The HTC One Google Edition? A Sense-less plan, if you ask me

The HTC One Google Edition? A Sense-less plan, if you ask me

Summary: Rumours abound that HTC is thinking about releasing a stock Android version of the HTC One — but would this be the best decision?


The rumour that HTC might launch a new "vanilla" version the HTC One that uses stock Android instead of its Sense 5 UI refuses to die, but I just can't work out why.

In lots of situations, I’d be one of the first to agree that a Google Edition of many handsets would've been a good idea, but with the HTC One, I can't agree.

Do we really need a vanilla version of the HTC One?

There are plenty of advantages to running a stock version of Android for manufacturers and buyers, just one of which is that you’ll likely get future software updates sooner than manufacturer or network-tweaked versions (although it's still not a guaranteed thing).

Even if it was the case, some handsets just work better with a UI tweak here and a vendor specific app or service there. And in my eyes, the HTC One is one of those rare phones.

I don't tend to be a huge fan of superfluous OS elements or gimmicky features that you know you’ll use once and then forget about, but in the limited time I got to spend with the HTC One, it was the flourishes that made it enjoyable, that made it stand out at all.

HTC itself is staying quiet and only had the usual "no comment on rumours or speculation" to say about the existence of such a device, but if it was about to announce the One Google Edition, it would be a mistake, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Sure, Samsung has confirmed it will do a stock version of the Galaxy S4, so it might seem logical to think that HTC would want to compete on those terms too. But at a time when it has just scored a hit handset, I can't imagine why it would want to project the image that all the changes it made to the UI actually made the phone worse rather than better.

And at a point where hardware makers are struggling to make their devices stand out on hardware alone to let your flagship handset do just that will be hard.

As it is, in order to combat the smartphone market's hardware inertia mobile makers are turning to software differentiation to stand out — notably, Samsung making the biggest splash with its TouchWiz-equipped Galaxy S series and Nokia gaining some attention for its Music and Mapping services on the Windows Phone front.

In the past, HTC has made stock and Sense-equipped handsets but it’s only with its most recent version that the UI has really seemed worth having, and now it could be about to pull it off its most interesting handset in years.

HTC has just posted a more-than 35 percent slump in sales for its first quarter 2013 results — part of which is down to difficulties it has had in getting the One into the hands of wannabe buyers. In real terms, its profits for Q1 were down 98 percent.

What I’d suggest it doesn’t need now, given that the handset itself is decent and received good reviews almost universally, is to confuse its overall line up. It's also worth noting that one of the only factors that could make a Sense-less HTC One a success is a retail price far below the HTC One, which would obviously cannibalise sales of the original handset. 

The line up as a whole over the last couple of years has seen little in terms of revolution, but plenty of iteration, with its handset strategy seeming to be aligned around "trendy" partnerships with brands or individuals such as Dr Dre's Beats headphones or Facebook for the HTC First, whereas what is required is consistent perfomance and an element of surprise.

That's what Samsung offered when it started adding features to the S and Note series, and now they are among the most successful smartphone ranges of all time. 

HTC’s problem, for me at least, has been too many middle of the road devices (some high-end spec-wise, but not particularly remarkable in a hardware sense).

Quite why it would want to compound this problem at a time when it has just ramped up production of its new hero handset — that people seem to quite like — is something I just can’t quite wrap my head around.

Topics: Mobility, HTC, Smartphones

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • Choice is bad???? Really?????

    Why would having the option to get an unlock vanilla install of the HTC one be a bad thing in any way. I know if Android 4.3 cam at tomorrow it would next year sometime that the OTA would hit the carriers. The vanilla would get the update....the day it came out. That would be horrible? If you want sense UI, HTC can let you download on the vanilla install. It then becomes the users choice. I don't understand why you would not want the choice. Hardware manufacturers should sell their phone based on....Hardware.
    • "Hardware manufacturers should sell their phone based on....Hardware."

      I agree 100%, but they fight tooth and nail to avoid it because differentiation and profit margins will suffer, and HW will become a low priced commodity.

      That is probably the direction we are heading in, but the ODMs/HW manufacturers are trying to prevent it the best way they know how. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. As markets mature, they will likely fail more and more often.
    • proofreading

      Your comment is hard to read due to your not proofreading what you wrote.
      "get an unlock vanilla" unlocked Android 4.3 cam at tomorrow came out tomorrow? users choice. user's choice
      You probably are right that it would allow faster updating, I had to do the updating myself on my phone, and because it is an older phone, I can't go to a later version of the OS I suppose it would be like trying to cram W 8 on a 486 proceesor machine, it might work barely, but not as functional as having it on the latest offering from Intel or AMD.
      • Punctuation

        Ever thought of using it since you're so quick to criticise others?

        "due to your not proofreading" - really, wow, pot and kettle in that very sentence.
        "Proceesor" - what's that then? Proofreading would have picked that up. Glasshouses!
        Little Old Man
  • Support!?

    HTC needs to prove that they will support their phones with timely updates. I have had the EVO, EVO 3D, and EVO Design. I liked the phones when they came out, but the follow-on service was horrible. I finally decided to switch to a Nexus.

    For me to consider the HTC One (which I think is a beautiful phone), I need to be assured that HTC will provide future software upgrades. I have been burned in the past, so I am avoiding HTC at the moment.

