I'm more interested in software than hardware for the first time

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: February 19, 2013

It’s been a few hours now since HTC took the stage in New York City and London, and officially announced their newest flagship device: the One. Earlier today, right before the launch of the event, I was ready to write a piece about how HTC has made some drastic changes in their game plan; that we’re looking at a whole new company, ready to do battle in the mobile industry. Instead, we saw a pretty standard launch, with a smartphone that does indeed warrant any and all attention it might receive leading up to its release date in March.

When it does launch, hopefully the consumer continues that attention for the flagship handset. If not, then it would seem the worst days for HTC aren’t all that far in the distance as some within the company would like to think.

A lot has to happen between now and March, and well into the months after the device’s launch. We have to see marketing. We have to see a huge shift in advertisements for the new One device, and not just from carriers. HTC has to market their new device. HTC has to make commercials like Samsung and Apple, showing off the device, promoting its features, and flaunting its availability on multiple carriers here stateside.

On top of that, we have to see both options of the One, the 32GB or 64GB version, priced to sell. HTC can’t afford to price these devices out of the grasp of the customers they are trying to cater to. To sell to. We’re looking at devices that have shunned the previously standard 16GB of built-in storage and immediately offered up more. Unfortunately, more usually means a higher price tag. That is, unless we’re looking at a shift from all major manufacturers, and 16GB is no longer the sought-after standard. Apple’s recent moves to up the iPad’s available memory to 128GB would suggest they’re going to do the same thing with their iPad lineup, and so it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to assume that the iPhone will see that kind of transition as well.

Now, if Samsung offers up the Galaxy S IV with the 32GB model being the “lowest” of the bunch, we’re really on the right track.

Let’s just hope that doesn’t mean HTC is planning on selling the 32GB One for $299, and the 64GB model for $399. That just won’t go over well, and it will effectively price the handset right out of the hands of quite a few customers. An argument could be made that the One offers plenty of hardware specifications to warrant that type of price tag, but we’re in 2013. Quad-core processors aren’t so few and far between anymore (at least not in the Android lineup). The 1080p display is still new-ish, but that will change this year as well. 2GB of RAM? Yep, we’re already there, too. Effectively, while the One is indeed a powerhouse of a device, we’re not looking at anything that’s truly revolutionary in the hardware department.

But no surprise there, right?

The truth is, I was going to ask if you were excited to get your hands on HTC’s newest official device, but I think we’ve already covered that by now, even before the phone’s launch. The rumors painted a pretty clear image of the phone the manufacturer announced today, so we didn’t see any curveballs. Especially not to change any pre-existing decisions. The One is a powerful, sleek, and beautiful phone. Does it have anything that really stands out?

HTC thinks BlinkFeed is that thing. And, honestly, probably their UltraPixel camera, too, but we’ll get to that. First, I want to put a little more focus on the software. This is the newest version of Sense UI, and the best way to see the changes is with HTC’s media feed, built right there into the home screen. Just a quick swipe gets you to a quasi-RSS feed, which you can interact with right on the home screen, before digging into a particular story of your choice. HTC says they’ll have 1,400 sources by the time the phone launches, and upwards of 10,000 articles every single day.

Impressive numbers to say the least, and BlinkFeed is definitely a cool feature. But, is an RSS feed the feature that people have really been waiting for? I’m not so sure. Yeah, I think it’s cool, but I’m a news junkie. I read the news more than anything else on my phone, so BlinkFeed seems catered directly to me. And it could be catered to those who are emotionally attached to their social network streams, too, I imagine.

Is it a feature that will sell the phone? That’s the question, isn’t it?

The one stand-out element for HTC in the hardware department is their camera, other than the aesthetic design of the phone. It’s called the UltraPixel camera, and it’s designed to gather 300 percent more light than other smartphone cameras on the market, which should definitely make it stands out to anyone who likes to take photos with their phone.

I didn’t hear a lot about software features, though. Nothing that really stands out. Nothing that even attempts to sweep me off my feet. This tells me that HTC is taking a drastically different approach to their new flagship model than what Samsung is going to do, if we’re listening to rumors. It’s been reported that Samsung will be focusing more on software features, rather than hardware elements, with their newest Galaxy S handset. This makes sense, because while the Galaxy S III was an impressive piece of hardware, Samsung made sure to point out the software features that make the phone really stand out amidst the competition.

Eye tracking software, for example. It was one of the main selling points of the phone for Samsung, and now we’re hearing that the company will be making huge leaps in features compared to the Galaxy S IV’s predecessor. That’s a pretty exciting thing to think about, especially when we’re looking at competitive devices coming to the market here in the United States soon.

March is a busy month. We’ve already got BlackBerry’s Z10 penned to land sometime in March, and now HTC’s One is also landing on store shelves at some point in the month. Reports have it that Samsung could be unveiling the Galaxy S IV In early March, so it’s not entirely impossible to think that they could be hoping to see the phone launch here in the same month. Samsung may be confident in their product, but with the power that the HTC One is packing, and the overall new product and experience that BlackBerry offers, it would make sense for them to want to get their own flagship device out to market as soon as possible.

If you look at the People’s Choice within PhoneDog’s Official Smartphone Rankings, you’ll notice that BlackBerry has surpassed Samsung, something that I was beginning to think wouldn’t ever happen in general. That means people are excited by what BlackBerry has to offer, which will hopefully lead to sales for the Waterloo-based company’s newest handset.

Here’s the thing: the BlackBerry Z10 doesn’t rely on remarkably powerful hardware, either. It’s all about the software. Much like what we’re hearing the Galaxy S IV will focus on. And HTC is putting some effort in their software department, making sure that BlinkFeed changes the way you see your main home screen, but it would seem they’re putting a bigger focus on hardware. Aesthetic changes to Sense, instead of a major overhaul, just reinforce that point.

So here’s my question to you: which will prevail? Are we going to see people go for the hardware-focused device, with its powerful processor, stacked memory, and new industrial look? Or will Samsung be able to win the day with its focus on software, rather than a major upgrade in hardware? More to the point, can BlackBerry make up a lot of ground by not just being the “old guy in the store,” but by also offering up a new user experience unlike Android and iOS? Let me know if hardware beats out software, or if it’s the other way around for you.

Products mentioned