Flashback Friday, HTC Edition: Does the One have what it takes?

Daniel Bader

February 22, 2013 8:29 pm

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The days are getting longer here in the Northern Hemisphere as winter sputters and fades. In addition to (relatively) warmer temperatures, the end of February promises plenty of smartphone and tablet news out of Barcelona. Mobile World Congress 2013 begins on Monday the 25th, and as we await the plethora of new product announcements, let’s take a look back at a significant launch that happened just a few days ago: the HTC One.

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HTC launched the One X, One S and One V, alongside Sense 4.0, at Mobile World Congress 2012. I wasn’t able to make it to Barcelona, so HTC flew me down to New York City to spend some time with the North American versions of the phones. While the international model of the One X sported a quad-core Tegra 3 chip, promising blazing fast graphics performance from the newly-minted Nvidia SoC, ours stood tall with the Qualcomm Snadragon S4, a dual-core chip that eventually proved the better of the two choices. It also paved the way for Qualcomm’s ostensible sweep of the 2012 Smartphone World Series, powering everything from Samsung’s Galaxy S III (dual-core) to the LG Optimus G (quad-core).

It’s hard to believe the One series launched just under a year ago; so much has changed in the industry since then, including HTC’s  market share. In 2012, HTC promised to cut down on the number of devices it launched, and though the One series was its only major Android product announcement for the year, there were others, the One X+ and Desire C among them. These were all fantastic devices: beautifully-designed, tremendously well built, relatively inexpensive. And yet the company couldn’t catch a break, selling comparatively fewer smartphones than it did a year earlier. Not only did its market share decline, but its share price continued to drop on news of shrinking quarterly profits and dwindling cash reserves.

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So, as we approach the launch of the HTC One, as canonical a smartphone as there ever was, can the company rely on its single-device approach to win back consumers? All the ingredients are there: performance, design, features. The screen is gorgeous, easily the best on the market. It’s running some of the newest hardware to date, smashing benchmark records and taking names. It’s dramatically simplifying the Android experience, eschewing the standard scheme in favour of a two-button solution and a new version of Sense that feels fast, intuitive and oh-so-smooth.

But the company has also focused on what users want most: excellent photos; snippets of news; great battery life (TBD); high-quality sound; a premium form factor. With the right marketing campaign, it stands to win over a lot of customers tired of Apple and bored with Galaxy. But Samsung is unlikely to sit on its hands waiting for HTC to steamroll them; indeed, the Korean company has been the one doing the steamrolling, increasingly viciously, since 2010.

This is HTC’s opportunity to strike; if it misses the boat, there may not be another one next February. I loved the company’s entire 2012 product line, and yet I come across consumers who cannot recall a single HTC device. Alongside a successful (and prompt) launch, HTC needs a brand boost, a reason for people to be excited again. I’m cautiously optimistic: not for the One, which I believe to be a great phone, but for the company’s future.

What do you think? Will you be buying the HTC One, or are you waiting for The Next Big Thing?

  • EvanK

    Spec wise, it’s definitely got what it takes. Design wise, HTC’s hit the nail right on the head with the aluminium body. I also like the low pixel density approach that they’re taking with the camera. However, if they want it to succeed, they’ll need to get the word out about it, and its advantages over, say, the upcoming S4. The S series has been successful because Samsung’s been a marketing genius, and HTC needs to get aggressive and follow in their footsteps.

    • Q

      Agreed, the only thing HTC lacks is competitive marketing. You can have a good product, but you still need to sell yourself to the mass market in order to make any worthwhile results.

    • Bootlocker??

      HTC ONE:
      Advantages: A good phone overall, great camera, perfect size (4.7″ is perfect!)

      Disadvantages: Silly bootlocker (kills the phone) no SD card WTF??; and Slooow upgrades!, but if they price it at $400-$450 it will sell well.

      EVERY PHONE in 2013 will compete with the N4 ( so they better add proper LTE, SD Card and removable battery if they want to price it higher than $400!)

    • Bootlocker??

      HTC One S with Telus:
      STILL WAITING FOR Jelly Bean upgrade, the Telus site says” release to market in January 2013″ and still nothing.

      HTC??-Never Again!!
      Have you ever tried to root an HTC?? you need to be an IT person ( with a PC-only).
      Call me when they are as simple as the Samsungs!

