Has LTE hurt HTC?

LTE has been a drain on HTC fortunes. Can it do better in 2012?

It seems that things aren’t going so well for Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, after it reported lower than expected quarterly earnings, bringing to and end four quarters of growth. Oops.

For a company that was famed for its stratospheric rise into public consciousness, it’s a bit of a come down. HTC was known to mobile aficionados, (or geeks as they are more commonly known), as the manufacturers behind early smartphones such as the Windows Mobile powered Orange SPV. It first introduced a touch screen device in 2007 (called the HTC Touch – brilliant) just before the iPhone was released. When Android came along HTC was able to really express itself though, producing powerful, affordable, quality hardware, married to an advanced, cutting-edge OS, enhanced, in the main, with its own ‘Sense’ overlay. It was a successful formula – and led to it quickly becoming the standard bearer for Android.

In fact, consumers were soon talking about an ‘HTC’ as a rival for the iPhone, rather than an ‘Android’.  No mean feat.

However, it turns out the problem wasn’t Apple, it was Samsung. The Korean manufacturer has stolen its thunder as the goto Android alternative, with its Galaxy line taking over from ‘HTC’ as that ‘not-an-iPhone’ brand leader. Samsung quadrupled its smarthone sales in 2011 compared to 2010 and with the iPhone leaving hot cakes in the shade for umpteenth year running, it’s been at the expense of HTC rather than Apple.

So what is the problem for HTC? A big issue in the US is that instead of technical leadership, in 2011 it became known for producing too many phones that were hard to differentiate. It’s also clear that LTE hindered rather than helped. The phones were generally 3G devices with LTE functionality bolted on. This obviously requires a lot of power, but HTC tended to keep the batteries relatively thin, in order to avoid burdening the phones, and the users pockets, with an even larger footprint.  iOS5.0 battery issue Snafu aside, Apple also puts a lot of work into battery life optimisation, which is inevitably harder to do when OS and manufacturer are not vertically aligned.

The end result is that HTC LTE phones have quickly became known as power hungry clunky bricks rather that the technical, speedy tour-de-forces that it probably had intended. Not cool.

Indeed HTC’s top brass have come out and said as much, with its CFO admitted that it had “dropped the ball” with its recent line-up. In comparison, Apple’s reserved and patient approach to LTE looks ever more sensible.

A Nokia 6310 – last charged in 2003, and still going. Fully multimedia too – Calls AND texts.

LTE in Europe is still limited and HTC and Samsung have clearly been concentrating on the 700MHz LTE frequencies used in the States as that’s where the volume is right now but HTC has just announced that the Velocity is coming to Vodafone Germany soon. As LTE starts to roll out in the Europe and the Middle-East though, we could soon be faced with the same LTE-induced battery pain that the US has (One advantage of the UK not having LTE until the mid 22nd century, (probably), is that the chipsets will at least decidedly mature and the chronic battery issues will presumably be sorted. Presumably).

So if you’re in Europe will you be jumping on board with LTE as soon as you can get your mits on a smartphone? Will you keep your phone and go with a Mifi device? Wait for the iPhone 5? Or see how it all pans out and just stick with your Nokia 6310. Now that was a phone…

Comments on: "Has LTE hurt HTC?" (4)

  1. Interesting article but I don’t think this will hurt HTC in the long run. I love my HTC Desire HD. I think HTC are a great brand and are forward thinking. My first Android phone was the Samsung Galaxy and they dropped support for it within a few months. HTC support their users and update their phones. I’m really looking forward to how they improve the phones before they launch 4g in the UK – I’m sure it’ll be great.

  2. Elie Jesner said:

    Thanks for that blog. I’d been wondering why my HTC battery is so poor, now I think I’m starting to get it…

  3. @Josh By updating, I assume you mean supporting the latest Android releases? You’re right, it’s an issue for Android. There are far too many phones out there running different versions of Android. When Apple releases an update, almost everyone gets it at once – e.g. iOS5 was available for a new model and two older ones – almost the entire iPhone market. Android is too fragmented for that, a consequence of the open model. You’re brand loyalty is admirable but I’m not sure most people are bothered about long term OS support and will go with the newer and shinier – and Samsung has done a better job of that, at least in 2011.

    @elie It’s an issue for Android. Hopefully it’ll get better and all the more important when LTE is thrown into the mix.

    • @Benny I’m not sure “newer and shinier” is a long term strategy – it may work for the first smartphone you get but if you have a bad experience for what ever reason then it puts you off – on the other hand have a great experience and you’ll come back for more.

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