Market Insight

HTC One brings TV multiplay strategy to smartphone design

February 19, 2013

Ian Fogg Ian Fogg Senior Director, Mobile & Telecoms

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  • The new flagship smartphone from HTC differentiates with  a new fifth version of the HTC Sense software that runs on Android.
  • HTC BlinkFeed adds a rolling media interface onto the home screen using technology from Mobiles Republic. The experience resembles Flipboard or Google+ and includes support for feed information from Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Plurk, Weebo, and a range of local media partners in each country including AOL's media brands, Reuters, MTV and ESPN
  • HTC Zoe enables consumers to capture "Zoe moments" of a sequence of full resolution still photos at five frames per second immediately before and after recording three seconds of full HD 1080p video. HTC enables these Zoe moments to be shared on its website or exported to other social media sites. The HTC One has an optically stabilised camera that is optimised for low light performance but offers just 4 megapixel stills (or what HTC call "ultrapixels") .
  • The integrated TV guide app includes TV programme data for 23 countries and is powered by Peel. HTC have chosen to brand this as Sense TV
  • These media experiences leverage top-end hardware: Dual front facing speakers branded 'HTC Boom Sound'; a 4.7 inch 1080P full HD screen; 4G LTE; quad core Series 600 Qualcomm processor; a built-in infrared remote control for use with TV sets; two axis optical stabilisation for the camera; and dual microphones optimised for recording concert footage.
  • 185 operators will range the HTC One, including three of the four large US carriers.

 

The HTC One is the first true TV multiplay smartphone and as such should be the smartphone at the heart of operator strategies to bundle fixed and mobile services.

The new HTC One is an attractive device with innovative industrial design. HTC is using premium materials to create an robust high end smartphone. By combining the device's antennas into the One's metal exterior HTC has avoided the need to use plastic on the rear, which even Apple has had to do on the metal-cased iPhone 5.

At first glance, the One looks remarkably similar to a widescreen TV because of the dual speaker grills on either side of the display. Given the strong media and video focus throughout the phone's design this is smart and provides a way for the One to stand out from other touch screen phones. The inclusion of infrared is a rare feature for modern smartphones and will enable HTC to position the One as a TV device.

HTC Zoe will provide HTC with many opportunities to drive word of mouth marketing because Zoe videos shared on social network sites will include the "shot by HTC Zoe" tagline. This will partly help HTC to counter the greater brand spending of Apple and Samsung. If HTC can ride on the momentum of micro video sharing such as Twitter-owned Vine or Cinegram then this will also help HTC in their exposure in technology media and press further helping drive HTC One adoption.

HTC has learnt the hard way that a strong product range is not sufficient to succeed in the current smartphone market. It didn't help HTC in 2012. It won't in 2013. The new HTC One will suffer the same fate if it has to face the deeper marketing spend of rivals. In particular, if Samsung unveil their next flagship Galaxy smartphone around the time that the HTC One goes on sale in mid to late March then sales of the One will be hit.

But HTC has done everything it can to ensure it has the best chance of success by creating an innovative flagship. Other factors are out of its control. HTC must hope that the HTC One has a window to shine before HTC's much larger and richer competitors ignite their significant marketing spend. The extent of that window will depend on how quickly HTC can extend the One's initial European availability into North America and Asia. The longer the gap, the more risk that the One will face Samsung head to head.

Mobile operators should seize the HTC One as an opportunity to avoid the concentration of the handsets they range into a couple of leading suppliers and should support HTC's efforts to market the One. With more than 185 operators signed up the early signs are that HTC has secured the backing it needs. Sony's upcoming Xperia Z offers operators another smartphone worthy of operator backing.

Those operators that also have a home TV or home broadband service should seek to use the HTC One to bridge their mobile and their household consumer propositions. In many regards, the HTC One is the ideal smartphone to offer as part of a fixed-mobile multiplay bundle because of its infrared remote support, dual TV-style speakers, 1080P screen, and video-centric industrial design.

There are signs here that HTC is seeking to create greater intellectual property (IP) of its own to boost its long term fortunes. The company claims that the camera technology underpinning HTC Zoe is a proprietary design of HTC using both HTC hardware and software expertise. In this sense, Nokia's acquisition of former HTC imaging partner Scalado demonstrates the importance of fostering in-house capabilities. Similarly, HTC argues that Boom Sound leverages the expertise of both HTC and Beats.

For HTC to succeed long term, creating such unique in-house IP will be critical. For now, devices such as the HTC One must fight a holding action against HTC's richer and higher profile smartphone competitors. Such IP will both help HTC to deliver great differentiated products in the future and will make HTC a more attractive acquisition target.

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