By Ermal Hajrizi
14. That’s the total number of Android phones HTC released in two short years. Comparisons? Apple released two iPhones in that same period of time. Clearly, HTC has a problem. A problem with spewing out new smartphones all too often. But, they’re looking to change that.
During this years Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, the company announced a new line of Android smartphones: the HTC One Series. The lineup includes just three phones: the X, the S, and the V. As you might’ve guessed, HTC is setting them up to fill in the void of high, mid, and low range device, in that order. Read on to find out more about the phones, and what this means for HTC.
Now, before we delve into the details of these new phones, let’s talk about why HTC’s new direction is important, and why it’s past ways we’re so detrimental. HTC is a premier Android manufacturer. It has released many spectacular phones, including ones that have set the standard for competitors, such as the Evo 4G, which made it’s debut on Sprint. While the Evo 4G was amazing, what HTC followed up with was uninspiring. Its not that any of the phones released afterwards weren’t up to snuff, its just that they were unnecessary. They created lots of problems for consumers.
HTC’s phones are, for the most part, top-tier devices. The gadgets are made to be able to stay relatively in the mix of things for the length of the contract (which is generally two years here in the States). However, consumers must feel slighted when their phones of barely a few months is outdone by a brand new phone. This onslaught of new phones has a simple consequence: the alienation of the most loyal customers. After a few times of being forgotten, customers will begin to look elsewhere – and that’s not good for HTC’s bottom line.
Along with being forgotten, consumers are hit with another blow: loss of support. No, not moral support, but support in terms of upgrading software, patching security issues, and general maintenance for bugs. This is an issue that has plagued not only HTC, but Google’s Android platform as a whole. After the release of a new “flagship device”, the “old” (and by old, I mean a few months old) devices become forgotten, frozen in time, and unlikely to get new software, such as Google’s current Android 4.0 OS a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich. The plethora of devices makes it difficult on HTC to update their phones in a timely manner, mainly because of the number of phone, coupled with the need to integrate their Sense skin overlay onto Android.
Essentially, HTC is confusing consumers. With so many phones, its difficult to tell which is right for you. The differences between one and the other is nearly negligible, often times making users wonder exactly what the difference even is. Nonetheless, HTC has learned its lesson. After several quarters of uncharacteristic financial decline, the company has decided to change its course, and its doing so in a big way.
The One Series is a shift in philosophy. Instead of creating so many devices that its hard to even track them, HTC is putting out just three phones. Three, very promising phones.
We’ll start with the One X. Its clear that this is the phone that HTC is setting up to be the top-of-the-line Android phone for the foreseeable future, and for good reason. Right off the bat, the design of the phone is amazing, and HTC is obviously intending it to be something that stands out amidst the waves of generic slabs. The phone sports a chassis that’s slightly curved and extremely thin. In the front, there’s a large 4.7” display, featuring a resolution of 720p. Internally, the One X packs a 1.5 GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, along with a 1 GB serving of RAM. The global version will also come with 32 GB of storage. On the back of the device, there’s an 8 MP shooter, and with the addition of HTC’s ImageSense technology, its been spectacularly impressive to those who’ve gotten a chance to try it out. A front facing camera and Beats Audio are also included as part of the package.
The phone runs the latest version of Android: ICS. However, the important part of the software side of the story is HTC’s Sense, which has been updated to version 4.0 for the One Series. Early impressions are actually approving. While not perfect, and likely not much better than stock Android, HTC has reportedly trimmed some fat from Sense, making it a lighter load for the phone to carry. This was a big issue with previous versions of Sense, as it caused many problems with phones lagging and slowing down. Sense 4.0 even provides some useful features, such as a free offer of 25 GB in Dropbox storage.
Next up is the HTC One S. Look familiar? Probably. The phone shares an eerie resemblance to its older brother, the One X. But the similarities aren’t skin deep. In fact, they’re very congruent devices, and although the One S has been deemed “mid-range”, its nothing to scoff at. The phone features a 4.3” display, albeit at a resolution of 960 x 540. Not bad by any means, but the 720p screen of the One X outdoes it, hands down. On the inside things are the same, except for the processors; the One S sports a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip, which has been reported to be screamingly fast. For the most part, everything else is in line with the One X.
Finally, we have the HTC One V. This nostalgia-inducing phone is highly reminiscent of the HTC Legend (released over two years ago), sans optical trackpad. HTC is positioning the phone as an entry-level handset, stating that it will be released even on prepaid carriers, such as Virgin Mobile USA. Accordingly, the phone is not as powerful as either of its brethren. The One V is smaller than both the X and S, with it’s screen measuring 3.7” and a relatively disappointing resolution of 800 x 480. The phone features only a single-core processor, running at 1 GHz. RAM is at 512 MB, which is half of what the X and S provide. The camera also faced a downgrade at 5 MP. Although the phone has only 4 GB of internal storage, it makes up for it in one way that the One X and S can’t claim: expandable storage via micro SD, up to 32 GB.
While the phone may not be a dominant beast on paper, it runs Android 4.0 very well, and can hold its own. The main goal that HTC is striving to achieve is to break into the lower end of the market. Rumor has it that the phone could make its way onto Virgin Mobile for only $200, off-contract.
As you can see, HTC pretty much has its bases covered. It has introduced three phones that cover the intricacies of the market, from high-end to low-end. More importantly, they have ensured a unified experience from one device to the other, while still maintaining a strong portfolio of devices. The lineup is a positive indicator of HTC’s future intents. We’ll have to wait and see just how well they perform.