Is HTC finally beginning to get the picture?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| December 21, 2011

In three short years, Android has managed to grow from an up and coming platform that many thought would never make a difference to the most popular mobile operating system in the world. That would not have been possible if it were not for some of the partnerships they made with OEMs like HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Recently, however, things have gotten a little out of control.

These three popular Android parter manufacturers have completely lost sight of what it is to create a well-rounded phone with any sort of future. Everything is in the moment, here and now. A week from today, their latest handset will be old news and outdated by yet another one of their own, or less likely, a competitors' product.

Collectively, since November of last year, well over 100 Android phones have been released worldwide. That's just from a handful of manufacturers. Needless to say, in many, this has been at the sacrifice of quality and long-term planning. Most of these I would not wish on my worst enemy.

I've been saying it for well over a year now: Android OEMs desperately need to focus on making fewer phones.

Motorola is easily one of the worst. Since May, Motorola and Verizon together have launched four nearly identical DROIDs: DROID X2, DROID 3, DROID BIONIC and DROID RAZR. As if that weren't enough, there are two more on their way in the not too distant future, the DROID 4 and DROID RAZR Maxx. Samsung isn't much better about firehosing phones, but at least that have structure and manage to launch most of the same devices around the world instead of seven nearly identical devices on a single carrier in under a year. But a perfect example of their doings was following up the launch of the AT&T Galaxy S II with the Galaxy S II Skyrocket. There is no logical explanation for these two phones launching on the same carrier just weeks apart.

HTC has also been pretty bad about the same thing. The HTC Sensation 4G launched on T-Mobile in May. Since then, there have been two unnecessary variants of the Sensation (XL and XE), the slightly better Amaze 4G and the HTC Rezound on Verizon. There were also the HTC Inspire 4G on AT&T and the first LTE phone, the ThunderBolt on Verizon. Each of these phones are all strikingly similar, yet they all have noticeably different specifications and were launched within a few months from one another.

Instead of focusing on creating one or two high-end phones to get them through the year, these OEMs have perfected the art of incrementalization. They have thrown true quality to the wind to incrementally launch the same device in multiple, ever so slightly different variations, sending the previous version into irrelevancy by a slight margin mere weeks after its arrival. And it never fails; there is at least one gaping flaw with each and every one – build quality, poor camera, poor audio recording, lackluster display, etc. There isn't a single phone that has it all and also touts near perfect build quality.

However, in 2012, at least one Android manufacturer has plans for reform. According to a report originating at BGR, HTC has plans to rework its smartphone strategy and focus more on quality over quantity. (Imagine that.) The word is they will launch a Titan-like Windows Phone with 4G LTE on AT&T in February, and they will have only one Android flagship in the first half of 2012, the Elite (or Congressional). Specs – beyond Ice Cream Sandwich and Beats Audio – and date weren't given.

I, for one, am taking this report with a large dose of salt, and I suggest you all do the same. The source was not given, it was simply a "trusted source" of BGR's. There is no way to gauge the report other than to wait it out and see what actually happens. We've already learned of the HTC Ville and Edge. Adding the Elite to the mix doesn't exactly sound like HTC has plans of slowing down. If anything, it seems as if they're ... speeding up.

I would love nothing more than to see HTC and other OEMs take on a more quality-driven, less-rushed approach. Actually being able to own an Android phone for more than a week or month and it not feel like a phone of yesteryear would be nice, for a change. But I'm not holding my breath. I'll believe it when I see it.

The sad news is that despite hopes that Sense UI atop Ice Cream Sandwich would be less heavily themed, we were wrong. Very wrong. A leaked 4.0 update for the Sensation surfaced earlier today, showing that the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Sensation, at least, will be themed with Sense 3.5. Apart from the folders, it looks awfully Gingerbread-esque, no?

If nothing else, HTC at least appears to be on the right track in terms of hardware. Their software could still use a little work and maybe a little less theming. Anywho, which OEM is up next? Moto? Sammy? I will take quality over quantity any day of the week, and I would hope you all agree. Here's to hoping more Android OEMs jump on the quality bandwagon. It can only mean better phones for everyone.