Around the summer of 2010, my contract was coming to an end and the HTC EVO 4G on Sprint was very appealing. Touted as “America’s first 4G phone”, it featured a large display and great specs at the time. I desperately wanted this phone and every Sprint store, Radioshack, or online store, was out of stock for four to six weeks. With my contract ending in just a couple weeks, the options were simple: Either buy the EVO 4G for full price and then some due to demand, or just grab a Blackberry. Unfortunately, an outdated BlackBerry Curve it was.
In the Spring of 2011, I finally got my hands on a slightly used EVO 4G. It was a great investment and I was even using it up until the fall of last year before I was due for an upgrade, going with the Samsung Galaxy S III. Fast forward to now and HTC has taken quite a hit because it doesn’t have quite the zing or product support as we’d seen in the past. In fact, over the last several years, declining profits and market share have pushed the Taiwanese company further down the list. Earlier this year, CEO Peter Chou blamed poor marketing as the reason for their decline. However, he said the same thing last year and nothing really changed.
Samsung has quickly grown to be the world’s number one Android manufacturer, capturing a massive 40% of all Android smartphones and tablets. They capitalized on HTC’s poor marketing and lack of clear vision with a product line. In 2012 alone, Samsung spent $401 million advertising its mobile devices in the US. In today’s marketplace, great devices do not sell themselves: great marketing does. By comparison, HTC cut its advertising budget by 45%. It’s pretty clear that Samsung’s advertising push is paying off, then again, they’re selling devices like hotcakes which makes it much easier to invest so much money. What makes Samsung’s latest flagship device particularly appealing isn’t the specs but the software features.
At Unpacked 2013, the South Korean giant really pushed its new software features from Smart Scroll eye-tracking technology to new sensors that work with S Health to help users stay more active. When you break it down, the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One have very similar specs: 1080p HD display, quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, up to 64GB of storage, and so on. In all reality, trying to sell the One based on specs and quality isn’t going to cut it. HTC announced a slew of new features as well and they need to utilize those as selling points. I personally think the One is a higher quality phone as opposed to the Galaxy S 4, but consumer’s are going to buy the phone that gives them the most features. Samsung clearly wins in that category, and is something HTC needs to change in the near future.
The One seems to recapture the special feeling the EVO 4G had and with its interesting features such as Zoe and Boom Sound and that’s what mainstream consumers really care about. This is where their focus needs to be instead of bashing Samsung in some desperate attempt to grab attention. At this stage of the game, HTC simply can’t revert to their old ways of talking and not doing. With the One hitting US carriers towards the end of March and the Galaxy S 4 not launching until the end of April, they do stand a chance of selling a good amount before the inevitable rush of Samsung fans upgrade. However, HTC might not have enough new features to attract enough consumers.
Can HTC recapture the consumer’s attention? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Maybe Peter Chou is serious this time. While highlighting the One’s features are important, one can’t forget that it all comes down to marketing. Sure, HTC isn’t profiting hand over fist, but they’ll have to reach deep into their pockets to make it happen, and I hope they do.