Maybe it's time for HTC to copy Samsung

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: April 8, 2013

In just over a week, HTC’s flagship Android-based device, the One, will land in store shelves here in the United States. It will end a wait that began in February, when the company officially unveiled the new device. It will also put HTC up on a pedestal for a little while, in the lull before Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 launches here locally. It is a small window, but a window nevertheless, and hopefully HTC can take advantage of the time it has been given.

It isn’t a secret that there are a lot of people out there who think this is HTC’s last chance. Their last stand, if you will. The One emphasizes plenty of previous HTC design cues, and this particular device does seem to be a Hail Mary, if nothing else. One last hurrah, before the curtain makes its final descent. Or, it could be the handset that ultimately saves the company, and provides the push they need to rise out of the ashes, spread their wings, and encompass a whole bunch of new HTC fans.

Is HTC the underdog in the Android Army? No, but that hasn’t stopped people from being all doom and gloom about the company’s future. It is true that HTC used to be the king of Android, but that Samsung has effectively stolen that crown, title, and big ol’ comfy office chair, too. HTC is fighting to earn all of that back, and I can honestly see why they’d think the One would be a device to provide the push in the right direction. It is, by all accounts, one of the most beautiful devices out there. More than that, it bucks the trend of “higher megapixels means better images” with its 4 Ultrapixel configuration, while also making sure you can hear the videos you play on your phone without headphones, thanks to front-facing speakers and BoomSound.

As I mentioned earlier, the One feels like a natural evolution to HTC’s previous design choices, especially when we look at a device like the One X. The One ups the ante on that particular device’s design aesthetic in every single category. The One is a great phone to hold in your hand. The 4.7-inch display isn’t too big, but it isn’t too small, either. And, just for pure show-off appeal, the One is dead sexy. (You can say that with a Scottish accent if you want. Don’t be afraid.)

So with the One available in other markets, and reviews of the device praising HTC’s newest creation, why are we still only talking about the negatives? Why isn’t the One the device to save HTC?

Is it the price of the One, compared to other devices? No, it can’t be. At least, I hope it can’t be. The One, if we’re talking about AT&T specifically, is the same price as a BlackBerry Z10 on a new, two-year contract, but the Z10 only offers 16GB of storage. And when the Galaxy S 4 launches, it will be $50 more expensive than the HTC One for the comparable 32GB model. (The 16GB Galaxy S 4 will run you $199.99.) HTC has made sure to price the One aggressively, while offering plenty of storage at the same time. Basically, working hard to make sure you get more for your money.

Throw in that 4.7-inch 1080p display, the metallic construction, the IR blaster within the power button, and Beats Audio (hey, it’s all about the bullet points), I have a hard time imagining that sales representatives would have a hard time selling the One over any other device.

So what’s the issue? If the specifications are there, and the price tag is there, what exactly is HTC missing here?

How can HTC hope to compete with Samsung?

Maybe they need to start copying Samsung in some key areas:

Software features and availability.

It’s true that HTC has been working hard on scaling back its proprietary user interface known as Sense, but while they’ve been doing that they’ve also been making sure that new features are few and far between. I’m talking about exciting new features, like the ability to keep the phone’s display awake because you’re looking at it, among others. So while Samsung is shoving these features into their devices, into TouchWiz itself, HTC seems content in throwing in things like BlinkFeed and calling it good.

This is where someone should say, “But, they’ve got BoomSound and HTC Zoe and Ultrapixel!” And that person would be absolutely correct. Those are great, stand out features, but there are people asking if that’s good enough. Because let’s face it, it’s not like Samsung is skimping on the camera in the Galaxy S 4.

The one area that HTC absolutely needs to copy Samsung is availability of its hardware. Exclusivities don't do you any good, not in today's market. Having your phone on as many different carriers, in every variation, will only help you. There are a lot of people on specific carriers for specific reasons, and many of them just don't want to switch. So if the One is a phone they really wouldn't mind having, but it isn't coming to their network? They aren't getting it. That's a missed sale, right out of the gate. Samsung doesn't have that issue, and it just equals more sales.

Right now, at this very moment, the HTC One is sitting atop our Official Smartphone Rankings, on both the People's Choice side, as well as the Expert's Rankings. But let's face it, the real competition comes when Samsung's Galaxy S 4 lands here in the States, and i can't wait to see if HTC hangs onto the top spot, or if Samsung's able to usurp the handset with their own flagship model.

So I want to hear from you. I want you to tell me what you think HTC has to do to be able to compete, and even maybe surpass, Samsung. Is it possible anymore? Or has Samsung just pulled too far ahead? Let me know what you think.