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What used to be one of the most unique aspects of Android was choice. Devices, much to the dismay of manufacturers, come in three tiers that have sort of self-formed over the years: high-end, mid-range and low-end. Name your price and you can easily find an adequate device at just about any price point at or below $300 (with subsidization, of course). 

Notice, however, that I said that used to be a unique facet of Android. No doubt, Android still offers more choice than competitors, especially when it comes to broad device selection. But now that there are multiple generations of iPhones and Windows Phones to choose from, there are also choices in price point and quality tiers on other platforms and from other manufacturers, too.

Instead of Apple canceling the iPhone 4 when they announced the iPhone 4S, for instance, they simply dropped the subsidized and no-contract pricing and offered it as a lower-end option for those looking to save a buck. But the iPhone 3GS also stuck around for those not looking to spend any money for an iPhone. Voilà, three tiers (on top of the existing iPhone capacity tiers).

The same sort of choice can be found on Windows Phone, although Microsoft and its partner manufacturers aim to kill the spec sheet and any subsequent classification of devices. Nokia, for example, offered a seemingly high-end phone, the Lumia 900, for a common price among mid-range devices. Brand new, on launch day, the Nokia Lumia 900 only cost buyers $99.99 plus tax. And many of last year's Windows Phone models are still being sold, now only for a bargain.

And that's how this story goes; last year's flagships are this year's mid- to low-range devices. The specs that made a device high-end last year, place it in the middle of the pack this year. And the mid-range and low-end devices are discontinued and slip into oblivion.

Nonetheless, many Android manufacturers continue to aimlessly manufacture low-end devices. A prime example of just that can be found on any major carrier: the LG Enlighten on Verizon, the Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate on AT&T, LG Optimus Elite on Sprint or the Samsung Gravity Smart on T-Mobile. These are the devices that serve only to tarnish the Android name, devices that use all the bottom-of-the-bucket components to bring a low enough price tag that penny-pinching consumers just can't resist.

"Why get a flip phone for $20 when I can get a smartphone for free?" That's a question I heard countless customers ask when I worked as a wireless sales consultant. And I felt kind of bad for them. There was no talking them into a better device for $50 more. They wouldn't even budge on older devices with better specs, not for the same price or even sometimes free. Newer means better, right?

And this has never made sense to me. Why do these companies continue to waste millions upon millions of dollars on low-end phones that no one really wants anyway? Why not let the natural evolution of existing devices run its course? Make fewer phones and let high-end devices run a two-year course instead of just six or 12 months, and gradually drop the price as better models come out.

One manufacturer, however, may be seeing the bigger picture here … finally. Yesterday evening, HTC CEO Peter Chou told The Wall Street Journal that the company would be focusing on mid-range to high-end phones moving forward. "We don't want to destroy our brand image," said Chou to WSJ. (That is, any more than they already have. ChaCha, anyone?) Chou promised HTC will not use "cheap, cheap phones" to boost its market share and will instead continue to offer devices with "better materials" for a continued "premium experience".

Frankly, this is something all Android manufacturers should learn from and should take note of. Boosting market share by saturating an emerging market with low-end devices with a poor user experience isn't a business model that's built to last. The more attention HTC gives to high-end phones, the better. Low-end models will create themselves, in due time.

I can't speak for everyone. But in almost any case I can imagine, I would much rather buy a former flagship than a current low-end or mid-range device. Case in point: I would rather own one of the Galaxy S II devices over, say, the Galaxy Exhilarate on AT&T. Once the Galaxy S III launches, though, it's tough to say what will happen to Samsung's flagship line from last year. Carriers might drop the price and continue to sell them, or they might discontinue them altogether. Here's to hoping for the latter, and for Samsung to finally realize they don't need to continue making low-end phones.

Tell me, does HTC need to continue with low-end phones, for the sake of penny-punchers and emerging markets? Or should they stick to their most recent endeavor, the One series, which deals in only mid-range and high-end devices? Would you rather own a former, more well-known flagship device over a current day low-end phone? (Hint: think about developer support.)


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23 Reactions to this post

"Should HTC focus exclusively on high-end devices?"


