HTC: rise and fall of a Titan

HTC, once considered a colossus of the Windows Mobile platform and the company to launch the first Android phone in the market now bites the dust and struggles to survive in the super fast world of smartphones. It’s sad to see the state of affairs of such a company that gave the world its first Android device and enjoyed its fair share of the domination over the market for quite a time.

Now, smartphones have stepped up from being a fashion accessory to a necessary component of our daily lives. Being so common, 1.46 billion smartphones were shipped last year in the global market by all the companies. In this blazing fast competition, HTC has gone from the dinosaur of the industry to a minion with a little worth.

At its peak in April 2011, the company was worth $34 billion and represented 80% of the Windows phone sales in the global market and was a major player, overwhelming all the other brands in the Android market.

A few days earlier the company posted the earnings for June 2018 which shows a huge 68% drop in sales, the biggest in 2 years which compelled the company to lay off its 1500 employees, which translates to 22% of its global workforce. Work affairs for the company are continuously deteriorating and it is bearing loss year after year.

The Glorious History

As opposed to its present conditions, HTC has seen a glorious past. Its the first manufacturer to provide a dedicated physical key in a phone, named HTC CHACHA, later it also released HTC First known as the Facebook phone.

Moreover, it was wildly innovative and was the first company to experiment with increasing the sensor size in the camera lens, that allowed 300% more light in the camera for better night photography. It was HTC, not Apple, that introduced metal unibody design to the world which US tech giant went on to copy in their upcoming smartphones.

HTC Dream
HTC Dream (a.k.a T-Mobile G1)

It was 2008 when HTC decided to release the Dream (also known as T-Mobile G1), the first Android phone ever. It was a time when not even Samsung could compete with HTC as it held a firm grip on the smartphone market.

By 2009, HTC’s market share summited to 6 percent of the whole world with the help of its first Android phone. It was one of the greatest achievement that the company could grasp considering that Windows Mobile, Palm OS and of course the iOS were its major competitors.

In 2010, HTC once again stunned the world with the Evo 4G, the first commercially available 4G phone, which was much admired by the tech world. Attaching the 4G suffix with the phone’s name indicated that HTC wanted to make it clear that the company was aiming to build smartphones for individual networks which resulted in an expansion of options regarding the software and hardware configurations of the upcoming phones.

In the same year, HTC paired with Google to make the Google Nexus One which later proved to be the push start for the Google smartphone ecosystem all the way to the much anticipated Google Pixel 3.

HTC Google Nexus One
HTC Google Nexus One

This resulted in a huge success and according to a counterpoint research, HTC peaked the reached 10% of the global market share, highest ever recorded by the company.

Again in 2013, HTC sold 5 million units of the One M7, a beautifully crafted premium flagship with all the tweaks one could think of, at that time. With features like a premium metal unibody design, boom sound dual front-facing speakers, an improved camera, an IR blaster and a 1080p crisp display, the phone was a big hit.

No matter how great the HTC One M7 was, the company couldn’t carry forward its success and the One M8 was a huge flop. In 2012, as per IDC research HTC was one of the top five companies and by 2014, the company wasn’t even in the top 10 manufacturers.

What Went Wrong?

While any single concrete reason behind the fall of HTC can’t be clearly stated, it was the unwanted turn and unfolding of different circumstances that led to the fall of the giant. But if you ask me what’s the biggest blunder HTC made that contributed to the fall of the company? The answer would be “taking the passive route”.

While Samsung and Apple were spending billions of dollars on advertising their products, HTC believed that their product would “speak for itself” but things didn’t go as they planned and the results proved entirely opposite to their expectations.

HTC relied heavily on their tagline “Quietly brilliant” and thought that people would buy their top-notch quality phones irrespective of the competition they face. Never had been the company more wrong.

Another misjudgment on HTC’s part is that it continues to price its phone akin to Samsung’s flagships. Considering the brand recognition that Samsung now enjoys, if it places its upcoming Note 9 in a $1000 category, it will sell.

HTC u12+
HTC U12+

While no matter how beautiful the HTC U12+ may be, it is priced at $840 so why would anyone want to buy a phone from a declining company when adding a few more bucks can get you a Samsung S9+ which remains second on the most sold out phones of May 2018.

How can HTC return to Former Glory?

First thing’s first, the company needs to understand that it has fallen way below the league of Samsung and Apple as both the brands have grabbed the top two places in the smartphone industry for a considerable time now.

So HTC should realize that it can not match the success rate of Samsung or Apple and hence it should stop pricing its phones in such manner. Rather, it should focus on producing affordable flagships, a phenomenon that Huawei and Honor have been practicing for the past couple of years.

The company should seek to build a portfolio and eventually maximize its brand recognition, only then will it be able to meet the tech giants of the industry.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see an affordable HTC U12+ with some features cut from the original version to slump the price down? It would definitely be a phone that people will gladly buy.

In addition to that, HTC should steer its focus to the lower budget market as it once did in 2013 to revive its lost identity. Unfortunately, the previous attempt failed due to the gap between the R&D and sales departments of the company and the right coordination between them. It’s no surprise that HTC really knows how to make good phones but sadly has a poor policy that results in poor sales.

There are literally millions and billions of people who are yet to own a smartphone and with the Google’s iteration of the Android Go, HTC can rectify that mistake by targeting the developing economies and facilitating users with a smartphone that is premium in its build, runs on Android Go edition and is yet affordable.

If the company understands this and pulls this off, this route might once again lead it to success.

Now, more than ever, does the company need a to make a bold move. If all fails, there is always an option of a sellout or a potential merger. With plenty of patents, brands and other intellectual properties the company easily becomes a target for acquisition.

Any Chinese company with a decent market share could potentially merge with or acquire HTC in order to produce the technology that will help the company regain its lost legacy.

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