HTC can’t win for losing, it seems.
Despite creating some of the most gorgeous smartphones the market has seen in the last several years, its revenues, market share, and mind share have been uncontrollably slipping, while competitors like Apple and Samsung only seem to rake in the collective losses of all the struggling companies.
This year, things could be looking up. The One M8 has received stellar reviews across the board, despite the mediocre camera. And at least so far, it appears to be selling well, despite the Galaxy S 5.
No less, the company can’t manage to dig itself out of this perpetual downfall. Executives are still jumping ship, left and right, and one very important name was added to the growing list late last week: Scott Croyle Senior Vice President of Design.
Yes, the man responsible for the design of two of the most noteworthy HTC smartphones of all time is leaving the company just weeks after the One M8 launch. Croyle has been with the Taiwanese company since 2008, when his One & Co studio was acquired. Ever since, he’s played an integral role in the design of all HTC’s consumer products, particularly the One lineup.
It was announced Croyle would be leaving the company last week, though his presence will still be felt in the near future. He will “be focusing on special projects and dedicated on next generation developments,” reports The Verge. Meanwhile, he will remain involved in a consultant role for the next few months.
Design, especially over the last two years, has been a very important differentiating factor for HTC. Its phones are precision-machined devices made of aluminum while much of the competition still opt for plastics which often mimic higher-quality materials. They concave to the hand, incorporate clever design (a la the IR blaster being integrated in the standby button), and look distinctive.
The question is, what can we expect from the future of HTC phones and design without Scott Croyle?
Likely, more of the same.
The obvious fear is that Croyle’s replacement, Jonah Becker, will not be able to uphold the same high standards or that he may not have the same eye for beautiful design – that his ideas will trump those of his predecessor. Maybe he likes different materials. Maybe he prefers the resilience of the dreaded plastic. Or maybe he doesn’t like the looks of the unbalanced bezels or BoomSound speakers.
Whatever Becker may prefer or bring to the table, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.
We’ve learned in the past that just one person doesn’t necessarily lead directly to a dramatic change in direction. For example, in the grand scheme of things, little has changed at Apple since the passing of Steve Jobs. (Yes, I understand that can be just as dangerous as it is a positive thing.) Likewise, Google+ also lost its father, Vic Gundotra, last week. But the platform will live on and advance, as if nothing has happened. No one immediately feared the certain death of Google+, even though we’ve never really heard much of Gundotra’s replacement, David Besbris.
Sure, big names and execs sometimes leave companies and ultimately lead to undesired changes. But important people leave companies all the time with little to no effect.
The fact of the matter is, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know exactly how much say Croyle had in the overall design. Did he just approve the final designs and tweak things throughout the process? Did he dot the Ts and cross the Is once the drafts were presented? Or did he see the designs through from start to finish, critiquing every last detail, ultimately playing a major part in the final products we all know today?
We will likely never know the answers to those questions.
For all we know, we may have never known the difference if Scott Croyle left quietly and the next-generation HTC flagship came next year. For all we know, it will come out looking better than ever.
As such, we shouldn’t fear the future of HTC’s iconic smartphone design.
The hope is that Becker has learned a lot in his time as Croyle’s right-hand man. A fresh pair of eyes can often be a good thing, and hopefully he can improve on certain areas not everyone is keen on. Maybe Becker can trim away at those excessive bezels (which, admittedly, don’t bother me a bit). Maybe he has a different stance on the need for a removable battery. Or maybe – just maybe – he can create even more beautiful smartphones.
I, like most of you, will be skeptical of what’s to come next. But I also have faith that HTC can continue to create beautiful smartphones without the help of a single guy, even if he’s led to the creation of two of the most gorgeous phones ever.
Your move, Jonah Becker.