HTC is in an interesting spot.
Last year, it launched a flagship, which bore its all new, consolidated branding: One. The phone was the recipient of tons of praise and some of the most positive reviews of a smartphone … potentially ever. It raised the bar in build quality and design in the Android space, and to this day, it’s still winning awards.
Yet the Taiwan-based company is continuing to hemorrhage more money each quarter. Our own Stephen Schenck spilled the beans on HTC’s latest earnings report earlier this week. Essentially, revenue is down 37.2 percent for January and February from the same time period in 2013. February revenues were down 25.3 from January. Stephen also noted, “for HTC to hit its bare minimum, low-end earnings target for the first quarter, it’s going to need to see March sales that exceed January and February combined.”
A few weeks ago, Michael and I had a chance to sit down with Nick Gray of Android and Me, creator of HTC Source and huge HTC fan. We talked about HTC’s current financial status, the sort of cash reserves its sitting on, and how long the company can maintain its perpetually dwindling sales, profits, revenues, and market share.
We say it a lot – maybe too often – but the competition is heating up, more so than usual. With Lenovo acquiring Motorola, Sony and LG stepping up their respective games, major Chinese manufactures Huawei and ZTE pushing into the western world, and other OEMs like Oppo and YotaPhone creating compelling devices, things are about to become even more crowded and interesting.
That’s one reason we’re looking so intently at the M8. The device isn’t necessarily a make-or-break handset for HTC. But it is a perfect opportunity for HTC to pick up some of the slack, following what many are considering to be Samsung dropping the ball with the Galaxy S 5. If HTC plays its cards properly, the all new HTC One could make for a fantastic year for the company, especially following in the footsteps of the multi-award-winning HTC One.
But HTC’s flagship is far from its only intriguing smartphone. The Desire lineup, as Joe noted, is a beautiful reboot of a once well-recognized brand. And HTC also released a few other handsets under the One brand last year, the One mini and One max, which we’re confident we’ll see new versions of this year.
However, this time, we’d like to see HTC not cut corners and provide a product many have been begging for – a truly high-end, miniature smartphone.
I explained last week that there really isn’t anything G2 about the G2 mini, and I expanded on why the whole “mini” tag is so sleazy. Essentially, manufacturers are feeding on the recognition of their flagship brands (Galaxy S for Samsung, One for HTC, G2 for LG, etc.) and the lack of education of average consumers to sell “miniature versions” of their high-end smartphones. The problem is: the only similarities are typically a few visual similarities. They’re not actually miniature versions of flagships, but rather toned-down, scaled-back versions, typically with far less impressive specifications and only a slightly smaller price tag.
The HTC One mini from 2013 is a prime example of this. The HTC One was a fantastically built and designed smartphone. The One mini looked almost as nice, and its smaller physical size boosted its appeal to those who don’t want or need a larger smartphone. But looks are most definitely deceiving. Although they’re both under the same “One” branding and look alike, their internals are most definitely different.
Apparently “mini” also means “shrunken specifications.” The HTC One mini was equipped with 1GB RAM, 16GB fixed storage, Snapdragon 400 SoC with a 1.4GHz dual-core Krait 200 CPU, and an 1,800mAh battery. Its larger sibling featured 2GB RAM, a minimum of 32GB fixed storage, Snapdragon 600 SoC with a 1.7GHz quad-core Krait 300 CPU, and a 2,300mAh battery.
Specifications these days only mean so much. But they certainly still help classify smartphones in different categories – low-end, mid-range, and high-end. The HTC One was most definitely high-end; the HTC One mini straddled the line between low-end and mid-range.
Mini doesn’t have to or need to be synonymous with “compromise” like it is for so many OEMs, and HTC capitalizing on that could certainly separate it from the pack. Sony delivered the Xperia Z1 Compact at CES this year, and Michael found it to be a rather impressive handset which is both small and high-end.
While I wouldn’t personally want to carry such a small smartphone, HTC helping relieve the stigma of mini-branded smartphones would be a noble move that might catch the attention of many.
Maybe the One mini could fill the gap I was talking about the other day. Maybe the all new HTC One mini could compete with the likes of Motorola’s beloved Moto X – a smaller, high-end smartphone with a price tag that doesn’t make your heart stop.