HTC excels at smartphone design, needs to excel in profits in 2013
HTC is proving over and over that they can design gorgeous, desirable smartphones and fell hard in 2012 after a very successful 2011. Hopefully they can take their design leadership and translate that into sales in 2013.
As we approach the end of the year, it's a time to reflect on the past and hope for the future. I have enjoyed using HTC products since the first Compaq iPaq back in 2000 and don't like hearing the repeated news of falling profits and revenue like we saw in 2012 and hope to see a change of direction in their profits in 2013. It's important to have competition in the mobile space to push others to improve and while I enjoy using Samsung products like my Note II, I also want to see HTC compete for customers. Whenever I compare HTC's products to others, I come away impressed by their stellar designs and wonder why they are not rolling in the profits like they were just a year ago when it seemed they couldn't be stopped. Their current crop of Android and Windows Phones are some of the best designs I have seen in the smartphone world and they are improving in optics, software, and battery life.
Back in May I wrote that the HTC One X was the best HTC device I have ever used and for the last couple of weeks I have been using the upgraded HTC One X+. The One X+ improves on a fantastic device with a faster processor, more internal storage, and a larger battery and I really have a tough time setting it down. I don't notice much of a difference in the processor performance, but I am not seeing long pauses when I jump around the interface like I started to see on the One X. The larger battery is definitely noticeable as I am now able to go a full day with reserve battery available. The storage improvement is important for devices with an image and video focus too as I do run out of memory with the Droid DNA as I capture video.
HTC's 8X, Droid DNA, and One X+ have great curves, sleek use of front glass panels, amazing displays, and designs that make you want to flip their devices over and over in your hand. I think anyone who uses these devices will agree that these three designs are absolutely amazing and are better than most other smartphones available today. So if the designs are so good, why are they not selling more?
When looking at Windows Phone devices, the two premier choices in the US are the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X. HTC finally scored here by releasing the 8X on all three Windows Phone carriers so you can pick one up on T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon. The Lumia 920 is only available on AT&T. You may have read that I had an extremely difficult time choosing between these two and didn't even get my own Lumia 920 until this past weekend and also have an 8X that Steve Ballmer gave to attendees at the launch event. I bounce my SIM between the two because the HTC 8X design is so compelling while the Lumia 920 has so many other added features (Nokia Music, Nokia Drive, exclusive Nokia apps, fantastic camera technology). With HTC's design, I would like to see just a bit more inside, including 32GB of memory, to choose it over the Lumia 920.
Samsung rules the Android market at this time and I think their success can be partially attributed to getting solid devices out across all the carriers at once. HTC is still more of a boutique manufacturer with their Android devices appearing on different carriers in different flavors (varied designs, specifications, and names). HTC has long catered to the carriers' desires, the used to make devices that were carrier branded, and continues to work to please carriers. Samsung and Apple apparently have more power to wield over carriers and HTC has to walk a fine line between being demanding and also finding a niche to satisfy the carriers.
Along with carrier relationships, I think HTC needs to work harder with carriers to get timely updates out to their devices. I have to honestly say I would not buy an HTC device expecting that it will get an upcoming Android update. If you are a tech savvy person, then you can always root your device and hack updates on to it. I used to do this all the time, but no longer want to spend time doing that and want the most stable device possible with minimal effort. Samsung doesn't have the greatest record for Android updates either, but they have gotten a lot better and again I think it goes back to having the same base device across all carriers. Tomorrow my multi-view update for the Galaxy Note II starts rolling out on T-Mobile so I get a nice Christmas present from Samsung and T-Mobile.
I want to see HTC turn things around in a big way in 2013 and I think a lot of that depends on the success of Windows Phone 8. The new One X+ is an amazing Android device and a release on T-Mobile and Verizon might help HTC too. Are you a fan of HTC designs? What do you think HTC needs to do to achieve success again?