Is a 5-inch ?phablet? enough to save HTC from its financial woes?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: November 8, 2012

With the third quarter results of 2012 having been recently released, the numbers are looking hot for many in the smartphone industry. As expected, Samsung and Apple have taken the market by storm with their high sales. Samsung in particular has really stomped the competition by raising their profits by 103.6%, with Apple following somewhat behind it with a 57.6% growth. Sony is steady in third place with sales totaling 8.8 million units.

However, not all companies are sitting pretty at the top with the big dogs. The fourth and fifth place contenders don’t have much to celebrate, as their numbers fall far from the growth tree. HTC comes staggering in fourth with a 36.1% drop in profits, only selling 8.4 million units. This puts HTC at a 4.8% share of the market, only barely topping the steadily faltering RIM, whose BlackBerry smartphones only sold 7.3 million units for a market share of 4.2%.

Although we’ve seen RIM’s demise coming from a mile away now, it’s difficult to say exactly where HTC went wrong. Their attempt at making a household name smartphone (HTC One line) to stand alongside the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Apple iPhone 5 weren’t exactly futile – I feel that it was a good move and they made good devices. However, it seems like HTC’s primary focus is to sell devices using Android, and in a market where upwards of 15 different manufacturers are producing Android after Android, it’s either an upward climb or a downward spiral – depending on if you play your cards right.

Rumors have been fleeting around about HTC working on a flagship device for North America that would be a 5-inch phone, otherwise known as a “phablet”. A similar phone was announced in October in Japan, known as the “HTC J Butterfly”.  After looking at the differences between the J Butterfly and the Galaxy S III or the iPhone 5, it seems that the J Butterfly (which will most likely go by another name here in North America and other locations) has some decent specs to offer aside from sporting such a large screen.

The device is rumored to feature a 5-inch 1080p “Super LCD 3” display, a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage (plus external micro SD slot), LTE, NFC, and would be running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. When compared to the iPhone 5’s Retina Display, the “Super LCD 3” display shows up quite a bit more clearly when zoomed in close up. I’m not sure who’s going to be looking at their phone with it that close to their face, but for comparison’s sake I thought I would throw that out there.

Of course, the specs may vary from what we saw in the event in Japan, but I see the specs more than likely staying on par with each other if HTC wants a fighting chance to up their phone sales this holiday season. I would like to see HTC climb back up the ladder from which they fell, as I love the HTC Sense interface and I would like to see it stick around. However, I said the same thing for Palm and webOS and that just didn’t work out like I had hoped.

Regardless, HTC is still (barely) keeping its head above water this past quarter, and until you sink below RIM and BlackBerry, I say you still have a fighting chance. HTC is set to hold a press event on November 13 in NYC, and I for one will be watching it like a hawk. I haven’t had any problems with my previous HTC phones and I would like to see them flourish once again in the smartphone world.

So what do you readers think? Do you think HTC has the means to make its way to the top again? Or at least salvage its numbers back to a decent amount? Let me know what you think!