HTC announced Tuesday its newest flagship phone, an updated model of last year’s HTC One.
And it’s no surprise that early reviews and first impressions are pretty good. Last year’s device was widely considered to be the best Android phone, and the new HTC One simply builds on everything that made the original great.
But the wrinkle for HTC was that even though it built an incredible device, it sold relatively few compared to its chief rivals Samsung and Apple last year. According to ComScore, HTC only has 5.4% of the U.S. smartphone market, while Apple has 41.6% and Samsung has 26.7%. Plus, HTC’s market share is dropping.
The question now is: Why does HTC expect its new One phone to be a success when it’s trying to sell customers a device that’s very similar to the one that didn’t perform last year? Rewards and critical accolades are great, but it doesn’t do HTC much good if it doesn’t translate to sales.
In an interview with Business Insider, HTC’s president Jason Mackenzie said that even though last year’s One sales couldn’t match the competition, the device was still the best-selling phone in the company’s history. (HTC never reports precise unit sales, so it’s tough to tell what that means exactly.) Meanwhile, U.S. consumer recognition of the One brand is up 20% over last year when the original phone launched, according to Mackenzie.
“It’s a young franchise,” Mackenzie said. “We are David battling multiple Goliaths. But today we feel extremely optimistic because we didn’t just do some kind of weak improvement to our phone. It’s substantial upgrades to the design, the software, and the hardware.”
Mackenzie also said this year’s One phone has the advantage of more carrier support than its predecessor. The phone launched Tuesday on all four major U.S. carriers if you order online. Verizon already has the phone in its retail stores and other carriers and Best Buy will start stocking the phone by April 10. Dates will vary by retailer.
Still, that’s a lot better than HTC’s launch last year. The original One faced a few production delays and didn’t launch on all carriers at the same time. In fact, Verizon customers had to wait several months after launch to buy the phone.
The final piece of the puzzle, according to Mackenzie, is advertising. The new One will launch with a host of new ads for TV, the Web, and billboards in major markets like New York that Mackenzie seemed pretty optimistic about.
If you want to be sceptical though, HTC has given a similar line in the past, saying it needed to spend more on advertising and marketing in order to start boosting sales of its devices. That clearly didn’t work.
It’s a real conundrum for HTC. In a way, HTC operates under the same assumption that Apple does: if it makes great devices people love to use, sales will follow. In another way, it’s following the Samsung model of spending a lot on advertising and marketing.
So far though, nothing has stuck.
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