Earlier today, HTC unveiled its newest flagship smartphone, the U12+. It's a handset that, as most of the best devices do, follows plenty of cues from the previous handset it's replacing, but makes necessary changes to make the new smartphone worthwhile for the current market. It is absolutely a handset that can compete with the other top-tier smartphones out there, at least based on the specs on paper. Review might tell a different story.
But, all that aside, I can't help but think it doesn't really matter how great the phone is.
Buying unlocked handsets hasn't really picked up in the United States as it has in some other markets. For most consumers in the U.S. buying a new phone means going into their wireless carrier of choice's retail store and walking out with a new device. Or even ordering online, or from a third-party company that sells their carrier's devices.
The main through line, though, is that their carrier is involved in some way or another. Adding a monthly payment option to your bill, which, by now, usually means it's replacing an older one, is pretty easy and straightforward. Plus, the carrier usually has a deal in place that makes getting a new phone a bit cheaper.
But you won't find the HTC U12+ at Verizon, or AT&T, or even T-Mobile stores. Even if the handset is certified to work on each of those networks, none of them are offering the phone directly from their stores. Which means a lot of potential customers looking to upgrade their phone, or even buy their first, won't see the U12+ at all.
Which basically means they won't even know it exists.
You can pay monthly installments from HTC to get a new U12+ ($33 per month for 24 months), and you can even trade in your old device towards the new one to help drop down that $799 full retail cost. Those things are great, but it's still an "out of sight, out of mind" situation as far as I'm concerned. The HTC U12+ might have some fantastic reviews over the next week or so, but then it'll probably just slip out of mind. Especially for general consumers.
Which is a real shame, because based on what I've seen of the U12+ so far it looks like an awesome phone with a lot going for it. I really like that HTC is sticking with that translucent design, too. It catches the eye. And it's blue! Blue for the win.
What do you think? Is HTC going to have a hit on its hands with the U12+, despite not having the handset for sale in carrier stores? Or do you think this will be another handset that fades into obscurity sooner rather than later? Let me know!