HTC's had a blinding 2013, but what are the company's standout moments? And what's coming up in 2014? We've spoken to the man in the know...
That’s almost it; 2013 is just about to hand things over to 2014. But before we all don the party hats, there’s just enough time to look back at the year that as a whole, and take a sneaky look at what’s coming in 2014.
We’ve been speaking to each of our biggest manufacturing partners to get an end-of-year overview, and today it’s HTC’s turn to spill the beans. We caught up with Giuliano Ghidini, Director of Product Marketing for HTC Europe, for the inside track…
Three big stories
“With the introduction of the HTC One, and then all the rest of the HTC One family with the mini and the Max, I think we’ve had three great stories from a technical point of view this year,” says Giuliano.
“One is about design. We’ve achieved our dream of having a full aluminium body on the HTC One, with zero-gap construction. For the first time we’ve brought a phone with a fully aluminium back to the market, and that gives it much more premium feel when you hold it in your hand.
“We’ve also achieved a new way to stack components inside the phone, which has allowed us to create a phone with an incredibly slim profile, as thin as 4mm at the edges. The design of the HTC One has been really well received.
“We’ve moved away from the Megapixel race…”
“The second story is the quality of the camera sensor. We’ve moved away from the Megapixel race and have gone instead with with a brand new technology unique to HTC, called UltraPixels.
“It’s a system of bigger sensors,” Giuliano explains, “which can capture more light in low-light conditions. The results have been great. We’ve really enjoyed seeing how people have been using our great cameras.”
And the third one? “It’s all about audio, with BoomSound. It’s the first time we’ve brought the speakers around to the front of the device, which is where they belong. That means we can give our customers better sound quality and a more powerful audio experience from their phone.”
What HTC has done differently from other manufacturers, is to take those cornerstones and put all three into each of its 2013 One lineup: “What’s great is that we don’t have all of that in one phone, but we’ve got all of those things in three flagship devices. What we wanted to have in 2013 was to have strong selling points that we could put on different devices at different sizes to reach more people.”
Do something right, and people will appreciate the effort. That’s been the case for HTC in 2013, as the company has walked away with a fistful of awards for its One range. But which ones stand out to Giuliano?
“Any award is great, and it’s a great privilege to be able to go and receive them. But in terms of timing, there are a couple of awards that show how much of a great year it’s been for the HTC One. For me it would be the T3 Gadget of the Year Award – to be recognised in this broader category, and not just smartphones, makes it really special.
“We won three T3 Awards; Best Smartphone, Best Design and Best Gadget of the Year. That’s not the industry telling us; it’s the public. I think those are two examples of great achievements for us.”
Not a bad haul, but it means that the pressure’s on to continue that success in 2014. So what’s the plan?
Hinting at the future
We asked Giuliano to name the biggest trends of 2013, and what he thought were the ones soon to land, for an insight into where HTC is moving next.
“4G has been a great story for the UK this year. Finally now we have great speeds that can allow us to bring the best out of our propositions. The second big trend has been creativity around imaging. We’ve contributed to that with the HTC Zoe software on the HTC One,” he explains, “but overall people are getting more creative because they’ve got the right tools now. The great success around Vine and Instagram, as well as Zoe, takes the burden away from the user to create something great. These tools allow you to do so much more in the editing phase.
“That’s been such a great trend that ‘selfie’ is now a recognised word in the Oxford English dictionary. That culture’s been massive, and will only continue to evolve in 2014.”
What else is coming in 2014? We pressed Giuliano for answers…
“I think 2014 will be the year in which the market moves beyond pure technical specs and becomes driven to an ever-greater degree by all of the aspects of smartphone design.
“The truth is that very few of our customers buy purely on technical specification. Speed alone is not going to win the hearts and minds of consumers – and is rarely what we see any but the most hardened gamers talk about when we research what they want from their handsets.
“Rather, I see the premium mobile market in 2014 being driven to a far greater degree by design of our hardware and software. And that design will come in part from an aesthetic perspective, which is why HTC has invested so heavily in this area, but also in the usability of the smartphones we create.
“Customers will still want the admiring glances of their friends when they get their hands on our handsets, but they will also want phones that have performance designed-in that enhances the things they use those phones for – listening to music and the handheld film and TV experience, taking and manipulating photos or for accessing information about what their friends are up to and what’s going on in the news.
“It’s these customer needs that HTC will be lavishing its attentions on satisfying in 2014, and that’s where I think the market will go.”