It seems like an eternity ago, but some of you should still remember HTC‘s first Android-powered device, released in October 2008. It was a collaborative project between Google and HTC that was called the T-Mobile G1 in the States and the HTC Dream elsewhere. For all intents and purposes, the G1 was the first Android. Google and HTC worked closely together and released a smartphone running the “pure Android experience”. Today devices like that go by the “Nexus” name. Fast-forward to January 2010 and the duo did it again, this time releasing the Nexus One which served as a reference platform to which other manufacturers could look to and model their hardware.
The relationship between Google and HTC seemed to split after that. The “next Nexus” smartphone was made by Samsung, followed by another. More recently LG got in the game with the Nexus 4. During this time HTC has continued to crank out Android-powered phones, but they haven’t re-joined Google on a Nexus project. Not yet.
The Rise (and fall?) of Samsung
Samsung got a shot in the arm with they co-released the Nexus S, and again when they co-released the Galaxy Nexus. Both devices fit in between other phones made exclusively by Samsung for Samsung. Then Samsung decided to “pull an HTC”. HTC began cranking out “cookie cutter phones” with only “minor” differences in specifications setting one phone apart from another. What’s worse, for the most part they all looked the same. HTC’s limelight began to fade and Samsung’s popularity began to rise.
Samsung is on top of its game and on top of the market. They make more devices than virtually anyone else, and they’re not slowing down. What could possibly go wrong? Their devices are all beginning to look alike. If you were to set a Galaxy S 4 next to a Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, and Galaxy S II, most people on the street would be unable to tell you which one was the latest version. As far as the average user is concerned, they’re “the same”, just different sizes. That’s the situation that HTC found themselves in before they began to flounder, and the writing is on the wall for Samsung.
HTC Rises Again
HTC (I hope) has learned from their mistakes and are starting to make differentiated devices. They’re breaking the mold and coming up with some impressive new hardware. Of course there’s new “guts” inside powering the HTC One, but it looks different, and it looks good! The HTC brand is rising from the ashes and we’re beginning to see what they are really capable of. Now it’s just a matter of time.
“The new HTC One will be perfect” — anonymous HTC representative
A New Nexus is Born?
Other than the camera inside the HTC One, the device is solid, it’s premium, it’s everything that a flagship device should be — but it’s not a Nexus. The LG Nexus 4 is beginning to show its age. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fabulous phone and I’m proud to call it my daily driver. It requires at least a double-sided screen protector treatment to overcome the slipperiness, and a case to help you feel better about not breaking (speaking from personal experience), which serves to hide the device, rather than show it off as the flagship that it is.
HTC is uniquely poised. They’ve helped Google in the past, they’ve fallen out of good graces, been humbled, and are now climbing back to the top. No, they’re not there yet, and the popularity of Samsung’s most recent power-houses will make retaking the flagship position difficult. Perhaps what they need is a shot in the arm, just like Samsung had. All they need is to make the Nexus 5. I’d buy that. Wouldn’t you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!