Market Insight

HTC attempts to delay the inevitable with its latest flagship device

April 13, 2016


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HTC has launched its new flagship product, the HTC 10, signalling an end the ‘One’ brand that adorned HTC’s flagship devices for the previous 3 years. The new flagship boasts a top of the line spec sheet including:

  • 5.2 inch, QuadHD display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB or 64GB storage with a microSD slot
  • 12MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera; both with HTC’s UltraPixel technology
  • USB Type-C connector
  • 3000 mAh battery with quick charge capability

 

The HTC 10 will go on sale in early May starting at $700 unlocked in the US.

HTC also announced a regional variant called the HTC 10 Lifestyle. This version features cheaper components such as: Snapdragon 652 processor, 3GB of RAM, a slower 4G modem, and no option for 64GB storage. This lower cost version will be sold in India, China and some South East Asian markets where the high price of the HTC 10 would be a larger impediment to sales.

 
Our analysis
 

It is no secret that HTC is struggling hugely as a company. The company lost over $500m last year as its smartphone shipments dropped 28% to 15.9m units. When HTC came to the fore of the Android scene in 2010-2011, it had two key advantages over its competition at the time. Their handsets very well designed and HTC’s Sense overlay made up for Android’s poor design.

Since then however, Google has hugely improved the UI of Android while competitors such as Samsung have also improve their own Android overlays.  Indeed, with the HTC 10, HTC has removed many of its own apps that duplicated functionality of core Android apps, as it recognises this is now longer an area where it can provide a consumer benefit.

Samsung has also invested hugely in improving the design and build quality of their handsets. The curved edge display of the S7 Edge makes it arguably the best industrial design on the market. In just 5-6 years, HTC has lost both of its original competitive advantages.

At the other end of the market, lower cost devices now provide a good experience and the gap between a “low cost” OEM and a “premium” OEM is significantly lower. This has a huge impact on OEMs based in high cost countries like Sony (Japan), LG (South Korea) and HTC (Taiwan) as their mainly Chinese competitors can easily beat them on cost.

In the long term, HTC will be relying on its virtual reality product, the Vive, for sales and growth. It still needs its smartphone business for the short term while the VR market is in the early stages of development, but it is only a matter of time before HTC exits the smartphone market. The HTC 10 exists to help bridge the gap to that time and hopefully limit the company’s losses. This is likely why the device is priced higher than last year’s model, despite the general erosion in smartphone prices in the market.

While the new camera is doubtlessly a huge improvement for HTC, the camera was always one of the weakest elements of it handsets for the past couple years. Samsung, Apple and Sony are still ahead of HTC in camera technology, and with the resources each of those have available, it is highly unlikely HTC will ever be able to catch up.

HTC is giving its new flagship every chance to succeed by launching it several weeks after Samsung and LG launched their 2016 flagships. This should allow HTC’s relatively limited marketing budget to have a greater impact when it doesn’t need to compete against the cacophony of advertising from its Korean competitors. However, the HTC 10 does not have any particular stand out features that will entice customers to its handset over the other flagship devices. HTC has focused on producing a sleek, stylish device without any frivolities such as the edge display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the modular components of the LG G5. It even removed its logo from the front of the phone.  As such, HTC will be relying on a good marketing campaign to generate buzz for the device which likely fed into the decision to avoid its competitors’ launches.
 

Geography
Taiwan
Organization
HTC HTC Corp.
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