    • Bill Murray

      Every time I look at my one X+ I wonder why it’s not more popular then the galaxy s3…

  • Nate

    I’m buying it I think. I’m on TELUS so i see it on their site. Sammy and the all plastic I’m done with. Need something more premium feel and the aluminum looks good. will have to see it first though

    • EvanK

      +1

      The only disadvantage with the unibody designs is the lack of removable batteries, but honestly, there’s little need for one assuming that it can last through the day (which I assume this phone can). The lack of expandable storage situation also isn’t a huge deal here, 32 and 64GB standard is excellent.

  • Piff

    I don’t care what no one says, HTC,a re the Cadillac’s of the Android world. The build quality is leaps and bounds ahead of any other company and Sense is hands down the best skin out there.

    • EvanK

      I don’t care what no one says either, because if nobody said it, why should it matter? ;)

    • S2556

      Sense is terrible!! Worst skin

  • Theo

    I’ve had the One X with Rogers since last summer, and will probably go for the One. I’m excited about the stereo speakers, and the improved camera!

  • Ck2013

    For someone who doesn’t mind to not update the phone often to the new version and wants to have a high end phone with a nice design and decent specs, I believe Htc one is one of the best option to consider out there. Nobody use all features of the samsung phone… For Sd card, I guess 32Gb/64gb internal memory is fine.. This phone is a game changer for Htc depending on what samsung release.. For myself I’ll wait to see what samsung has on the table and I might take this htc phone.

  • Andrew

    I just got my Gnex last April. I really like it (love stock Android, and the lack of bloatware apps). It’s also my very first Android experience.

    That being said, if I had an upgrade available I’d be all over this. Being a smart consumer I’d wait to see what the GS4 looks like, but if I didn’t get the Gnex, I would have gotten the OneX.

    The only thing (in my mind) that is holding HTC back is marketing. Of course you have to spend money to make money… and if the bank accounts are looking slim it’s hard to do. BUT that’s how Sammy got where it is now, and same with Apple. It’s all about making the public think your product is current, cool, and “better” then the other guy’s product.

  • Mike

    Looks like a fantastic phone especially the premium build and the all aluminum body. I’ll take that any day over Samsung’s plastic. Really looking forward to buying it.

  • zanzee

    I can handle missing the removable battery to an extent… but also missing cheap expansion? Nope too much. The fact an a15 based note3/sgs4 will easily wipe the floor with the semi a15 Snapdragons really makes it easy to wait for Samsung.

  • Art Vandelay

    Lithium battery ages over time and is very sensitive to heat. After a year of normal usage, it will lose about 30% of its original capacity. After two years, there will be roughly 50% left. Just something to keep in mind when you buy a phone with non user replaceable battery….

  • Monkey Face

    Even RIM did a great job to market their BB10 platform and phones. If RIM can do it, HTC sure can. I’m a BB user, but this is a very seductive phone.

  • izdane

    It’s all about the marketing. If HTC messes is up again, they’re dead.

  • Bootlocker??

    Daniel:
    Could you get in touch with HTC and ask them if they will using Bootlockers in the phone just like in the past?

    If they were to STOP USING THEM, enthusiast and developers alike would start supporting HTC, and not run in drones to the Samsung ones, then the customers would arrive.

    The ONE is a great phone:
    The lack of SD card is questions my will to purchase the phone. But if they remove the silly (for 2013) bootlocker and price it around $400-450 I would consider it. otherwise I will get a bigger support, fastest upgrades, no unlock necessary and still no SD card for less with the N4.

    • Jon

      In addition to fantastic marketing push, HTC must win over power users and enthusiasts in greatest way possible. This is because of the synergy between this and marketing. Consider this:
      Let’s say, HTC does awesome at marketing, it gets the general public attention of their products and brand. General public, not the people like you and I actively involved with mobile technologies, their first action to find more about the product is likely to ask someone who knows about it and regurgitates into something they understand about value of HTC’s products. If enthusiasts, like you and I, prefer HTC’s devices, (because of things we want: microSD, removable battery, etc) we start recommending to everyone he or she knows, then this will reinforce the buyer’s decision to select HTC’s devices.

