How HTC went from smartphone trailblazer to barely breathing

You’re starting on page 3 of this, click here to start at the beginning.

The future for smartphones is cheap

Things have changed since Steve Ballmer scoffed at the iPhone’s $600 price tag in 2007. There’s always a place for premium smartphones in both features and brand recognition, but one thing that’s certainly changed is that cheap prices are king, once again.

The world is a far different place from what it was during HTC’s peak in 2011: Smartphones are no longer subsidized; emerging markets are interested in cheaper phones; wireless service is more expensive than ever; and phone buyers aren’t necessarily looking for the latest and greatest anymore — they just want to get by with what’s cheap and what works for their budget. For most people, a $300 smartphone is more than enough. Even high-end Chinese smartphones like the OnePlus 2 start at just $330, a far cry from the $600+ for any premium HTC or Samsung device. To make matters worse, people are only willing to shell out the big bucks if they think the phone is as much a fashion statement as designer clothes or luxury watches.

Premium smartphones will always have their place, but the arrival of lower-cost smartphones is making many doubt the $600 price for high-end devices — unless they’re named iPhone. IDC’s latest data on market share shows how cheaper Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi are growing, while brands like Samsung fall. HTC doesn’t even make the top 10 among smartphone manufacturers anymore.

IDC: Smartphone Vendor Market Share 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 Chart

The spoils of victory never last long. It may have vanquished HTC from the throne, but Samsung is feeling the burn from consumers who are tired of high-priced phones. While Apple’s market share remains cyclical to its annual launches, Chinese manufacturers continue to challenge Samsung’s dominance in the Android world.

The rise of powerful low-cost phones represents what the next five years will look like for the industry. There will always be the high-cost, flagship phones from Apple and Samsung, but other manufacturers will start competing in the low-cost, mid-range market, and this spells even more trouble for small manufacturers like HTC. If HTC fails to breathe new life into its One line of premium smartphones, the company will be forced to compete on the even-thinner margins among Chinese mid-range and high-end devices.

HTC’s fate in the years ahead

So what will happen to HTC as these cheap, Chinese smartphones take the mobile world by storm? As much as HTC has fallen, the company isn’t about to go under. HTC is still cash-flow positive, despite years of poor performance, and its layoffs will likely help it weather through the next year, as long as things don’t get seriously worse. After all, even BlackBerry is still around despite its similar fall from grace.

HTC will need to make bold moves if it ever hopes to capture the hearts and minds of smartphone users again.

However, with HTC’s stock at an all-time low, the company is a prime target for acquisitions. With plenty of patents, brands, and other intellectual properties, the company could end up like Motorola — a once well-performing brand that was divided and conquered by the other wireless manufacturers for its name recognition, patents, and other intellectual rights. Google and Microsoft have already tried this strategy with limited success, so it’s difficult to say if any companies like Asus are itching to buy HTC.

Many of HTC’s devices are still among the best we review each year here at Digital Trends, and the company certainly has fans who hope it can reclaim its former glory. But HTC’s fall from grace was no accident: it’s the result of four years of crappy devices, poor sales, ineffective marketing, dumb investments, and bad decisions. It’s going to take more than a decent smartphone and a Superbowl TV ad to turn things around. HTC will need to make bold moves if it ever hopes to capture the hearts and minds of smartphone users again. Until then, it seems destined to slowly fade into obscurity.

Product Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review in progress

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus is here, and it’s the biggest and best Samsung phone ever. Its key feature is its looks, as it has an attractive rear design, highlighted by the new Aura Glow color, but little else has changed.

MediaTek and Huawei’s partnership may mean cheap 5G phones in early 2020

Huawei has reportedly made a deal with MediaTek to use its new 5G SoC in a low-cost 5G smartphone expected to launch in early 2020. MediaTek launched the 5G SoC in May, and indicated the first phones to use it would come next year.

Grab the terrific Samsung Galaxy A50 phone for $126 less on Amazon

Samsung is mostly known for its premium Galaxy S and Note Series phones, but it also manufactures cheaper phones through the A-Series. An example is the Samsung Galaxy A50 which not only looks great but also boasts a lot of features.
Movies & TV

Apple TV+ : Everything we know about Apple’s Netflix-style streaming service

Apple has an ambitious slate of original programming it has been developing for its streaming service Apple TV+, and now we know some details about where and when we'll be able to see it. Here's everything we know about Apple TV+ so far.

Fitbit Versa 2 will reportedly roll out September 15 with OLED display, Alexa

Leaked images confirm that the Fitbit Versa 2 will come with an OLED display and Alexa integration, with more than four days of battery life. A source claims that the Fitbit Versa successor will be released on September 15.
Social Media

Twitter’s latest effort to tackle abusive content focuses on Direct Messages

Twitter launched a new feature designed to filter out abusive Direct Messages from people you don't follow. The content is collected in one place and can still be viewed if you want to periodically check what's coming in.

3 to beam up: Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo collaborate on new file transfer feature

Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo are working together on a new device-to-device file transfer feature for Android. The unnamed feature will be used instead of Android Beam when it's retired from Android in the near future.

Nokia 7.2 case renders reveal a round triple-lens camera design

According to the latest rumors, we can expect the Nokia 7.2 to be a phone with a large screen over 6 inches and a triple-camera system. Here's all the news and rumors about the Nokia 7.2.

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to get your Android phone into recovery mode.

Huawei gets another short reprieve from ban, but the future doesn’t look hopeful

Huawei has been given another 90-day extension to the Temporary General License, which holds off the ban imposed on it by the U.S. government in May, meaning it’s allowed to continue trading with U.S. companies for now.

Miami public transportation is getting Google Pay — and it could save you money

Google and the Miami-Dade Transit public transportation system have announced that the system will now support Google Pay -- meaning you can tap to pay at turnstiles, instead of having to buy a ticket for each ride.

Google was sharing Android user location data with carriers worldwide

Google quietly ended a service providing cell carriers with location data from customers. The service provided user data from Android devices on any carrier. Data was aggregated and anonymous, and carrier names weren't disclosed.

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.

Google Duo is getting a low-light mode to brighten up your video chats

Google Duo is getting a little more useful in low light. Google has announced a new low-light mode for Duo that is aimed at brightening up video in case you're video-chatting at night or in a poorly lit environment.
3 of 3