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Isaac Shinde i like htc because they more concerned about the user experience. u can feel the difference wen u use a htc device (android) . it feels better than any other typical looking android phones
LaQuise Murphy Yes because you always do what you are good at and HTC does that quiet well.
Edward Gonse HTC has put out some very impressive devices over many years and I believe they are doing very well. However, I believe that if they want to stay in a strong spot in the mobile world, they must expand to all spectrums of the market. Consumers want variety, but not just from a high-end standpoint of what post-paid carriers have to offer. The prepaid market has steadily been nibbling at the heels of post-paid offerings recently and there is definitely a firm stock in this section of the business. Virgin Mobile has confirmed the eventual release of the HTC One V which another good step of "getting their feet wet" in the prepaid market. With the economy still in its infancy of rebuilding, this is a perfect opportunity for HTC to make its presence felt in other areas of offering more devices throughout the level of products they are capable of offering. Of course everyone wants to have the latest and greatest beast phone that's out at the time but not many can afford even the subsidized price of such a device by signing a 2 year contract with a post-paid carrier, let alone pay the suggested retail price. Many people don't even know if they will have confidence in themselves to remain on the contract to afford to pay their bills on time if at all for such a period of time. They need to use just a little more logic and good old fashioned common sense if they want to remain a force in the market. When they say they want to focus solely on high-end devices, its like them sticking their nose up in the air and scoffing at hard working people who just flat out can't afford a post-paid contract device. Long story short: Offer low-end to high-end devices to compliment who can afford what. They will be surprised to see the results in sales and the satisfaction of knowing they are accomodating the needs of the consumers.
Eduardo Ordaz Yes. Luv my new HTC Vivid. Running on 4.0.
Chris Robinson anyone know anything about att new 50 dollar unlimited plan?
Chad Forthman Yea if they want exclude a big portion of the public go right ahead. Not everyone can shell out two to three hundred dollars for a cell phone.
Nichson Tiang They should focus on making devices that actually works as promised...
Felix Tran Some people prefer low end Android phones though, they couldn't care less about fragmentation or slow speed or whatever.
Josh Lazenby I agree with the article. I think when Android first came out, and even for a few years after, low end devices were needed. There is a market for the cheaper devices. We are at a point now though, that the way it should be done is using previous high end devices for the different tiers. High end - Current high end devices. Mid range - Last year's high end devices. Low end - High end devices from 2 years ago. Phones are getting to the point now where they are good enough to fall too far behind when a new model comes out. For example: The Galaxy S2. Last year's top phone, but it can still go head to head with the current generation of devices. Even the top phones grom a few years ago aren't bad. I would take my old HTC Desire over any crap low end device any day.
Mark Mann Yes and stop messing up android it's not doughnut anymore.
Paul Moakley If there wasn't a desire to have the more basic model phones then they wouldn't continue to make them. I too am a wireless consultant and you have to understand that there are people in all age categories that may not have the need or the want to have data devices with 4.5" screens or bigger. And if you're with one of the four major carriers there's the additional cost of data that has to be thought of in these harsh economic times. Then on top of it you have a whole branch of people who buy the devices who know 1/10th if that of what their devices can do (I take some responsibility as it may be something the customer may not have been shown by someone like myself). Whether someone is 15 or they're 75 if you're signing a 2 year agreement people want a new device. Even on base models the software, charge time and signal can improve. Even in the prepaid world there are a large amount of people who would rather not need all the information at their fingertips. I think the person who wrote this article may need to take a step back in regards to the real world versus having the latest and greatest in the palm of your hand, not everyone needs a blazing fast smartphone.
Marcus Cadwell I just don't see the point. If you want a cheaper phone, buy an older high end one used. Stop coming out with cheap crappy phones!
Quincy Bradford Omg preach brother! preach!!!
George Av SAMSUNG FTW
Abram Wenevermet Dennis The last 2 high end htc phones I owned were trash.. HTCEVO & the HTC Evo3d.. Never again
Jason Ramos No. Theres always a market for low end devices. Free on major carriers with contract or adequately priced on a prepaid carrier such as MetroPCS or Cricket. They should not abandon that base.
Nathan Kendall I think all HTC devices are great, but I have only personally owned their high-end devices.




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