      Now the only exception I can think about the shenanigans I just wrote, is Apple. Their background is different: They came back from their former legacy with Apple II and Macintosh, and recent success with iPod line-ups. So they already have plenty of brand recognition to start off with the first iPhone. While the first iPhone probably drew majority of enthusiasts’ recommendation because it was so revolutionary at the time. Its support from enthusiasts shrank rapidly as they flocked over to breakneck-speed advancing Android OS. But by this time, Apple has been powerfully pushing away with marketing, and translate it into record revenues every year.

      Now, if HTC has enough ammunition (money) for marketing, it can go on a comparable successful growth in the future. But they don’t so…they gotta win the hearts of you and I by providing features WE want (unlocked bootloader, microSD, removable battery, etc).

      Sorry for ungodly stupidly long length of this. Thank you for those who read the entire thing. Thumbs up to ya!

    • HTC summary

      HTC ONE: the specs are out (they lost the boat with a lack of SD card and non r- battery) The craziest thing is that FLASH MEMORY is one of the most expensive components when building a phone. It has been demonstrated that is cheaper for OEMs to add an SD card slot than more Flash memory (in money, space in the phone and heat reduction)

      But it looks like HTC BUILT A PHONE FOR OPERATORS( who dislike SD cards and want everybody on a DAta-plan),not THE PEOPLE.

      HTC can still add value to the phone BEFORE LAUNCH, killing FOREVER their BOOTLOCKER to compete with Samsung, and PRICE the ONE, to compete with the N4.

      After all if the N4 comes in 32GB in April, as promised, the only thing the ONE has over the N4 will be:
      Better Camera, better screen (arguable at that size),and small advantage in speed and battery, both trumped in reality by the N4 with their custom ROMs and Kernels.

      N4: $20 value in lack of unlocking, fastest Upgrades, longevitiy, reselling value and increased performance as time goes by.

      When you consider the Phones as a “Package” the only thing the One has over the N4 is LTE, at a cost of having to unlock it and sloooow updates from the BIG 3. (See update for the ONE S with Telus) price it more than $50 more than the N4 and it will fail, mostly because the N4 in 32GB will be coming about 30 days after the release of the ONE in Canada.

  • Ivan

    If I don’t have to put up with a phone that looks like a W8 phone (hate live tile), I will be all over it. Samsung isn’t even a question, touchwiz has failed to impress me to date, and almost every samsung I’ve had was faulty. With only two exceptions HTC’s have been much better built. Storage isn’t much of an issue for me and I switch phones too often for me to notice a battery get old. I was really hoping or a 5″ phone though. Might wait a while to see if a One+ 5″ version is released.

  • tomatoes11

    The people here are almost as out of touch with reality as HTC is. It wasn’t the marketing holding HTC back.

  • Alex

    I’m done with my plastic Samsung. I can’t wait for this one.

    • HTC summary

      People that criticize plastic are wrong:

      Just look at the ROCK (also known as the Lumia 920: the most beautiful phone made in metal-that can take your pants down, kill a cat and give you frostbite if used in Canada!)

      Plasticis:
      Cheap-allows OEMS to put the $ in SD cards removable Bat etc

      LIGHT- I always put case on my phones; put your debit card in between your case and phone and you have a TAP-payment phone ready!

      Plastic is a better solution for Canada: in the Boiling summers the phone doesn’t everheat and in -10C or lower your battery dies in 10 mins due to the conductivity of metal; with plastic you are fine. ( never lick your phone in -10 people)
      I Love the feeling of the Alu from the One X and the X+ but I put a case 10 seconds later. So there is no advantage at all.

  • Zaafir Siddiqui

    Tomatoes11, then what was it?

    • tomatoes11

      Most likely a combination of factors like everything else in life. Judging by the facts, I would have to say poor ergonomics and quality control.

      The One X forums on XDA was almost as big of a gong show than the Nexus 7 screen lift and touch issues.

      The fact that I went through two One X devices and two 8x devices without finding anything close to a perfect device while Samsung is 2 for 2 and Apple is 1 for 1. I don’t think HTC’s 0 for 4 is very flattering when a consumer gives them that many chances and their competitors nail it on their first try.

    • tomatoes11

      As in everything else in life, there are a lot of factors. The evidence suggests poor ergonomics and quality control. It also could be not enough storage and not enough ram for multi tasking.

      For example, if you paid attention to the XDA forums when the One X was released you would hear people complaining worse than people complained about the Nexus 7 screen lift and touch responsiveness. You would also hear people complain about the flush and hard to reach buttons and a lot of other issues.

