Here we are in 2013, and looking back on 2012 we find that smartphone maker HTC had a dismal 2012. That’s not news by any stretch of the imagination, the company’s troubles have been well documented. Samsung, the gigantic player of the mobile industry, basically beat up HTC and stole its lunch money. Apple, that conniving and clever older sister, boxed HTC into a corner and took whatever it wanted.
Yes, Apple and Samsung are HTCs biggest problem. Why?
Because they have deeper resources, better distribution and a better position in the minds of phone buyers. They also have better… marketing? At least that’s the real problem according to HTC.
Marketing? Really? That’s What You Think The Problem Is?
“Our competitors were too strong and very resourceful, pouring in lots of money into marketing. We haven’t done enough on the marketing front,” HTC CEO Peter Chou said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A CEO of a once-powerful smartphone manufacturer addresses a poor year, claims that the company is basically fine and blames the marketing department and budget for undercutting potential sales.
The RIM Example
Oh wait. We have all heard that one before:
“What we need to get a bit better at here is to have a little bit more of an ear toward the consumer. I want to strengthen this by bringing really good marketing expertise in,” said Research In Motion’s CEO Thorsten Heins when he was announced as the head of the company in January 2012.
RIM would go on to have the worst year in its history – making its previous problems seem insignificant.
HTC’s problems are not the same as RIM’s, of course. The BlackBerry maker’s major flaw in 2012 was that it did not release a new smartphone to the market and its aging BlackBerry 7 operating system was forced to carry the load while waiting for an upgrade. Most of RIM’s sales in 2012 came from international liquidation of old products ahead of the BlackBerry 10 launch. RIM’s problem was not a failure of marketing, it was a failure to do… anything.
HTC Has A Host Of Issues
On the other hand, HTC came out with its One series of devices in 2012 which were generally well regarded by tech writers and the few people that bought them. Even the Windows 8x and 8S which are excellent devices haven’t really shone but loved by those who have them. I must say that I have the ONE S and love it. OK I put the ViperOneS ROM on it but, that does not take away the fact it’s a great device. The Droid DNA on Verizon proved a decent addition to the US market at the end of the year.
HTC’s problems stemmed from a variety of faults. Foremost among them was distribution. Samsung and Apple have both realized that the best way to gain rapid market share is to be everywhere all the time. Samsung typically releases its flagship Galaxy smartphones (including the S 3 and Note II last year) in Europe and on all four major carriers in the United States and most of the equivalent carriers around the globe.
Apple has worked hard to increase its international and pre-paid market presence and, since the iPhone 4S, sells the iPhone on most UK networks and three top U.S. carriers.
Availability Is Key
HTC needs to recognize that its problem not just marketing, but availability. That’s no doubt why the company is making a renewed effort in China with the Butterfly – and initial reports are encouraging. According to The Wall Street Journal, HTC sold 2.8 million smartphones in China in the third quarter of 2012.
Patents and distribution.
Those were HTC’s biggest problems – not marketing. Failure to create a product intriguing enough to stop the hordes from buying iPhone’s and Galaxies. HTC lost ground to budget Android manufacturers ZTE and Huawei as well, so it is not just an Apple/Samsung problem.
Sure, that probably did play a role in HTC’s overall poor performance, but it was not the be-all and end-all as some believe. HTC’s problems had more to do with logistics than advertising.
When HTC comes out with its next flagship device (likely to be called some derivation of “M7” new details emerge) later this year, it needs to get it released in European markets on all carriers. Build hype through marketing, then win with ubiquity and beauty.
So, here we are at the beginning of a new year, once again hearing the “marketing was our biggest problem” story from a struggling smartphone leader. Can HTC avoid what happened to RIM after Heins made his proclamation? Perhaps, as long it manages to release new smartphones that continue to push the envelope on design and features.
Yep, I can live with no removable battery. I’d prefer removable, but it’s not a total deal breaker.
Yep, I can live with no SD card, again, I’d prefer to have one, but wouldn’t prevent me from buying what was otherwise the perfectly good phone.
Yep, I could live with low internal memory… as long as there was an SD slot.
Oh, and therein lies the problem with HTC – they just have too many issues. Any one would be a minor but easily overlooked, but all of them together this I believe is where HTC made the blunder. Non- removable batteries, no expandable memory, paltry built-in memory and throw in a demonstrated track record of not updating software for good measure. I would expect such issues from a cheap Chinese knockoff, not from HTC. Now we know why they teamed up with BOX to give new users 25GB of cloud storage. This was a good move but they just stopped there. Whether users need it or not, an SD card is regarded as a must by most, (although more devices are coming out without SD slots) unless you beef up the internal memory which, they did with the X+ to 64GB, users are just going to look elsewhere. Many people now think that at least 32GB is the minimum requirement now, along with a minimum 2GB of RAM.
If they think this is just a marketing issue, they’re better sit down and think again.