Few will dispute that HTC makes great hardware – or even great devices. In fact, over the last five years, HTC has managed to make some of the most compelling mobile handsets the market has ever seen, with a handful of firsts to boot.
It made the first consumer Android smartphone, the first WiMAX and LTE smartphones, the first phone with a 3D camera, the first 4.3-inch smartphone, and even the first ever Google Nexus device, the famed Nexus One.
HTC has had its moments over the years, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. While many have defected, there are still hordes of die-hard HTC fans out there, waiting and willing to buy the next handset out of the Taiwan-based firm. Yet no matter how agile or open to new standards and technology HTC has been since, well, the infancy of Android, the company has continually failed to master the perfect formula.
But to say this year, on paper, wasn’t HTC’s finest year is an understatement.
HTC has been doing the executive shuffle since as early as May, and as recently as this morning, as it named its CFO head of global sales. In a nutshell, the company is on the fritz. Throughout the last few years, market share, revenue, and profits have plummeted, despite more than one trip back to the drawing board, the impact of the HTC One on the press, and the endless praise it has received from most who have used it.
The New Year is just around the bend. For some companies, it’s time to reflect on the year, throw a party, and imagine how great 2014 will be.
For HTC, it’s long past time to figure out how to turn all those dripping red earnings reports from this year into a much more fruitful and promising 2014. It has its work cut out for it: a lot of ground to make up, and a mind-bending number of devices to sell.
The HTC One is a great foundation. It’s a fantastic smartphone – one of the best built Android smartphones on the planet. It’s an exercise in precision, attention to detail, and a penchant for quality materials. But it ultimately has not changed HTC’s fate.
What’s next for the company? How can it turn things around, once and for all?
As far as I can tell, there are a few things in HTC’s repertoire which could put the company back on track. Here are my predictions for how HTC will approach 2014.
An honest to goodness HTC One successor
Like I said before, very few HTC devices over the last few years have had actual successors … or predecessors. It’s like each device from HTC was a virtual reboot – the EVO 4G, the EVO 3D, the EVO 4G LTE, One X, One S, Incredible 4G (the Incredible 2 was actually a successor the the original DROID Incredible), Amaze 4G, Sensation, Sensation XL, etc. HTC has been all over the place since 2008. This year, it consolidated in a big way and released only four major phones: HTC One, One Max, One Mini, and the First.
In 2014, HTC needs to release proper successors to each of those models, save for the First. Continue the brand. Call the rumored M8 the HTC One 2, or the HTC Two; build on an established, good thing. Create some sort of tradition and expectations, rather than blindside consumers each year.
This is a perfect opportunity for HTC to do just that.
BoomSound part deux
If there is one feature of the HTC One everyone still talks about, it’s BoomSound. The Beats partnership may have dissolved, but we’re not too upset over that. We just want giant, dual front-facing speakers on the next HTC flagship.
HTC needs to bring this back in 2014 in a big way. Make the speakers bigger (figuratively), louder, stronger, with an even more impressive sound. It needs to give the audiophiles something to love.
UltraPixel at a higher resolution
The most disappointing feature of the One was its image sensor. For a 4-megapixel camera, it was capable of taking some impressive shots. But HTC chose exactly the worst time to take a step backwards in resolution. Just months later, Nokia took mobile image sensing to the extreme with a 41-megapixel sensor in the PureView camera on the Lumia 1020.
The premise of UltraPixel is enough to make us hopeful for what HTC can do with it, given a year to improve. If HTC can manage to make an 8- or 13-megapixel UltraPixel camera, my interests will certainly be piqued.
Learn from Motorola
Some people like Sense 5. Personally, between BlinkFeed and the app drawer, it was my least favorite thing about the HTC One. It was a major improvement over all previous Sense versions, but it still wasn’t enough to make me want to use an HTC smartphone full-time.
I got tired of the UI after just a few days.
HTC should continue to participate in making Google Play edition devices. But it should also pay close attention to what Motorola has done with the Moto X: sufficiently differentiated with software, introduced compelling software features with real world use cases, and left the stock Android UI practically unchanged.
The sooner mobile companies realize they don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make gorgeous, unique, practical software, the better off we all are.
Make a small tablet with a stylus
If any mobile manufacturer can give the Note series a run for its money, it’s probably HTC. It’s been in the tablet game for far longer than most, dating back to the early 2000s.
The Flyer may not have been the best tablet of its time, but the special stylus it was paired with was telling of a more forward-thinking HTC than we’re used to seeing. It came with its own software suite and, despite being battery powered, wasn’t unlike an early incarnation of the S Pen.
With years at the drawing board, I’d love to see what HTC can do with a 7- or 8-inch tablet. Just, for the sake of all things good, leave the UI alone.
I’m hopeful for HTC in the coming year. The company shows promise time and time again, but has yet to find the perfect formula.
How do you think HTC will survive 2014? By doing the things above? By not doing the things above? Join the discussion below and tell us what you think HTC will have to do to turn it around in 2014!