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What HTC needs to do in 2018

by Justin Herrick | January 7, 2018January 7, 2018 9:00 am PST

HTC needs to get it together. The last few years have been pretty rough for the Taiwanese company, and 2017 saw rock-bottom revenue in most months. There was no real direction and perhaps its biggest (and definitely best) move was to sell a large portion of the mobile division to Google. In return, HTC received more than $1 billion. But that’s not going to solve problems lying ahead in 2018.

With revenue continuing to slump, HTC can’t afford any misses in the coming months. The lineup needs to be condensed big-time and fine-tuned in every way. If HTC can’t get things right, it might vanish from existence in the not-so-distant future.

We have some suggestions for what HTC should do in 2018.

Release one really great phone at the right time

HTC knows it’s not Samsung. Unlike the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer, HTC can’t develop a dozen or more phones and release them with near-guaranteed success. The company used to do that, but times have changed and almost everyone has slimmed down their lineups. These days you won’t find HTC announcing too many things. Last year the company announced the U Ultra, U11, U11+, and U11 Life. HTC didn’t bring a bunch of mid-range and low-end phones to the market.

The U series still needs to be tweaked. Even four phones released in a single year is too many for HTC. To make its resources go further, the company should focus on a very limited number of products. We’re suggesting HTC make one phone, possibly another to serve the mid-range segment, in a twelve-month window.

Its flagship also needs to best a top-notch, no-compromise product. The U11 was cutting-edge on paper, but visually the phone looked very dated. HTC’s competitors are churning out phones with glass and metal bodies, all-screen fronts, and multiple cameras. In 2017, HTC ushered out a boring-looking flagship that belonged in the past due to its large top and bottom bezels.

The U11+ does indeed have a 6-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio, but two roadblocks prevented that phone from being worth anyone’s attention. HTC didn’t bring it to key markets like the United States nor did it choose the right window to launch the phone. By the time the U11+ arrived, Apple’s iPhone X and Google’s Pixel 2 were on the way. And, as the year came to an end, most consumers started setting their sights on Samsung and LG’s 2018 flagships.

HTC has to do better choosing when its products launch. The same problem occurred in mid-2017 with the U11. The company’s true 2017 flagship was announced on May 16, during the week of Google I/O and the day after the developer conference’s keynote started.

Another thing that could help is if HTC hosted proper launch events. Again, money is tight for the Taiwan-based company. No one expects HTC to rent out a massive venue in New York City and invite hundreds of media members from around the world. But the current approach in having live-streams take place in the middle of the night for the majority of publications is puzzling. Even by providing the media with briefings ahead of announcements happening in Asia, we’re all asleep when we could be tweeting about what’s new.

Remember the One (M8)? It was gorgeous, and that’s because no other company in the mobile industry aside from Apple was using premium materials. HTC went the distance and implemented aluminum while others were working with plastic and rubber.

Internal specifications mean nothing if the exterior isn’t beautiful. HTC has to get it right this year. If the decision hasn’t already been made, everything should be cut from the pipeline and HTC needs to then go all-in on one phone. Give us everything, HTC.

Hand off Vive to someone else

Virtual reality is on the rise worldwide, and HTC stands at the front of the pack. It created the Vive, a virtual reality headset, through a partnership with Valve. The two companies have worked together and with third-party developers to create unique content for the entire platform. Unfortunately there’s no tie-in to the mobile division, though. HTC’s mobile business operates completely independently of its virtual reality business.

HTC was ambitious to get into virtual reality, and it did so with great timing. The only true competitor was and still is Oculus. The Facebook-owned company has done a great job building its own platform, and Samsung forged a partnership with Oculus in 2014 to create the Gear VR. And not getting into mobile-based virtual reality is where HTC went wrong.

The opportunity was to develop an all-inclusive portable virtual reality headset was waiting. Google ended up jumping on that with Daydream, but that platform has failed to gain any momentum. HTC’s experience in virtual reality makes you wonder what would’ve been possible on phones.

Unless a Gear VR-like product is on the way (and we hope there isn’t one at this point), HTC should cut Vive loose. Valve has plenty of cash on-hand to acquire the business and, because of the Vive’s performance over the years, a strong line of suitors would probably be interested. The alternative is spinning off Vive into a standalone company, which has long been rumored. It’s just unclear whether or not Vive has made enough money to operate independently.

Maybe call it a day

The odds are not in HTC’s favor. Its cold streak has been ongoing since mid-2015. The One M9 set the company back because of an overheating processor. Then HTC scrambled to release the One A9 to make up for its mishap, but that phone was overpriced. In 2016, the HTC 10 came and went with little interest. And last year the U series was lost in the mix, too. For almost three years, HTC hasn’t produced a winner. Not a single phone has been enough to make you choose the brand over offerings from Apple, Samsung, LG, or Motorola.

Should HTC leave the mobile industry in 2018? It’s a serious question that deserves to be talked about. Pulling the plug this year wouldn’t be wise nor is it likely, but HTC should take a long, hard look at itself over the next twelve months.

2018 could be the final year in which HTC sells phones.

Yearly revenue has been declining every year since 2012. These aren’t just minor drops, either. The percentages are dropping by double-digits. Although HTC doesn’t disclose expenses or net income, we assume they’re experiencing heavy losses month after month. Life cannot go on forever like this for HTC.

Eventually, money will run out since the ship doesn’t appear to be turning around, and then it’ll crash into the ground once and for all. HTC is too good to go bankrupt and just shut down. An acquisition would be favorable since, the people who know HTC generally like HTC, and a parent company could put its patents to work. Remember that Google’s deal to acquire a portion of the mobile division didn’t involve patents, though they’ll be shared between the companies. So HTC could sell the rest of the mobile division, including patents, without any issues.

Some potential buyers that come to mind are Acer, ASUS, and Google. Acer and ASUS, two companies also located in Taiwan, would be able to gain a global presence by picking up HTC. Google, meanwhile, would get even more experience on its side as hardware becomes a priority this year and beyond. And the price can’t be too high as HTC’s performance in recent years hasn’t been too hot.

No one, especially us here at TechnoBuffalo, wants to see HTC go away. It’s a company and brand that helped give Android the boost it needed to get off the ground. Honestly, if there was no HTC, who knows where Google’s multi-device platform would be today. But you can help but think HTC’s situation probably won’t improve in 2018.

Much love, HTC. We’re crossing our fingers that 2018 is a better year.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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