. Front facing speakers are a huge asset to customers wanting to use their smartphone as an ad hoc navigation system because it’s much easier to hear the instructions!
Let me go back to the devices for one moment. The HTC One (M7) was bettered by the Samsung Galaxy S4 in the box specification wars. It uses a 1.7 GHz processor, a 2,300 mAh battery, 4 MP camera and a 4.7-inch display compared with 1.9 GHz, 2,600 mAh, 13 MP camera and 5.0-inch respectively. Never mind the build quality and software differences (the One launched on an older version of Android too but this was swiftly rectified). These specification differences were largely mirrored between the 2014 flagship models. The lazy salesperson will point out the higher box numbers on the Samsung product and HTC lose the sale. The reality is that these differences make very little difference to the devices: HTC are relying on customer education but don’t put into place the necessary tools.
We need to look a little lower down in the HTC line up too. Some of their mid and lower range models over the last twelve months have been very respectable machines. My favourite is the Desire 601, a mid-range handset built from polycarbonate and offering some of the high end features of the One, but with a much lower price tag: it comes with BoomSound, 4G and a 4.5-inch, moderate resolution but good quality LCD screen.
What do HTC need? Boosting the numbers on their boxes is an idea but I don’t believe it is worth the additional cost. Qualcomm’s higher speed components will cost the business more and you can bet Samsung’s volumes mean they are able to squeeze the chip manufacturer for a steeper discount compared with HTC. HTC’s high end devices generally receive great reviews from the tech sites, but how often does this drop down to the average Janes on the street? Instead, HTC face a difficult challenge of needing to go on the charm offensive to get the public to understand “why HTC?”