HTC is updating its flagship HTC One smartphone by giving it a larger screen, better software and a camera that’s easier to use.
The original HTC One received good reviews and was named the best smartphone of 2013 at the wireless industry’s premier trade show in Barcelona, Spain, last month. But HTC has failed to translate that glowing praise into sales. According to Gartner, HTC had less than 5% of the worldwide smartphone market in 2013.
HTC executives acknowledge that the company made several operational mistakes in releasing last year’s phone, including the fact that customers of the leading US wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless, weren’t able to buy it until months after its launch. This time, the phone will be available right away through all the major carriers. Online orders start Tuesday, while retail stores will get them on April 10. It will cost about $200 to $250 with a two-year service contract, or about $650 without a contract.
HTC also plans aggressive marketing, including the heavy use of cable and broadcast television ads. The goal is to reach tech-savvy consumers and trend-setters who are likely to recommend the phone to friends. The company didn’t specify how much it plans to spend, but executives said it won’t try to match Samsung dollar for dollar.
Samsung Electronics Co. currently dominates the global smartphone market. Last year, the Korean company had a 31% market share compared with Apple Inc.’s 16%. Samsung, in particular, is notorious for its heavy marketing. The company spent nearly 4.6 trillion won ($4.3 billion) in advertising in the 12 months through September, about four times the $1.1 billion Apple spent in the same period, the latest for which figures were available.
Although Samsung also makes TVs, refrigerators and other products, analysts believe much of the marketing is for newer products such as phones.
To break through, HTC plans to emphasise the One’s all-metal design. Samsung’s phones typically have a plastic back panel, while Apple’s iPhones use glass. HTC’s design chief, Scott Croyle, said about 90% of the One’s back and sides will be made of metal, but the phone’s manufactured in a way that makes it tough to tell where the metal ends and where the composite strips begin. Croyle calls it “zero-gap construction.”
The new phone will have a screen measuring 5 inches diagonally, up from 4.7 inches in last year’s model. It will help software improvements designed to anticipate your needs, such as offering lunch recommendations when it’s time for lunch. That will come through HTC’s hub for personalised content, known as BlinkFeed. BlinkFeed itself will be more colorful and will continue to present news, social media updates and other items of interest.
HTC continues its philosophy of steering people away from the megapixel count in cameras, saying that more isn’t necessarily better. Like the original model, the new HTC One has a 4 megapixel rear camera, which is low for high-end smartphones. Instead, HTC focuses on making the individual pixel sensors larger, so that they can capture more light and offer better shots in low-light settings. The front camera, for selfies, is improved, though – at 5 megapixels, compared with 2.1 megapixels before.
The new phone also makes it easier to use the camera’s Zoe assistant, which takes several shots over a few seconds and lets you pick the best ones. It also lets you save frequently used combinations of manual settings, so that you don’t miss the shot trying to set it each time.