      I am guessing it is a combination of a lot of things but there is zero evidence to suggest that it was down to marketing and only marketing.

      This is how HTC fans came to this invalid marketing conclusion. In their opinion HTC has the best hardware, not everyone else opinion. And they see Apple and Samsung succeed with marketing. I don’t see any cause and effect there. HTC is not Apple or Samsung so there is no way you can say the same method would work for HTC. You can study how certain guys get girls all you want but it doesn’t mean you can necessarily mimic him and be successful. There are other factors involved.

  • MattyMattMatt

    I can live without sd card… as long as phone has 32GB. For me, the screen size is still a little too large, but the overall shape and design is good. They could make the battery larger. Overall, it looks and sounds great. Like a real $600 phone.

    • MattyMattMatt

      I forgot something, buttons suck. Should be on screen, context sensitive.

  • Crazy Henaway

    Nice phone, but I can’t think of a single reason I’d give up my Nexus 4 for it. Same 4.7″ screen size. Both quad cores. Both with sealed batteries. Neither with micro SD. But only one gets the latest software updates for the foreseeable future. And it’s oddly made by LG. Who saw that one coming?

  • isdfoa

    love the htc one, love the design, build quality, software, and features. but i still am NOT compelled to buy one…

    1. battery life. im scared for the 2300mah powering a 1080p display. (time will tell how good it really is, but im expecting average or a little less).

    2. slow software upgrades.

    3. button placement (no dedicated menu, and awkward power button).

    the phone really is gorgeous though, but if i was currently in a market for a new phone i think i’d still go for an s4 (unless samsung doesn’t redesign touchwiz so it doesn’t look so ugly..)

  • Canadian

    I bought a Blackberry Z10. We should be supporting Blackberry for Canadian Jobs.

    • John_hates_blackberry

      What a load of bull. We should NEVER support a company simply because it’s Canadian. BlackBerry made junk for years and consumers punished them by refusing to open their wallets . In order to earn our hard earned cash companies need to innovate and deliver a compelling product. If they can’t do that they don’t deserve to survive. Supporting crap Canadian companies only benefits the shareholders. Save your support for companies that deserve it. If they happen to be Canadians then that’s an added bonus not a reason.

  • Lowell

    The HTC One looks almost exactly like a Blackberry Z10, just bigger and aluminum. Somebody was sharing ideas…

  • dc2000

    Yes, support Canadian jobs, hence why I’m going for the Q10 and my secondary phone(and one of these 1080p phones as primary) only if one has a 3000mAh battery, I refuse to be stuck near a power outless a few times a day. That’s unacceptable!

  • Whatever

    @Canadian

    Supporting BlackBerry just because they’re Canadian is f*****g retarded. Support the product because it’s GOOD and WORTH SUPPORTING. If they don’t put out good products, they don’t deserve to stay in business. And for the record I think they’ve done a fair job with BB10,finally caught up at least.

  • JC

    I am tired of people nagging about SD card and removable battery. How many of you change SD card and battery on a regular basis? For those people judging HTC ONE camera…I assume you have already own a HTC ONE?

  • Julius

    Last year when I bought the Htc One x I was socked that the Rogers employee did not know much about the phone, they all said it was a great phone but then they would bring me to the s2 or the iPhone. Getting the people who have contact with the clients to know your product, to trust the phone, to love it, will be a great step for HTC to win back the consumer. I love my One x, do not plan to change it this year and it deserved more attention than it got.

  • brianb71

    I would buy the one in a heartbeat. Hardware easily beats out any Samsung device and the sense experience to me personally is much smoother and more eye appeal in that touchwiz. I am very much looking forward to the launch of the One.

  • Micheal

    Im not hating on HTC as a company because I never had any negative feeling towards them until last week, how can you copy Windows Phone home screen in both design and implementation, copy nokia camera features OIS, use these features as a major part of sense 5.0 Android platform push and then say that you will not be bring the hardware features to WP?, that’s a b***h move, got no respect for that.

