The HTC 10 needs these five things to be a success
We’re getting closer to the official reveal of HTC’s next flagship phone. Instead of trying to compete with LG and Samsung at MWC this year, HTC held back to give its newest phone a little space. Whether this strategy helps the company get a little more exposure, we’re all anxiously waiting to see what the HTC 10 can deliver which might make it a proper competitor to LG G5s and Galaxy S7s. Here are the top five areas where HTC needs to blow people away to turn around its smartphone story.
Let’s start with the one feature we’re all fairly confident that HTC can deliver. For several years now HTC has provided excellent audio playback, and in the past this company hasn’t been afraid to experiment with speaker location. Sure the One M7 gave us awesome front stereo speakers, but this company also built a slider speaker into a Windows Phone. That was bold.
Boomsound as a branding refers to the whole system of audio reproduction on the device, from software, to speaker, to headphone jack. The traditional front facing speakers might be going away, but there’s still the possibility HTC might create some kind of surround sound style delivery with top and bottom firing speakers. It’s unlikely, but again, we’re hoping for something bold.
Headphone playback is also one of the weakest features on the new Galaxy S7. Listening to music, podcasts, and audio books is big business for many smartphone consumers. Too often people take for granted that just because a phone has a headphone jack, it’s probably “good enough”, but we see people get cranky when a phone is a noticeable step down in audio quality from a previous device. We’re pretty confident that the HTC 10 should continue to deliver top tier headphone playback.
While HTC has a terrific reputation for audio, they have a nearly opposite reputation for camera technology.
The One M7 introduced the idea of lower resolution for better low light sensitivity, and that Ultrapixel sensor was paired with excellent hardware OIS. Unfortunately, many people fell prey to the “purple haze” hardware problems. The One M8 dropped a valuable feature in OIS to give us a dual sensor camera. It provided some fun features, but felt like a step backwards in terms of the core photography experience. This was an unfortunate misstep as competing phone cameras started introducing higher resolution video. The One M10 brought HTC back up to resolution parity, but still lacked OIS. It actually wasn’t a “bad” camera, but at a premium price, the “good” camera on the M9 faced “excellent” cameras from competitors.
Rumors and leaks point to HTC stepping back to a lower resolution sensor like Samsung this year. This could be in keeping with the camera performance found on Huawei’s 2015 Nexus 6P, and might represent some influence from Google as HTC is tapped to produce at least one Nexus this year. That would be a nice shot in the arm for HTC, but probably won’t garner much love from reviewers if the camera is only reaching parity with a phone from last year.Even if it matches the Galaxy S7 for every photography and video metric, the HTC 10 is still coming from a position of playing catch up.
It’s a shame that HTC was early to the party on larger low-light pixels and multiple camera sensors, as both of those hardware features seem to be in vogue for 2016.
The performance woes of the One M9 weren’t specifically HTC’s fault. Qualcomm saddled the whole phone industry with a dog of a smartphone processor in early 2015. The primary victims of the Snapdragon 810 were the LG G Flex 2 and the HTC One M9. There really wasn’t anything either company could do about that as neither make their own processors. To HTC’s credit, software updates did improve performance on the M9, even if it still runs disturbingly hot while being uses on a charger, but it’s no surprise that LG opted for the lower powered Qualcomm 808 in devices like the G4 and V10.
Happily the outlook for HTC this year is a bit rosier as Qualcomm’s 820 chipset is a lot more competitive. There will be more consistency this year comparing the Galaxy S7 against the LG G5 and the HTC 10. The opportunity for HTC is to deliver a clean and efficient user experience. From Nexus purists, to diehard Galaxy fans, all tech aficionados are hyper sensitive to perceived differences in performance. Given the relationship between Google and each individual hardware manufacturer, it’s crucial HTC jumps out of the gate with an extremely well polished software experience riding on top of Android. Any fault, no matter how minor, will get hammered.
HTC has a wonderful opportunity here in producing a Nexus phone, and possibly making Nexus devices for several years. Outside of the direct working relationship with Google, they stand to acquire additional headlines whenever new software updates are pushed to Nexus devices.
This is also an opportunity to double down on HTC branded device support. If consumers see HTC Nexus phones receiving fast updates, but the HTC 10 languishes months behind, it will have squandered a chance at building customer loyalty.
Advertising and Outreach
Lastly, HTC has an issue with bringing the “cool” factor. Edgy commercials are fun from a PR perspective, but consumers need to know and trust a brand. No one wants to take a risk on their mission critical communication gadget. In North America, few companies come close to the amount of advertising that Samsung and Apple produce, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when Apple and Samsung take the lion share of phone sales. HTC is operating at a significant deficit here, needing to make up a huge margin in both the quantity of advertising and the quality of ads.
This company also needs to find novel ways of interacting directly with potential customers. Walking into a carrier store, employees will likely be more inclined to offer the products they know the best, and see the fewest returns. HTC can’t expect general consumers to walk into their cellphone shop and overcome the objections of employees working there. Brick and mortar Apple stores are a fairly common sight, and more Samsung kiosks are popping up in malls and Best Buys. Customers know they can see Galaxies and iPhones before they buy one. Family and friends likely own products from one of those two manufacturers. HTC can’t compete when the 10 ends up on a table surrounded by Motos, LGs, Huaweis, and Lumias far from the Apple/Samsung spotlight.
The overall brand perception of HTC got a bit of a jump start following the explosion of Vive VR headset pre-sales. Though “cool” was never really a problem for HTC. They make “cool” phones, but consumers need more than that to spend their hard earned cash.
Does HTC have a shot at turning things around this year? What would convince you to buy an HTC phone? Drop us a comment below!