The disappearing act: HTC smartphones removed from Canadian carrier shelves

Daniel Bader

February 9, 2016 10:42am

Just around now four years ago I traveled to New York for the first time as a MobileSyrup writer. It was during Mobile World Congress, and nearly everyone I idolized, all the bloggers and videographers, were on planes set for Barcelona. But HTC, coming off a rough 2011 that saw its market share peak and swiftly fall, wanted everyone, even those not attending Mobile World Congress, to experience its new smartphone lineup.

Standing on the top floor of Rockefeller Center, overlooking Central Park to the north, HTC’s quiet demonstration of power was pure confidence. After a short introduction, the company introduced a trio of smartphones: the One X, One S and One V, each wholly unique and independently capable.

And Canadian carriers loved it. In April 2012, Rogers became the first North American carrier to carry HTC’s flagship, the One X, and from that time until the announcement of the One A9 in November of last year, Canadian telcos retained their close relationships with the embattled Taiwanese OEM.

Something changed with the One M9, which was almost universally panned upon its release last March. After small but effective marketing campaigns, and relatively healthy sales numbers across the country, the One M9 failed to differentiate itself from the One M8, itself a fairly minor upgrade over the lauded (and still-great) One M7. The company’s failures at the top of the food chain didn’t exist in a vacuum, either: its entry-level devices, such as the Desire 510 and Desire 626s, offered comparatively low value compared to the price-conscious competition from Samsung, LG, OnePlus and others.

When the One A9 was announced in late October of last year, it came with an expectation that, in addition to be sold unlocked through HTC’s web portal, at least one Canadian carrier would have a crack at selling it on subsidy. A decent product with an attractive set of specs at a reasonable, if weak Dollar-inflated price, the One A9 hits most of the right notes. But the lucrative winter sales period came and went, and nary a peep was heard from Rogers, Bell or Telus.

Today, a casual glance at those carriers’ product lineups reveal an absence of HTC smartphones entirely. Indeed, when the One A9 replaced the M9 from an internal HTC perspective, it likely prompted a reevaluation of its priorities in the Canadian market. HTC lost $100 million last quarter, the third straight period of decline after a small profit a year ago. Though the One M8 is still available at Koodo, and the Desire 626s lives on at Virgin Mobile, these are product cycles merely taking their course.

HTC is not dead. Its future is uncertain, but the company has redoubled its efforts to break into the smart wearables space by partnering with companies like Under Armour; and its Vive virtual reality headset is poised to make a huge dent in that burgeoning space, given all the developer support behind partner Valve.

But, at least in Canada, HTC’s smartphone business is in stasis, and no one is talking. Representatives from neither HTC nor any of the major carriers would comment on the record, but the OEM is certainly still interested in selling devices to Canadians: in mid-January, it added two new colours to the One A9 lineup in an effort to spur sales.

U.S.-based smartphone analyst Jan Dawson believes that it was only a matter of time before carriers soured on HTC. “Given how few phones HTC is selling, it would make sense if at least some carriers were backing away from [them]. There’s only so much shelf space in stores, and if you’re a carrier you want to stock the phones that people actually want to buy.”

Anecdotally, it appeared that HTC was faring better in Canada than in the United States, where HTC’s devices, though in dwindling numbers, still sell at Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. But Canadian carriers are looking to simplify their product lineups, and with a number of devices from companies like Apple, Samsung, LG, Motorola and, increasingly, ZTE and Huawei, there may be no room left for outliers like HTC.

  • Mo Dabbas

    Ya. I was actually wondering if the carriers here will get a hold of the M10. Or is it gonna be a phone that sells on their website only.

  • Ryan

    the irony is that they make the best Android phones imo

    • jumbo_sly

      I own a M9 and I love it. First time I can say that about a android phone.

    • kaostheory

      If you’re talking about design, I can understand what you mean, but unfortunately hTc doesn’t have one feature not available on other phones and none of its specs are first in any category. I actually thought the butterfly was a better phone than any of the M series.

    • But all the features aside from camera are way better polished and faster performing without any glitches. HTC is what people thought they can expect from iPhone.

    • Mr_Smoosh

      If you listen to music, htc is second to none.

    • kaostheory

      I prefer using the noise canceling built-in with Sony.

    • Mr_Smoosh

      Agreed, on the premise that no android phone is perfect. I love my M8 except for the camera.

