HTC, a carrier exclusive isn't going to help you

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: March 30, 2013

I’m beginning to believe that HTC doesn’t think they have it hard enough already. That, for whatever reason, they believe they have to handicap themselves right out of the gate here in the U.S., just to make any victory they might get better. We watched last year, for example, as the company made all sorts of announcements and had all these great plans, many of which just didn’t pan out. We didn’t see fewer phones, is just one example. This is a company that absolutely has to stick to a plan to make any headway in the smartphone race. Which is why a lot of people are excited about the One, their brand new flagship device.

As a refresher, the One features a 4.7-inch 1080p LCD 3 display, which gives it a pixel density of 469. It comes in two variations: a 32GB or 64GB model, but both feature 2GB of RAM, and a 4 Ultrapixel camera on the back. There’s also a 2.1MP front-facing shooter, BoomSound, BlinkFeed, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and HTC’s Sense UI version 5. It’s all powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, which is clocked at 1.7GHz.

All in all, the HTC One is the very definition of HTC’s design aesthetic, featuring one of the most impressive frames for a smartphone many people have ever seen. There’s no doubt that HTC managed to cram a lot of great features into a ridiculously nice design, so it should be no surprise that people here in the United States are eagerly anticipating the phone’s impending launch.

There are a lot of different, sometimes super complicated steps to having a successful product. In the case of a smartphone, there may be even more than any other device heading to retail locations. Not only do you have to start the process by showing off a device that catches the attention of potential buyers, but you have to sell it. It can’t just look good. You have to tell people why they need the phone, and why it should be the next thing they throw their money at – and sign a contract for. (Unless you’re switching to T-Mobile USA, that is.)

We’re expecting to see HTC market the One, a lot more than they ever marketed the One X, or the One X+. Or any of their handsets from 2012, for that matter. They need to make sure that people know the One exists, what it can do, what it features, and where they can get it. HTC is already burdened by the fact that there are multiple reports that the One won’t be landing on Verizon’s Big Red network, so that’s a step in the wrong direction right away. So, they’ll have to work even harder to get people to other carriers, to make the switch.

But, here’s the rub, HTC: You aren’t trying to get the carriers extra points. You aren’t trying to make people say, “Hey, well, AT&T’s obviously the better choice because….” No, you’re trying to make people like you. Your brand. Your phone and its features. You aren’t trying to make people leave Verizon for AT&T, or AT&T for T-Mobile. You are trying to make people leave the iPhone 5 for the One, or to stop people from buying the Galaxy S 4, or the BlackBerry Z10.

HTC, you’re selling a phone. Not a carrier’s branding.

And yet, here we are, reeling in the news that you’ve got an exclusive tied with AT&T. An exclusive for the device offering more memory. According to a report from Droid-Life, an AT&T promotional video shows the HTC One and talks features. What it also does, twice, is promote that the 64GB One will be an AT&T exclusive. Okay, great, AT&T has an exclusive.

How does that help HTC? It doesn’t. A phone isn’t popular anymore because it’s an exclusive. Why? Because there are other phones worth buying. If anyone is even remotely interested in the One, but knows they can’t get the 64GB version on Verizon, why wouldn’t they look at a Galaxy S 4? No switching carriers, a newer version of Android (if that matters to you), and plenty of features shoved into TouchWiz. But, more than anything else: no switching carriers.

HTC, you aren’t in a position to be offering exclusives and think they’re a good idea. Especially not an exclusive that will inherently have a higher price tag. Unless, of course, the 64GB HTC One is already cheaper than the $249.99 price tag for the Galaxy S 4 on AT&T’s network.

The reason why BlackBerry’s Z10 will be a success, if it sees any success at all, is because it’s on multiple carriers. The same goes for the Q10 when it launches. Samsung’s Galaxy S 4? Yep, it will be a huge success because it’s on even more carriers. Phones need to be widely available, there’s just no getting around that anymore. Carrier exclusives just aren’t what they were, if they were anything at all.

This is certainly not a "quietly brilliant" move. Oh, too soon?

What do you think? Do you believe HTC should be gearing up for an exclusive of any kind? Or should they be working hard to make sure that their One is available on every single network they can get it on? Will you even think about switching to AT&T from another network to get the 64GB One? Let me know.