Why can't HTC or Motorola make a truly flagship device?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: November 19, 2011

We see a lot of phones these days, and not just because there are a lot of manufacturers out there. No, we see a lot of phones these days because there are a lot of manufacturers out there, and they are making a lot of phones. There is nothing wrong with that at all, truth be told. These companies make money by selling phones, and the only way to keep doing that is to make phones that everyone wants. Or someone wants, over and over again. It helps that companies like HTC and Samsung have multiple mobile operating systems to choose from to release a phone, while companies like LG (for the majority, anyway) and Motorola have chosen their Android ways, but manage to release plenty of devices (one company more than the other, though) anyway. But, here’s a question: why on Earth is Samsung the only company out there that can manage to make a truly flagship phone?

Samsung seems to have this down to a skill, actually. We saw it with the original Samsung Galaxy S, and we saw it again with the Galaxy S II. Both of these phones are phones that we still talk about, and these are phones that we’ll continue to talk about, even as we use them as placeholders and comparison devices. But, where are the devices that have garnered this much attention and praise from HTC, Motorola and LG? Nowhere to be found, that’s where.

Sure, Motorola, HTC and LG have some great phones, there’s no doubt about that. And they will continue to release great phones, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. And yes, they’ve got devices that people still talk about, long after their release. For Motorola, most would say that handset is the Motorola DROID, the handset that launched the DROID lineage for Verizon. For HTC, it would be the HTC Hero, which not only brought Android into the public eye in a whole new light, it also brought on Sense UI and a brand new craze for proprietary user interfaces on Android. But we aren’t talking about these handsets for the same reason we’ve got people talking about the Samsung Galaxy S II, not by a long shot.

Those devices were great in their own right, but they weren’t the benchmark for all other phones. These weren’t the handsets that everyone wanted to emulate, that everyone was aiming to not just match, but also beat specification for specification. Sure, the HTC Hero launched proprietary user interfaces for Android, but that was eventually going to happen anyway, HTC just beat the rest there. No one was lining up in the streets to get the Hero based on its physical specifications, after all.

So why is Samsung the only company that can manage to release a flagship device, but still release plenty of other devices at the same time? Why can’t HTC and Motorola do the same thing? Where is HTC’s Galaxy S II? Where is Motorola’s iPhone? Can we assume that HTC’s and Motorola’s strategy in the smartphone race isn’t the same as Samsung’s? I mean, they both seem perfectly content on releasing device after device, all of which feature new and better specifications than the last phone, but will be easily forgotten just two months after release. Just look at the Motorola DROID lineup and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Google’s got the Nexus (which, ironically enough, seems to be a Samsung brand now, too), and Samsung has the Galaxy S family. What does Motorola have, which actually features a stand-out, memorable device that everyone wants? Where is HTC’s phone of all phones, the one that all other companies want to emulate and steal the thunder from? That’s a long search, but unfortunately the results aren’t great.

I want these things, because it is more than obvious that both HTC and Motorola have the means to do this. So, let’s make it happen, ladies and gentlemen. Give us a phone that has HTC or Motorola branding that we’re talking about for months down the line, and we’re praising it long after its release. Make it happen!