What the heck is HTC thinking with the Zara?


Every time I sit down to write about HTC, and the latest misstep the company’s taking, I feel compelled to point out my generally positive feelings for the manufacturer – ever since the HTC Dream, I’ve associated the brand with platform-leading Android hardware. Of course, HTC sure seems to have put out a concerted effort in the years that followed to sully that image, but the last year or so has been building up to a period of contrition for the company; it really seemed to get the message behind why users weren’t sticking around, and had me believing that it was willing to change.

So far, I’m more or less happy with what I’ve seen from HTC’s Android lineup this year. The One hit all the notes it needed to, and I’m pleased as punch to see the HTC Mini (and more than likely the HTC Max) help flesh-out the company’s premium segment. Rather than flood the market with a bunch of forgettable handsets, as it might have in years past, I also think it’s been smart about its new Desire models, setting up a nice Desire/One dichotomy for the budget/premium customer.

There’s been the odd model like the First messing with that arrangement, and last week we caught wind of another device along those lines, so far revealed to us only as the HTC Zara. While this phone is very much the stuff of rumors, what little we’ve heard doesn’t make a lot of sense. Assuming the details are on the money, I can’t work out why HTC would be interested in making a device like the Zara, nor where it might fit within the HTC lineup.

What We’ve Heard

Zara news arrived with a fury early last week, with three separate rumors, from three separate sources, showing up in as many days. First, we heard only that the Zara would be a plastic-bodied phone. Right from the start, that put me on the defensive, as I really feel HTC needs to play up the premium metal construction of its One line in order to further set it apart from the competition.

htc-kioskThe next detail to arrive suggested that the Zara would be some sort of amalgam of the One and Desire lines, though didn’t get into any specific traits it would take from either.

Finally, some tech specs surfaced. Supposedly, the Zara would have a 4.5-inch qHD display, 1GB of RAM, and run a 1GHz Snapdragon 400.

OK, now we’re getting somewhere, but let’s think about exactly what kind of phone all that’s going to build.

Desire 800 Or HTC One (Half) Mini?

Easily the two current HTC models that come to mind when we’re talking about hardware like this are the Desire 600 and the One Mini. Let’s look at how it compares to each.

The Desire 600 runs a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200, has 1GB of RAM, and sports a 4.5-inch qHD display. That places the Zara a little ahead of it, with an equivalent display but slightly better SoC.

The HTC One Mini, on the other hand, runs a 1.4GHz Snapdragon 400, has 1GB of RAM, and features a 4.3-inch 720p screen. Even if it’s a little smaller, the One arguably has a higher-quality display than the Zara’s, but this time manages to deliver an equivalent SoC.

HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4, developer's dreamSo right away, that rumor of a mash-up between Desire and One lines sounds pretty on-the-nose. When we think about other rumored specs, like just 8GB of flash and that plastic construction, Zara seems more and more like a Desire model.

My main problem with that, though, is this Snapdragon 400. Looking at the rest of the Desire family, they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel on SoCs. We’re used to the 400 in phones like the HTC First, Galaxy S 4 Mini, and Galaxy Mega 6.3 – none top-tier phones, but certainly on the higher side of mid-range, if not lower high-end.

Who Is This Phone For?

This is what bugs me the most. I can see the purchasing decisions that might lead to a purchase from the Desire family, as well as the though process that would arrive at the decision to buy a One Mini, but I can’t really see how you would come to decide on the Zara.

Maybe you actively dislike metal phones? See a world of difference between 4.3-inch and 4.5-inch screen sizes?

Cost could be a real issue, and we’ve yet to get any sense of how the Zara will be priced. I’m assuming its plastic build and middling specs means an affordable tag, but that’s hardly a certainty, and even if it is “budget” priced, it needn’t be as cheap as I’m hoping.

The thing is, if you’ve already got it in your mind to get a really affordable HTC Android, but still with a decently sized screen, you’re choosing the 600 – if cost savings are so important, you’re not going to play extra for an upgraded SoC, especially when the 600’s 200 (this is getting confusing) is quad-core and the 400 is only dual-core – average shoppers will fail to appreciate the subtleties making the 400 superior.

And if you’re looking for something like the One Mini, I can’t see many users being swayed by a plastic phone with a worse display.

Unanswered Questions

In all fairness, this is a pretty preliminary critique of the Zara and its place in HTC’s stable. There’s so much we may not yet know about this handset that could have meaningful implications on this analysis. For all I know, HTC has already considered my objections, and the Zara we’ll actually see mature into a finished commercial product could adequately address them.

For now, though, I see the Zara trying to fill a hole that wasn’t really there to begin with. I see it attempting to bridge worlds that should better be kept distinct. Basically, I see it undoing some of the progress HTC has slowly been making, and for that, I’m wary of it.


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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bitsRead more about Stephen Schenck!