Put the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X side-by-side, and there is no question about the fact that the majority of people

HTC Needs To Focus On What Customers Want

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Put the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X side-by-side, and there is no question about the fact that the majority of people will be wowed at the design of the One X. That really is one beautiful smartphone. On the inside, the One X and the Galaxy S III are pretty evenly matched in power and in capabilities. Minus a few differences, you could swap the internals of the two devices. At a cursory glance, the One X seems to have the edge because it is more stunning than its arch-enemy.


Yet, the Galaxy S III continues to outsell the One X in droves. Because Samsung is a bigger entity than HTC, the S III outselling the One X might not be the problem, except that the difference in sales figure is huge! Not only that, HTC is struggling to keep their accounts in black. What could the matter be?

Samsung Galaxy S III

I remember a few articles that I have written here on MOBILITY about the lack of certain features on flagship devices from some manufacturers, notably features like memory card slot and a removable battery. While I personally argued that those issues were no big deal to me as a person, the response from most quarters was the opposite. People posted comments saying that they would not buy certain devices because they lacked those features. On other blogs, I see a sizable number of bloggers and their communities proclaiming the same. The desire for these features is almost deafening.

People may argue about how unique and outstanding HTC’s unibody designs are and how these designs make it impossible to include a memory card slot and a removable battery, but it is obvious that the customers don’t care for the unibody designs that much. Why? Look: they keep buying the competition’s products in droves. People who buy Android want liberty, control and options; not limitations. HTC seems to be fixated on this unibody thing and on producing the sexiest smartphones in town at the expense of what their target market really want. So far, sexy is putting money in their account, and they clearly need to re-evaluate.


HTC needs to give customers what they want again – like they once used to. The Taiwanese brand has repeated the same mistakes this year with the HTC One that they made with the One X last year. Somebody defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Insanity, or a death wish.

Nokia Too

Nokia needs to watch it too. They have enough problems in their hands now than to be imposing further limitations on their products. A flagship without a memory card slot and without a removable battery on an OS that is already more limited compared to the competition is a bad idea for them.

I will say it again, a brand must have a cult-like following to pull off the stunts that Apple has pulled off, and even at that, as I have repeated in years gone by, even Apple will have to adjust eventually. It is already happening. Years ago, an iPad Mini was anathema. We shall see Apple bend more and more with time.

Dear HTC (and Nokia), its your call. Give customers what they want or face the consequences. Of course, all this is my opinion.


  1. HTC should try marketing from inside out. Why should people pick you over Samsung, ZTE, Huawei and the others? The answer to this isn’t clear. Plus, HTC isn’t a movement yet, Samsung is. Apple is a movement too.

    People buy for why and not for what? I remember trying to convince a lady that a Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1″ will suite her more than an iPad when she asked for my opinion. Guess what? She took the iPad cos her why was stronger that all the what the the Samsung Note can do.

    Marketing and branding of HTC, IMHO, is one of the places HTC is failing and they do not have the distribution power or marketing budget of Samsung. Plus luck (which is applied in business at times) ran out on them.

  2. @Jesse, exactly. You hit the nail on the head. HTC is not selling not because they dont include removable battery and micro SD slot but because their marketing is poor and lady luck is not smiling on them. HTC’s decline started with the Sensation. I have handled HTC Sensation. It has both removable battery and micro SD slot but it didn’t sell. If you are watching CNN, you would see a Samsung Galaxy S3 or a Note 2 ad. I haven’t seen an HTC One X ad. People complain about lack of Micro SD slot and removable battery yet they go on to buy iPhones in droves.

  3. Jesse,

    HTC should try marketing from inside out. Why should people pick you over Samsung, ZTE, Huawei and the others?

    Good point, Jesse. And the only reason right now is that the average HTC looks better, but is more expensive and has less features than all those other brands you listed. Now, you can see why HTC are not selling much.

    What else would HTC market with?

    Efe can go on about how the iPhone sold without those features that lots of people find essential. Everybody who knows the industry agree that the iPhone is a different creature as I have pointed out. People who choose iOS are not after features. But people who choose Android often are.

    Efe says:

    the problem is the cult-like following Samsung has.

    I dunno if Samsung has anything like that. I do know that whatever following Samsung has today, they attained it by giving Android lovers what they want, not by implementing restrictions.

    So, the HTC Sensation didn’t sell much, and then HTC stupidly thought, “Oh, we’re not selling! Let’s try sell this time by removing the features that people want!” That’s what is called jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.”

    Samsung is synonymous with Android. Anyone who wants to go head-to-head against them needs to learn a thing or two from them. Samsung themselves learnt from the former smartphone king, Nokia – give people what they want in as many shades and packaging as possible and across as many price ranges as possible. The fruits are there for all to see.

