Could a string of bad decisions have doomed HTC?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| September 8, 2013

HTC is a company that I have grown up watching mature in the smartphone world, and have owned a number of HTC devices of my own. Some were good, and others were not so good. While my experience with HTC's Windows Mobile devices were horrendous, my experience with my first two HTC Android devices were fantastic. For a couple of years HTC was doing very well for itself with Android: HTC had the first Nexus device, they made the iconic T-Mobile G1 (and its successor, G2), and also the first 4G device, the HTC EVO 4G. So why is there so much hate for HTC, despite what seemed like decent success with some of the first and most iconic Android handsets?

I don't think anybody could tell you the one thing that brought HTC down from where it was to where it is today - and that's not a good spot. Even despite the One's hype within our own tech world, reports are showing that HTC isn't really reaping in the profits. Wall Street Journal reports that last month, HTC made $443.3 million. That might sound like a lot to you and me, but for a company who was hoping to make its way back up the ladder it fell from, that's not exactly a winning number. HTC's profits fell 16% from where it was in July, and 45% worse than how it was doing last year.

Sometimes we get caught up in our mobile industry. This is a hobby of ours, a niche interest. Everybody knows what a smartphone is, but do they care about what makes them tick? Why is this phone faster than this phone? How can I get the most out of my new phone? Is this phone better than that phone? These are all questions we ask ourselves because it's a subject that interests us. But the general consumer, who owns a phone but probably cares more about what's on the inside rather than the inside, doesn't see phones the way we see them. They probably don't know that the HTC One is one of the most highly praised Android devices of the year, and a surprise coming from HTC. They don't see that the HTC One has ranked #1 among Experts and People's Choice charts here on PhoneDog for several weeks. They see the reports that hit big news outlets, like Samsung catching up to Apple, Samsung surpassing Apple, and that kind of stuff. Even before I got really interested in the phone industry, if there was one brand I knew about it was Apple, and if something could surpass Apple then it must be doing something right.

The fact of the matter is that to the general consumer, HTC is yesterday's news. It's a "making your bed and having to lie in it" sort of thing at this point. HTC has made not just one bad decision that lead to its downward spiral, but multiple bad decisions, like: investing their money in things that never panned out that well for them, not giving people a reason to like Sense anymore (because once upon a time, Sense was faster than stock Android), lack of support shortly after releasing a phone, releasing a phone and then taking it off the shelf a few months later... the list goes on for a while. In short, and in general, HTC has just plain made some bad decisions. Even though it seems like HTC has turned around somewhat from that third quarter in 2011 where they last saw their peak revenue, I do wonder if any of it will eventually pay off for them, or if people just have too many bad experiences at this point to forgive them?

When the One finally became an offical device, I would scour the Internet for threds on the topic and see what other people were thinking. I mean, my initial thoughts on the device was that it was a pretty swanky looking hunk of metal. When I hunted around forums, I was sure I would see a more positive outlook on them, and sometimes I did, but it really seemed like forums were 50/50 on what their thoughts were. Most of the time, the negative feelings weren't on the device itself, but moreso their experience with HTC in the past. And really, who can blame them? My last experience with an HTC phone, before the One, was the HTC EVO 3D. It wasn't the worst device I had ever used, but I had expected better from HTC coming from the EVO 4G. You're going to hear complaints and praises about every device, but when it came to HTC's devices from 2011 onward, it seemed to be mostly negative things. While it might be easy to say, "Well, that was the past and people should move on. HTC has gotten better now." But if you're talking to somebody who has just been carrying around an HTC device that they have despised for the better part of two years, their response probably won't be so optimistic.

So while I think that HTC is doing noticeably better than they were before by addressing a lot of problems (Sense 5 is cleaned up and smooth, the One has some great specs for its time, and even some of HTC's earlier models have been upgraded to surpass softare versions found in the famous Samsung Galaxy S III) I do wonder if this constant profit decrease has much to do with the bad decisions that HTC has previously made. Is there any way to dig yourself out of that kind of situation?

All I know is that if the HTC One's sales aren't cutting it lately, the HTC One Max better hit the shelves soon now that the Samsung Galaxy Note III is on the market - and those are some big shoes to fill, but it's only going to get harder the longer the company waits to release a comparable product.

Readers, what have your experiences with HTC been so far? Have you generally had good experiences, or have bad experiences and stories kept you from the Taiwanese manufacturer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image via Ubergizmo