I’ve turned an HTC One X into one of my two daily drivers for the last two or three weeks. Not that I didn’t enjoy the company of my old Galaxy Nexus, but I’m on the list of people that really do enjoy HTC Sense. I know it’s either a love-or-hate relationship for many of you, but Sense is the best of many worlds for me. It has all the social integration I love about Windows Phone 7, all the polish that attracts me about iOS, and it’s running on the fluidity and openness that I’ve come to enjoy about Android.
Sadly, the year is 2012. For many of you that are using Windows Phone devices or any Android device that’s not a Galaxy S III, this still doesn’t mean much. For those of us that use iOS or a Samsung Galaxy S III, this means a lot. See, Siri and S Voice are pushing a new era of interaction with your mobile device. Voice command features are certainly not something new, but let’s just say that both Apple and Samsung have figured out a smart way to get you to want to use it. Many of you may debate with me that Google has been offering Voice Actions on all Android devices since 2009, but I’m sure none of you cared much about it until just recently, and the reason why is because it was good to have, but still not good enough to have you rely on it.
HTC’s new One series is in a weird and tight spot lately. If you’re in the market to buy your next Android device, you’ll notice that there is a dramatic price difference between the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III. Both devices are gorgeous in their design, and probably the best devices that you can buy right now, but the One X is hundreds of dollars cheaper, and that’s not a good sign. Both their MSRPs are similar, so the only reason why the One X has become so cheap is because it seems to have less of a demand than the hot new Galaxy S III. If HTC plans to stay true to their new motto of launching only a few devices each year and focusing on them hard, they better think of a new way to push their “One” line of phones, and here is how we think they should do it:
HTC’s problem is that they need voice and speed
That’s right, the One X differs from the Galaxy S III in just two things: voice and speed. Their internal guts are similar, but software is what makes Samsung’s new baby stand apart.
When it comes to voice integration, HTC has a minor advantage. S Voice is still in its infancy, but I say minor because pulling a stunt like that can take years of R&D, and HTC doesn’t seem to have anything up its sleeve. On the other hand, iOS is a different story. I’ve been using the first and second beta of iOS 6 for weeks now, and Siri just keeps getting better. Even if I carry the One X as “Daily Driver #1” and the iPhone 4S as #2, Siri has done a great job in having me spoiled. Again, if you’ve never tried it, it’s hard to know what you’re missing, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Still, the iPhone is not on the list of desires of many people since the hardware is dated. Apple can change things around dramatically with an iPhone 5 release in the fall, but that just gives HTC enough time to figure things out.
When it comes to speed, Sense 4.0 is the problem to blame. It looks far better than Samsung’s new TouchWiz in my opinion, but there’s no denying that the later is much faster. I could easily debate that looks alone could make the market go crazy over a specific device or UI, but sales numbers wouldn’t prove me right since Samsung is getting the better part of those.
So if the lack of voice integration isn’t something you can just build from one day to the next, and the sluggishness of your UI is also wearing you down, what can HTC do now to fix both these problems with one blow? The answer is Jelly Bean.
Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, why not just focus on Jelly Bean quick?
Google has singlehandedly solved all of HTC’s problems. Voice Search and Google Now are one of the best combinations we’ve seen yet. The services are fast, fluid and smarter than anything Apple could’ve ever bought from a third-party developer. People who keep trolling about how voice commands have existed for years have got it all wrong. Voice is just the means to interact, but the idea of having a computer assist you is what it’s really about. Google Now alone is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen come to smartphones. With Siri, I have to ask it what I want to know, were as Google Now pulls the information for me and keeps me up-to-speed without me having to ask it.
Project Butter has turned the tables for all of the Android devices that’ll come after Jelly Bean gets released. Brandon hasn’t stopped praising it all day after he got it running on his Galaxy Nexus, and that’s where my next point is aimed at. If Jelly Bean can run so smoothly on that old TI-OMAP processor running on the Galaxy Nexus, can you imagine how that thing will run on the Quad-Core Tegra 3 or Dual-Core Snapdragon S4 that pushes the One X, XL and S?
The Bottom Line
My biggest concern is HTC and their historical way of approaching software. They do a much prettier job than everybody else, but fail at making pretty equal better, and they also fail at doing it quick. HTC took forever to bring Android 4.0 to their legacy devices, and to be honest with you, they didn’t make Ice Cream Sandwich work or look any better. That’s where I feel that HTC gets it wrong. HTC Sense made a lot of sense before the dark ages of Froyo, but Android 4.0 stopped making the platform look bad. Surely Ice Cream Sandwich wasn’t perfect in many ways, but they should’ve focused only on improving what wasn’t there, and not on trying to skin everything, which in result makes the whole UI slower.
Sometimes I think this is a result of a poor marketing strategy. If an OEM wants to push all their guns at Android, they have to be very clear at what their targeted user looks like. Android is an operating system that is mostly lusted by power users, and if they can’t make Sense faster, they might as well ditch it and focus on bringing the beautiful design language of the One series to stock Android 4.1. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like a version of Sense 4.1 that takes full advantage of Jelly Bean, but sadly the clock is ticking. Again, I’m a big fan of Sense, but I’d be willing to live without it if it meant the Android experience that I’m looking for.
Jelly Bean brings another shot at making the HTC One series matter, and I’m on the list of people that wants to see it succeed. Let’s just hope they push what works, drop what doesn’t work, and just get it right this time before Samsung beats them again to the punch. If their adoption will take more than two months, they’ll be too late.