    If the One were in a Nexus model (more than a Google Edition), I would get it. As it is, I have ZERO TRUST in HTC for future support.
    • GSM Nexus

      I paid the ETF to get a GSM Nexus so the carriers don't hold updates hostage. Zero trust in the phone manufacturers; zero trust in the carriers.
    • Funny thing

      I had a Nexus One (HTC) and kept it because it was both a great phone and it was virgin. I next finally updated to a Galaxy Note...but after loosing faith in Samsungs willingness to support the phone AFTER they get your money, I bought the HTC One...because it's the current world beater. I'd love to have the option of virgin Android, but an Apex launcher fixed the only really horrible part that stupid metro looking home screen. Now, it's really a great phone. I can disable the Sense apps I have no use for, and even uninstall some of them.
      • loosing

        The word is losing, only one o. Loosing woulf be like you do to your shoestrings, losing is what you meant in not having confidence anymore. Faith in Samsungs should read Samsung's as it is Samsung's ability you are losing--possessive.
        • Gee, a scholar

          if you could edit there won't be a need to stand on the box.
        • I can't work out if you're trying to be comical?

          Two grammar nazi comments, both containing worse grammar than you're complaining about.

          You don't loosing your shoe laces, you loosen. Poor, 6/10 for effort, 1/10 for accuracy.
          Seriously, you have no future in correcting other people's grammar.
          Little Old Man
  • People forget OEMs are just as capable as Google of releasing updates

    The HTC One has some genuinely useful and innovative features you will lose going stock and it's not as if the top end hero phones (generally speaking) don't get the Android update too (eventually).

    My Galaxy S4 is a better phone because of the work Samsung has added on top of the work Google have done, yes it has some gimmicks too but it's certainly not all gimmicks.

    Besides stock Android isn't exactly bloat free (or rather Google Nexus phones). Google+ anyone? I shouldn't be forced to have that on my phone any more than I should be forced to have the third party Trip Advisor app on my Galaxy S4.
    • Google+

      You can disable Google+. I re-enabled it this week however since everyone seems to have started using it more. I guess Google's agenda worked out after Google I/O.
    • yet they don't

      OEMs may be capable of releasing updates, but they don't! HTC has a particularly poor track record in releasing updates (i.e., Thunderbolt).

      As far as Google services, yes they are included, but I find them less annoying than VZ Navigator or other apps meant to take money from my wallet. I also have my phone rooted, so removing the unwanted apps isn't difficult. Rooting is very simple on a Nexus, but other phones often have locked bootloaders to keep people from rooting.

      Even if the One comes in a Google Edition, I wouldn't trust it because it is NOT a Nexus. Until they prove themselves trustworthy, I have no interest. Sorry.
      • Don't blame HTC for what obviously is a fault with the carrier.

        Thunderbolt is a bad example. In fact any carrier specific phone is asking for trouble. Just look at the mess the same carrier of the Thunderbolt made to it's version of a Galaxy Nexus.

        Besides, HTC generally is actually ahead of most with regard to updates

        In the UK, we've had pretty good response time from HTC because our carriers tend to only do very minor tweaks and if (like me) you still don't trust the carrier, the 'international' carrier free versions work straight out of the box regardless.

        It's true that HTC have been guilty of underspeccing their RAM/storage in the past (resulting in later versions of Android being to big to fit in some their older machines) but it seems they've learned that lesson with the HTC One.
    • So learn how to use Android

      and delete it!

      AND the Galaxy S4 being a better phone than the One is veeeerrry much a minority opinion.
  • IF

    it has the same hardware as the US version, I'm very the ROM.
  • HTC One would be a bigger success

    IF they release it I would probably buy one. For myself this phone with a 4.9-5" screen and a bigger battery would be the perfect phone for everything I do. 4.7" like my Nexus 4 is OK but not as immersive for video.

    SD card and removable battery (using screws to take apart phone?) would be a big bonus as well but not necessary. 4 MP is also not enough for the camera, ultrapixels or not. That would for me be the perfect phone and HTC almost nailed it with the HTC One.

    A Nexus HTC One would let all of us that don't want a Android skinned and don't want to be at the mercy of manufacturers AND THEN service providers for updates. They each add bloatware I don't want. Right now, even though I like the HTC One, I would not get it because of Sense UI. Same with the Galaxy S4. TouchWiz, that plastic body and tiny speaker puts me off of it. The Nexus version fixes one of three. Bootloader is already unlocked though on xdadev :)

    I am hoping that the Nexus 5 in October will address some of these and be the all-in-one package I've been hoping for. I have no issue with throwing money at it; just make it worth it.
    • When I first saw it..

      I said the same thing. I hated the metro crap home screen, for one. But heck, I bought it anyway and then found that installing the apex launcher lets me get rid of the skinned part I don't like. Most of the Sense apps can be disabled or even uninstalled.

      Coming from a Note, the screen is much smaller. Videos make that very obvious too. But it's also easy to use most of the time too.
  • Stock Would Be Great

    Not a fan of Sense. hTC removed or modded to many basic stock features on Android and left quite a few good ones out.
    I will be putting a stock version on mine as soon.
    Would be even better if it was original stock without having to root.
  • If

    The One's hardware/look is great, not feel much for GS4. If it can run iOS, a lot of people will be on it. Main reason that many people didn't leave iPhone because of purchased Apps.
    Cun Con