    • Damn, I love the camera on my M8. Have taken a few good shots for sure.

    • brararsh

      Not only make but also support. They support their phones with latest software upgrades better than most other OEM’s.
      They have Marshmallow out for M8 and M9 and here Samsung has nothing to say about Note 5/S6 edge plus which launched just few months ago.

    • Jonah Emery

      Samsung Android updates arrive in March the last several years. For flagship phones under 2 years old. Quite predictable.

    • Seriously? They didn’t yet? OMG. My M8 FLYES with Android 6 and EPICCCC EPPIICCC SENSE 7

    • Imo2

    • They give the most for the buck, and that’s not allowed in the market run by Apple and Samsung.

    • Darryl Friesen

      I disagree. And if if that were true, it isn’t just about making a good Android phone. My first Android device was an HTC Desire HD. It was a good phone, their flagship at the time. During the 3 years I owned it, I received one Andoid update. Others were promised; their release dates pushed further and further back, and eventually cancelled with no acceptable reason. HTC as a company sucks. They give zero shits about their customers, and that has hurt them in recent years. And it’s why, no matter how many people tell me their newer devices are “great phones”, I will NEVER own another HTC device again.

      Honestly, if you want an Android phone, your best choice is a Nexus device. 2+ years after buying my Nexus 5, I have not only the latest version of Android Marshmallow OS, but I’m receiving monthly security updates as well. NO other manufacturer can claim that. Motorola does a decent job, and Samsung is OK with some of their phones. If you want an outdated Android experience with security flaws that will never be fixed, buy an HTC (or Sony) device. Otherwise, stick with an official Nexus device.

  • marshallpower

    This has been around for days and now on Global News…but nothing here? I already know all the excuses.

    If you had your iPhone’s home button repaired by an unauthorized third party, you are at risk of falling victim to “Error 53” – an issue that turns your iPhone into nothing more than a paperweight.

    The widespread issue, which permanently disables any iPhone that has had the Touch ID fingerprint scanner replaced by a non-Apple certified source, now affects thousands of users around the world.

    • JTon

      How is this related to HTC? Tweet them instead

    • Tech Guru

      Lol what

    • gommer strike

      Wrong comment section, big guy.

    • Mo Dabbas

      He’s complaining because the section where he can post that comment is not on mobile syrup and will probably never be on mobile syrup.

    • Mo Dabbas

      ya. coz apple wants to punish the unfaithful. Oh mighty apple, please have forgiveness on us mere humans.

      on a serious note, this has been an issue for a week now. The new stuff now is that there is a possibility of a class action lawsuit coming up because of what they termed some criminal act where they are damaging the property of others. Law firms from US and UK are trying to get hold with the victims in order to initiate the class action lawsuit. What sucks for those customers is that apple did not offer replacement or even a fix for those individuals but rather gave them the solution to buy a new handset. But I bet those customers who are whining about the problem, and cursing apple, are doing so while standing in line to buy another one.

      Lastly, at this point I thought everybody who visits this website knows mobile syrup is biased towards apple. Just deal with it.

    • marshallpower

      I didn’t know about the lawsuit part. Very good point about damaging the property of others…smells like rotten apples…

      And it’s funny that some people care more about me posting in the wrong section than about the quality of the information posted on this website.

    • What the fk. What the fkkkk. What a scammmizmmm!

  • Techguru86

    I think Wind still sells them and Videotron. HTC have been one of the best devices for durability and software updates for Android, but when you don’t market what do you expect

    • danbob333

      They have been pretty bad for software updates actually. Their major problem is that they always release at the same time as their main rival, Samsung. There is no place for 2nd best in this market. Most people don’t see any advantage to HTC over Samsung.

    • Eluder

      They’re better than any other Android OEM (exclude Nexus phones) for software updates, so not sure what you’re implying here.

    • Stephen B Morris

      No. He’s right. They have been historically bad with dropping support as soon as they release a new phone. Not LG bad, but pretty bad. Motorola and Sony have typically much better at updates.

    • Eluder

      Which Device are you referring to? Looking at the One series they’ve done a good job with updates. M8, M9 and A9 have been getting solid updates.

