How is HTC going to differentiate now?
Even before HTC built the “first Android”, the G1 for T-Mobile, the company was well known for making hardware that really stood out. Its phones were built really well and stood out from the competition. That trend has continued through to today: HTC makes really good looking hardware! But you and I know that hardware is only half of the equation. Now that HTC is starting to release some of its most desired software to the public, how will HTC stand out from its competition?
My first hands-on experience with HTC was with the HP iPaq line of Pocket PCs. They weren’t slabs like other PDAs powered by Windows CE or their Palm counterparts. They were elegant. They were well-built. They functioned every bit as good as they looked – and they looked marvelous!
Since then, besides Apple, HTC has been one of the leaders in making hardware that not only looks great, but is also made to feel really good in the hand. Pushing the envelope with aluminum unibody designs hasn’t been easy, but certainly makes HTC’s hardware stand out from the others.
HTC doesn’t stop with just hardware, it’s been involved in the software business for almost as long. HTC Sense goes way back to Windows Phone, and even before.
In 2011, Drew Bramford of HTC told Forbes that he expects HTC Sense to continue on as companies like Google and Microsoft seek to create a tighter software and hardware experience by regaining control of the OS, much like the closed ecosystem that iOS is for the iPhone.
“We won’t be able to replace as much of the core Windows Phone (and Android) experience, but we will augment it.”
We’ve seen that grow and flourish in recent HTC hardware powered by Google’s Android, but skinned with not only Sense UI, but through numerous apps that are available only on HTC devices. That is, until now.
Earlier this month we learned that HTC is breaking exclusivity on one of its apps: Zoe.
“Zoe is a simple way to create, share and remix professional quality highlight videos—and it’s even better when your friends pitch in. Choose the photos and videos you’d like to share, add a filter to give your highlight video a unique look, and choose the perfect soundtrack. Bring shared moments to life by inviting friends to remix your video, and remix theirs! Remixing lets you to add the best photos and videos from everyone who was there to create the ultimate highlight reel.”
And now, instead of HTC requiring that you purchase one of its devices with Zoe built-in, HTC has made Zoe available for virtually anyone running a recent version of Android to freely download and install on their non-HTC smartphone. It’s still in beta, but the direction seems clear.
Exclusivity has never found a place on my pallet. Anything that I cannot get (through legitimate means) without buying some piece of hardware or service from a certain provider leaves an unpleasant taste and negative impression. I don’t know if my reaction is unusual, or if there are legions of others just like me that are becoming more frustrated with brands that push “exclusivity” every passing day.
Why do these companies do such a thing? I can only assume that their goods or services simply cannot stand on their own. They must know that – and they’re scared. So they team up with a brand that you know and want, and the only way you can get that one is by somehow stomaching the other.
When put that way, it sounds ludicrous, right? Yet businessmen and businesswomen in boardrooms around the world still seem to think it’s some kind of winning combination.
I think HTC has finally started to figure this out. It realizes that its products are very, very good, and it wants more people to know about them. Traditional advertising can only do so much. By offering Zoe to anyone who wants it, HTC can obtain what amounts to free (or very inexpensive) marketing. The quality of its software can stand as a symbol of its hardware, ultimately selling more handsets.
After all, if HTC’s Zoe is that good, how good must HTC’s phones be?