As we gear up for the announcement of Google’s allegedly rebranded Pixel line on October 4th, which is likely the last of this year’s major flagship announcements, I’ve taken to reflecting on all of the flagships we’ve seen released this year. We have a pretty interesting lineup of flagships this year from LG, Samsung, Lenovo (Motorola), HTC, and Apple. I’ve written a lot of op-eds on these flagships over the year. However, when I reflect on these op-eds, I realize that ultimately I did not have much to say about HTC's flagship once the HTC 10 was officially announced.
Gearing up to the HTC 10’s announcement, I was super excited. I thought that this would end up being a repeat of 2013, where the HTC One M7 went head-to-head with Samsung’s Galaxy S4 flagship. 2013 was an exciting year for both of these flagships due to the fact that Samsung had recently become a superstar for Android with the headlines it made with the Galaxy S III in 2012. On the other hand, the HTC One M7 was a marvel for HTC (and Android in general) due to its unique premium build quality and the beginning of a new era for HTC, who had not been doing too well previously.
The One M7 produced a lot of much-needed positive feedback for HTC that year. However, the following years would not prove to be as kind with the M8 and even more so with the M9.
The M8 actually did produce a good amount of positivity for its larger screen and for keeping a lot of the good aspects of the M7, but it was still questioned for carrying over the M7’s weakest feature, the 4-megapixel “UltraPixel” camera. Not only that, but HTC was also creating some weird marketing strategies that didn’t really make any sense, and then trying to utilize celebrity endorsement with Robert Downey, Jr.
So then we get to the M9, which received a lot of backlash for a couple of reasons. One, it looked nearly identical to the M8. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the M8 wasn’t an ugly device by any means, but by this point several other Android manufacturers picked up on the whole premium quality aspect for their own smartphone designs, so the novelty kind of wore off and I think people were looking for something different and new. Also, the M9 ditched the questionable 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera and used a 20-megapixel camera instead, which would appear to be a smart move on paper. Unfortunately, when the M9 was released, its camera left a lot to be desired. A lot of the camera’s issues were later remedied by software hotfixes, but by then it was a little too late.
So the HTC 10 came out earlier this year, with a lot of hype coming from HTC about how great the HTC 10 was going to be. As it turns out, this was a rare occasion where the hype was actually warranted; the HTC 10 appeared to have everything in order by launch day. There were a couple of disappointing aspects of the device, such as the removal of the dual front-facing BoomSound speakers, and many complained that the device’s design had too much bezel with the addition of a physical home button. Otherwise, the device is solid. Despite the lack of front-facing speakers, audio is actually quite good, and the 12-megapixel rear-facing camera appears to be much better than previous generations. The design still looks premium, and the specs are on par with other flagships.
So why did the HTC 10 manage to receive such little attention after its release?
I think it’s due to two very simple reasons: it was neither good enough nor bad enough. There was nothing incredibly wow-worthy about the HTC 10, and there wasn’t much to bash, either. Nobody wants to talk about a perfectly adequate phone.
When I think about it, almost every other flagship had something “big” to talk about. The Galaxy S7 re-implemented the microSD card and fixed the more glaring issues that came with last year’s radically re-designed Galaxy S6; the LG G5 came out with some weird mods that didn’t appear to work out so well, but it was new and something to talk about; Lenovo also implemented modular type with the new Moto Z, and decided to nix the 3.5mm headphone jack; Apple came out with both the iPhone SE, which brings back the compact form factor, and the iPhone 7, which finally boosted the base amount of storage to 32GB but also sacrificed the 3.5mm headphone jack to get there; Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 7, which started out strong but unfortunately suffered from a terrible defect in some models; and finally we have the upcoming Google’s Nexus-turned-Pixel, which is hyped to be some top notch, interesting stuff.
And then there’s HTC, who did just about everything they were supposed to do, but managed to get lost in a crowd of much quirkier flagships along the way. With that in mind, I don’t think hope is completely lost for HTC in the future. While the HTC 10 is a great phone, HTC could still use a better and more rigorous marketing strategy. Samsung and Apple are still killing it in those departments, at least judging by the advertisements that I see. Between its adequacy and not-so-prevalent advertising, I think HTC 10 is one of the more forgettable flagships we’ve seen this year. (Although I would actually argue that Sony's Xperia X is even more forgettable, but that's been typical of Sony flagships for a while.)
On a positive note, HTC is having a pretty sweet deal on the HTC 10 by slashing $150 off the price until October 8th, so if you’re reading this article and suddenly remembered that the HTC 10 exists and you want to pick one up for yourself, now seems like a good time to buy one.
Readers, which phones do you think have been the most forgettable this year? Let us know in the comments below!