    • Stephen B Morris

      The A9 is too early to tell. The others two may be a sign that they are starting to get “it”. But to the M7 and every major release before it they chose not to support the device the moment they had something in the pipeline. Even though there were either glaring bugs that needed to be fixed or the hardware could support the software but HTC would rather you just buy the new phone. Even if the phone you bought was released 6 months ago. Those that bought HTC and got burned tend not to forget. Add to the fact that the money isn’t coming in as it used to so they can’t do any marketing and it’s lights out.

    • will

      People just don’t see HTC at all. There’s no strong marketing from HTC, not to the level of Samsung and Apple. People turn on the tv and all they see is Samsung.

    • Goran

      And there arent any…just promise for fast updates for A9…gap is closing between sense and touchwiz, samsung is still expensive but offers top specs. Htc underspeced but priced the same or even more expensive. Why ppl wonder why htc is in crisis? Simple, in terms of present times, htc offers too little while asking too much.

  • Ali F.

    ” In April 2012, Rogers became the first North American carrier to carry HTC’s flagship”, I don’t think so unless you are talking about Android. I had the HTC Diamond (Windows) from Bell long before, probably in 2009.

    • Sam Wiggans

      They’re referring specifically to the HTC One X

  • Mitchell Leitman

    If there’s only so much shelf space in stores, why is so much of it taken up by multiple copies of iPhones and Samsungs? Do you really need to see how a rose gold iPhone 6s plus is different from a rose gold iPhone 6 plus?

  • will

    The problem is HTC is charging too much for their phones. The A9 has mid-range specs, and still, HTC charges high-end prices.

    • Goran

      A9 is killed with different pricing in different regions…if they offered it all around the world for 399 as in usa…bingo. a9 for 2/16gb version in Europe is grossly priced. No wonder noone is buying htc phones. All underspeced and overpriced since m8.

  • jay

    Please only unlocked for a good price. Sell it for 450$ unlocked and we will buy it.

  • George

    Cool!

  • Klatch

    Hopefully the rumor that HTC will be involved in the next round of nexus phones is true. I’ve long admired their build and would like to get an HTC nexus. I don’t think it will necessarily be a huge boon to the company, but hopefully it is part of restoring them to competitiveness.

  • Jonah Emery

    Last few years I’ve been tempted to purchase an HTC One but never did. Now that I have a Nexus 6P the likelihood has gone to 0%.

    • RagnarokNCC

      If the M10 turns out to be a bust, the 6P is likely where I’m headed

  • Dylan Wentworth

    I like my m8 better than any phone I’ve had. I don’t know of anyone else that has one and never seen anyone else even using one in public. The problem I see is going to come at resale. If I can’t sell it because nobody wants an HTC, or can’t get very much for it, it just got a lot more expensive . My next phone will most likely be a samsung because resale value is a factor.

  • G.P.

    HTC is going the way of the dodo, forced by Carriers, much like MS WP’s. Only Bell seems to be still selling the Nokia 830 but all other carriers have removed WP. HTC should sell them at very cheap prices direct to consumer to bypass carriers. That’s how Asus is doing with their Zenphone line and doing quite well.

    • FYLegend21

      Their fault for sucking up to carriers and restricting their devices as exclusives. The Butterfly would have been a solid option but it was only restricted to Verizon in the US as Droid DNA, MINUS the SD Card slot. I had the One X+ on Telus and it never got an update beyond Android 4.1, even though AT&T eventually got the 4,2 update with Sense 5. It was even more ridiculous that they only brought an update for the Heartbleed bug and STILL didn’t bring 4.2 From then on I decided to buy unlocked phones overseas.

      HTC’s software is top notch (I switched to Sony Xperia Z5 recently and its software is kinda buggy) but they always seem to be lacking something in hardware specs. They ALMOST got it with the M9+ Supreme Camera/Aurora Edition but the mediocre Mediatek GPU and no fast charging held me back…

  • southerndinner

    RIP HTC. If the S7 has better battery, expandable memory and is IP67 like rumored, other Android OEMs are in for a rough few quarters.

  • Romdude

    HTC is turning out to be a one hit wonder, been waiting for years to upgrade my HTC One M7 but still nothing. If the rumored M10 looks like an iphone rather than the X9, I’m not waiting for the M11 and I’ll get from another manufacturer instead. HTC also has to fix its apps on the Google Play Store, just look at all the reviews, leave the factory version instead.

  • Timothy Nielsen

    Take the Asus route and offer unlocked good quality, feature packed dual Sim smartphones at a discounted price. My Asus Zenfone 2 is incredible for the price point of $350!