  • monsterduc1000

    I just don’t understand people who complain about about skins/launchers. If you don’t like Sense or Touchwiz, switch to Nova or ADW launchers. They are very much like stock Android with some cool added features. How do people have androids and not know about this customizable feature…

  • Hammam

    I dislike it when people blame the lack of sales on marketing when it comes to HTC. It’s not marketing the problem, it’s the product. The one series couldn’t multi task because of its sense UI, had no removable battery, no external sd card and bad battery life. People can argue as much as they want that they don’t need this or that feature, but the bottom line is, you are paying for less when compared to the S3.

    Phones are becoming all the same. The only difference between the big players is their versions of android. Some would say looks, but you all put cases on, so that doesn’t matter. So here I am, choosing between two phones of the same power. One offers me greater flexibility including battery life… Which do I buy? The answer lies in sales.

  • Tomatoes11

    Too put things into perspective. I asked my gf and her friends what they thought about the One X and these were their words. It’s too big and it looks like an astronaut.

    When I asked them what they thought of the GS3, they said it looks nice and they didn’t notice that it was bigger than astronaut…er I mean the HTC One X.

    That tells you that your views are not necessarily the view of the majority. HTC needs to hire better market researchers and maybe get one on the engineering and design team because they seem to ignore things like ergonomics and subtlety. I think their designs are too flashy and too rice rocket Honda Civic or Formula 1 with biker jacket and logos. They need more elegance like the Xperia line or BMW/Lexus.

    Plus they need to fix their quality control and manufacturing issues.

    I say QC and Manufacturing issues are number 1. Number 2 is to get it out of their head that their design is not the most universally appealing and go for something suited for all demographics and not just teens.

  • Tomatoes11

    Another example is that WP8 is heavily marketed yet BB10 probably has them beat already. It is not the marketing. There are plenty of examples of heavily marketed items that were decent failing hard.

    There is more to it than that.

  • Luke

    I love me my Windows Phones – in fact, in the last few months I have been contemplating whether to stick with Bell and go with the Samsung Ativ, or make the switch to Rogers just so I can get the almighty Lumia 920.

    With that being said, the HTC One is the first Android phone since the Note that has really made me consider making the OS crossover. Its got the specs, its got the looks, and for some strange reason, I have always had a soft spot for HTC ever since my first smartphone (the HTC Desire). Tough decisions ahead for me…

  • johnmalone

    This phone is great! Can’t wait to get it, a worthy upadte to my HTC hero (LOL)! Who cares about no SD card slot, 32/64gb is plenty + dropbox you got plenty of room.

    SD card is long gone just like my htc hero, putting them next to my VHS tapes!

  • Henry

    I like everything about this phone’s physical design. Especially that the screen size is smaller than 5″. Only dealbreaker for me is Sense. I hear people complaining about Touchwiz but it’s great. Compared to my wife’s nexus, I think touchwiz fills in features nicely and it looks great. Before jelly bean, yeah it was ugly as sh)t.

  • KC

    It’s a good phone that sadly isn’t enough.

    Samsung has the market and this won’t change that.

    HTC would be wise to take a page from Motorola’s book. They need a light version of sense that adds a few compelling features to stock Android. This looks like Windows Phone and Infobar had to much Sake one night and Sense 5 was born.

    Whether people need a removable battery and a MicroSD slot is not really relevant. Phone with those features sell better outside the iOS ecosystem then phones without. Heck, I’d argue both the HTC 8X and Lunia 920 would have sold better and won a few more android converts had they had those two features.

    I just don’t see this phone turning it around for them much. Cutting edge in Android lasts what? A couple weeks? So specs aren’t going to sell this phone for long. It’s really just the One X all over again.

  • JL16

    My past three phones have been the HTC Amaze, HTC One X and now the HTC One X+ with TELUS, and I have been happy with what HTC has been putting out. The build quality of the phones have been solid, the designs beautiful and overall performance have been impressive. And this coming from someone who in the past few years have used an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, Galaxy II, Galaxy Note and a few BlackBerry’s. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s lineup is going to be like for HTC, but like many of you have commented, what they really need is a good marketing campaign to really bring attention to how good their products really are, like how Samsung with their “next big thing” campaign. If HTC continues to invest in underwhelming campaigns, we might need to wish them good luck. If they are able to make a huge splash, they will reap in the rewards for years to come. To be honest, HTC has been “Quietly Brilliant” for too long. Maybe it’s time they announce it to the world how great they truly are.

  • OMG BASEDGOD #taskforce #tybg

    The balls really are in Samsung’s court. We’ll see if they can wow everyone again.