HTC's most successful new product may not be a smartphone

The company continues to struggle mightily in the smartphone space, but its HTC Vive VR headset is winning awards and earning accolades from everyone who straps it on.

(Image: HTC)

The HTC Vive virtual reality head-mounted display has yet to be released -- and it's already winning awards.

With HTC's newest flagship smartphone failing to deliver a competitive camera and its HTC Grip fitness device now cancelled, it appears the company's one shining star for in 2015 will be the HTC Vive. Given the recent poor financial news, pending workforce cuts, and the company's stated focused on the connected lifestyle, I would not be surprised if HTC left the smartphone business behind in a year or two.

HTC has a long history of successes and "firsts" in the mobile handset and smartphone business, but Android has not been the savior we expected for HTC. Samsung took over the top spot in the Android world and Apple entered and then dominated the smartphone market.

HTC continued to make compelling hardware, but a lack of any serious marketing, missed opportunities in some handsets, legal challenges, and a focused strategy that never materialized relegated HTC into the "other" category of smartphone market-share reports.

The HTC Vive is an interesting departure for the company since it has absolutely no ties at all to the smartphone. It's a virtual reality headset, currently focused on gaming and entertainment, that connects to a PC. I figured it would be like the Samsung Gear VR with a smartphone element, but that is not the case.

Every single person with whom I've spoken -- or who has written about their experiences -- has waxed poetic about the HTC Vive, finding there is no other VR experience quite like it. Android Central has a detailed look at the HTC Vive from all angles.

The HTC Vive is powered by SteamVR and it sounds amazing. I have yet to try it myself so can't state my own opinion. At Mobile World Congress, HTC said that the Vive was part of the RE brand with the HTC RE Camera and HTC RE Grip. I no longer see RE in any HTC Vive materials so that strange branding idea may have been killed, for the better.

HTC has always been known for leading smartphone designs, but the HTC Vive may be the platform that ends up keeping HTC in business. It will be a smaller company soon, but the Vive may keep it alive when there are no more HTC smartphones.