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Friday, April 29, 2016

[Op-Ed] What might the 10 mean for HTC?

The most recent smartphones they've produced have not been big successes for HTC.  In the wake of the announcement of their most recent flagship device, the HTC 10, I'm asking myself the question: what could another failure mean for HTC?  But then I thought about it another way - what would a device that is actually a success mean for the Taiwanese company?  I've owned an HTC device in the past, and enjoyed it.  But HTC is a long way from the days of the Incredible.  Let's talk about the 10 and what it might mean for the future of this brand.

First off, let's visit the specs of the the 10 - all the usual suspects are here:  Snapdragon 820 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB RAM, 32GB internal storage with SD card slot (w/adoptable storage support) Quad HD Super LCD 5 display panel, 12MP Ultrapixel 2 camera with OIS, and a 3000mah battery.  On paper, this should perform as well as any other flagship sold this year, like the Galaxy S7 and the LG G5.  Their software skin (Sense v8.0) has been hailed by many as the lightest and perhaps closest to stock Android as one can get these days from any OEM.  The general feeling of most of the reviews I've seen are that its a jack of all trades while master of none.  It does many things very well, looks good and feels well built, and seems a nice return to the days of HTC's last big hit device, the One M7.  You can check some of the reviews yourself linked below.

Many of the unlocked pre-orders will ship starting Monday, May 2nd.  Its available from Verizon starting around May 6th, and everywhere by May 13th.  HTC has needed a win for a while now.  The quality and usability of their phones have been declining since the M7 was released.  While other competitors were moving their tech forward, HTC seemed to continue to make bizarre business decisions with the direction of their phones that were annoying at best and a downright disaster at worst.  

The 10 would at first appear to poise HTC to start to turn things around.  As you might have heard on the Silicon Theory podcast, we've wondered for a while now when some other larger company was going to just buy out HTC and break the company up for parts.  Why it hadn't actually happened is beyond me.  But now, maybe HTC can leverage the 10 to make an improbable comeback as a player in the global smartphone game.  

But do they really want to?  Recently, HTC seems to have thrown all their support behind their new Vive virtual reality product, and are moving away from the mobile smartphone market segment.  We still don't know yet if virtual reality is more than just a fad, but HTC seems to be going all in with the Vive.  They've put more advertising and effort into this clearly niche market device, and their latest flagship smartphone seems almost like an afterthought.   And yet rumors still persist that they may in fact be in charge of not 1 but 2 new Nexus phones, and this prospect has quite a few people excited.  The latest Nexus from Huawei is a great overall performer and an excellent value for the money.  I own it, and am very pleased with it.  Part of its appeal is the premium look and feel of an all metal chassis.  HTC seems to have returned a bit to their old form with the 10 - and perhaps could push their stock even further up if they can do something good with the Nexus line.  The last HTC and Google collaboration, the Nexus One, was a solid performer, and well received by the Android community.  Developer devices (such as the Nexus line has long been known for) typically get raised to cult status, unless they end up being some kind of horrific carrier nightmare (yes, I'm looking at you Verizon Galaxy Nexus)

So maybe the days of HTC aren't numbered after all.  Turns out the 10 might be a pretty good phone.  If HTC is tapped to make the new Nexus devices, then they might be pretty good as well.  If the Nexus devices do well, and considering how important they are to the overall Android ecosystem, it could mean a lot of new business for HTC.  So, in a way, the HTC 10 could mean very big things ahead for HTC.  But is that what they want?  Maybe it is, if the success of their latest devices means more money for them to throw at the Vive and VR in the long run.

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