Can HTC break the monotony?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: November 26, 2011

It wasn’t too long ago that I asked you whether or not you think HTC should make some big changes to their proprietary user interface lovingly known as Sense UI. I say lovingly because there’s no denying that people like it. They’ve liked it since the launch of the HTC Hero, and there may even be a few of you out there who have loved it even before it was known as Sense. But, it really does need a change, and now that we’ve all seen the leaks of the rumored HTC Ville, I’m beginning to think it’s not just software that HTC needs to change.

It could just be bad timing. I’m not sure anymore. Or, maybe it’s just the fact that HTC has released a lot of phones over the last few months that I’m beginning to think they are all looking alike. Because they all do look alike. Sure, there are some subtle changes, but for the most part you can look at an HTC device and not even need to see the apparent branding on the front to know it’s an HTC manufactured device. That may be a good thing for HTC, because that’s the very literal definition of brand recognition, but there’s just got to be a point where the monotony gets the better of you.

The truth is I’m a fan of interesting design. When it became brutally obvious that phones were not just accepting the slab form factor into existence, but also promoting it, I knew it was going to be hard to actually find unique devices out there. And that’s become a reality. We love our phones with the big displays, and now that we’re getting rid of physical buttons, it’s going to be even harder for companies to make a phone that actually looks unique.

Motorola seems to have it down, especially with their latest hard-edged devices like the Motorola DROID RAZR, and that goes a long way. We’ve seen Apple revolutionize the way the iPhone is looked at, and I don’t mean just the way that it’s accepted in the world. If we look at the original iPhone and we compare it to the iPhone 4/4S, there’s a huge difference. And Apple has made changes to the way the iPhone looks in all of its major upgrades. (Major being the key word there, folks.) But, when I look at an HTC device, and that’s starting from, say, the HTC Incredible, and then it all goes downhill. Sure, the back of the Incredible looked different, but we can’t even say that anymore, can we? There have been newer devices with the same kind of battery cover, like the recently released HTC Rezound. This, by the way, looks like a combination of the HTC Sensation and HTC DROID Incredible 2. Fancy that.

I love that HTC has that brand recognition. I really do. But, at the same time, companies have the ability to retain that kind of recognition without making all of their phones look the same. Apple has it. Samsung has it – and Motorola has it. Yes, all of these companies have a few handsets out there that look familiar to previously released devices, but I honestly don’t believe that we’re looking at a sort of monotonous routine here. With HTC, and especially looking at the HTC Ville and, even further, the Edge, I can’t honestly say that HTC is really working on making unique-looking handsets. They’ve got their routine down pat, and they don’t seem to be all that excited, or even interested, in changing it.

Sure, the HTC Ville is thin, and that’s great. But, that’s not good enough to really change the way that HTC is looked at. Thin is great, and yes, thin is in, there’s no doubt about that. But it is more than time for HTC to not just make phones thin, but it’s time for them to incorporate a new design element. We’ve got plenty of blank slabs out there, and I’m sure there’s going to be plenty more as manufacturers embrace Ice Cream Sandwich, but if they all look the same, what’s the point?