HTC: Quietly brilliant to the top of the heap

The meteoric rise of Android in the smartphone space is benefiting a number of companies, chief among them Taiwan-based HTC. The company is taking its "quietly brilliant" campaign to the top.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Android is like a runaway train going downhill, it has gained so much steam there is no slowing it down much less stopping it. The latest figures from Gartner have the Android juggernaut continuing to steal market share from RIM and Nokia to firmly take the top spot in the U.S. This meteoric rise in the smartphone space is benefiting a number of companies, chief among them is Taiwan-based HTC.

The recent revelation that HTC has passed industry giant Nokia in market cap was an eye-opener for many who follow the mobile segment. The company has quite a few Android handsets in the market place, but to pass Nokia is an incredible feat in just a few years. HTC has ridden Android to the top of the heap, and the predicted continuation of the platform to dominate is going to bring HTC right along with it.

The rise of HTC to the top of handset makers is especially impressive as the company doesn't have its own operating system as other major players had in their growth in the segment. No matter what you think about Symbian, and even Nokia is largely abandoning it, it worked in Nokia's favor over the years as it is an advantage controlling the platform on most of your products.

HTC's rise to the top started when Microsoft's Windows Mobile had a nice piece of the smartphone market share. Credit to the HTC executive team has to be given as even back then it was understood that company branding was crucial to the long-term growth in the crowded smartphone segment. That branding would allow a shift to other platforms as they come along, and allowed HTC to drop the fading Windows Mobile platform for the up-and-coming Android OS from the folks at Google.

The company's branding initiative started with the distinctive TouchFlo interface on its Windows Mobile phones. The interface had an attractive, modern look that quickly became associated in consumer's eyes with the HTC brand. It added functionality to WinMo phones not found on handsets from other OEMs, an added benefit for HTC. This interface evolved into the TouchFlo 3D interface that kept the look-and-feel of the original while increasing the appeal to buyers.

The move to Android was an easy one for HTC, with the port of the TouchFlo look to the new platform. Dubbed the Sense interface on Android, it brought the HTC look to the new platform and created an instant brand. This distinctive look sets HTC phones apart from the many Android products on the market, something no other handset maker has been able to duplicate.

Walk through a smartphone store, and it is easy to spot every single HTC product (and there are a lot of them) due to that distinctive look on the screens. All of the other Android products look similar to one another, but the HTC products are easy to pick out due to the distinctive branding created by the Sense interface. Whether you like the Sense UI or not, there is no doubt it is an effective brand for HTC. I have been asked more than once if an HTC phone I was using was "one of those Droids."

HTC's rise to the top has happened in the phone world, and with the company's first tablet poised to hit the market it can only go up from here. The HTC Flyer avoids the me-too syndrome that most Android tablets suffer from by adding special pen input to the mix. This special feature sets the HTC product apart from the crowd on its own, but the company is leaving nothing to chance. It has that Sense look-and-feel that has been so successful in the phone space. Quietly brilliant.

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