  4. “Nokia – give people what they want in as many shades and packaging as possible and across as many price ranges as possible. The fruits are there for all to see”

    If I recall correctly, HTC did just that and it failed. That is the main reason they decided to streamline their product line in 2012. Sony does exactly what you are talking about, yet, it isn’t working. Infact, I think it is backfiring. People are having a difficult time keeping up with the many xperias. Keep in mind that most of them are affordable and have the two features we are debating about but it hasn’t helped sony very much. The mobile world is not black and white. Too many factors come into play with sentiment and brand loyalty playing the biggest roles. Two things htc doesn’t have going for them right now

  5. My brother, Mr. mobility. this is a nice one again. Couldn’t expect anything less from the master.

    the logic and your points were astutely put. well explained. I agree with the essence of the article completely.

    if the current formula being user by HTC didn’t work in the HTC One x, then it is absurd and foolhardy to continue the same failing strategy on the HTC One.

    yes, I can manage with non removable battery on an iPhone or iPad. even a lack of SD Card. but heck, that’s Apple. I knew what I was going into. And you can’t match that UI and buttery smoothness else where. My opinion. but then, if I’m to get an Android device, because of the stiff competition and so much choice, I’d be very picky, and I’d root for that with lots of features. removable battery and SD Card amongst lots of others inclusive of screen size, will be top of my list. this isn’t absolute, because another innovative and killer feature may be introduced that may be so compelling to make me ignore all these. But that is rare. So no company in their right senses should continue with a losing strategy.

    Kudos, Mr. Mo

  6. @efe hows xperias affordable? how. If you want to know affordable ask Tecno with a 1 ghz phone for under 15k. Even as we speak Tecno,Gionee etc are eating Samsung from below,just as they wiped out stubborn NOKIA. Remember with samsung’s various shades of mid tier phones, NOKIA was wounded from the top. And the Android cult believers finally voodooed NOKIA into oblivion!

  7. In the previous article on HTC, someone mentioned the unibody as reason why HTC have to make their battery unremovable and also for the skipping of memory card support on their new phone. This line of reasoning may sound good, but when you consider that SIM card that is at least the same size as micro SD card or maybe even slightly larger is supported, then such argument becomes weak. It just could be the aping of Apple as mentioned in that article, probably thinking that those are what have been helping Apple’s sales. That is a very bad one in my opinion because as also mentioned in that article, Apple is in a different league. HTC should be concentrating on their direct competitors, Samsung rather than on outsiders, Apple.

    The fact is that for most people who but Apple products, some of these restrictions make no difference to them or they don’t even notice them because their smartphone lives started with the iPhone and thus, they learnt it the Apple way and are not missing anything.

  8. @jujukemist, sony has a few phones that are below 40 thousand naira with very modern specs. Some older sony phones are less than thirty thousand naira. That is relatively affordable. Techno is a chinese product, you cant beat chinese prices. But am pretty sure beyond few sony top tier phones, most people don’t know their other phones. It is the same with samsung. Most people know the Galaxy S series and the Galaxy Note line but will struggle to name low range phones from samsung. In 2011, HTC adopted the exact strategy proposed by Mr Mo above and got declining market share as the outcome. To be precise, HTC made 51 phones in total for different segments of the market and it failed. That is why they decided to streamline their brand in 2012. I recall an HTC official saying they want “quality not quantity”. The question is, if that strategy failed in 2011 when HTC was still relatively popular, why do you think it would work now?

  9. @Afewgoodmen, can you define the winning formula in today’s ultra-competitive mobile world? Most analyst including Mr Mo agree that HTC makes some of the best phones in the world today. The question is, if making some of the best phones in the world is not a winning formula, what is? You may say it is making devices with features that people want. It begs the question, what features do people want? Isn’t the lack of agreement on what people want that informed the consensus on this blog that no phone is the best because people want different things? How come we bash one manufacturer for doing something we praise another manufacturer for? The fact that samsung gets away with plasticky devices doesnt mean htc will. The fact that samsung has removable batteries and micro SD cards and sells doesn’t mean that by simple including those features, Htc will sell. Last I checked, other manufacturers include those features and still do not make any significant impact on the market. Asus makes better tablets than samsung but samsung is second in tablet market share. The mobile world is muddled. Saying Apple operates in a different league pretty much confirms that. Different standards for different people coupled with media bias make sure Apple stands alone. Furthermore, htc does not have the resources to match the marketing prowess of Apple and Samsung. We should also examine the rise of fanboyism and the tendency of one manufacturer to monopolize a platform. All these factors combine to ensure that the best devices will not necessarily sell better.

  10. Indicate actual price ranges to guide people. Cost also matters in guiding people. That is why Chines are making it fast.

  11. HTC’s competitor is not Apple but Samsung, they have to equal or outdo Samsung. The Ultrapixels thing with only 4mp is definitely not the way to go, HTC made many phones but they weren’t cheap, the Wildfire costs 50k then.
    Other Samsung phones like the Galaxy Pocket or ace not get people’s minds but they sell still, I have seen a lot people with the Galaxy pocket, and some people buy it because they can’t afford the S-series or Note.
    HtC needs to forget the high end approach as they would wither away if the One doesn’t get mindshare or marketshare.

    Nokia to me fell because they stopped offering people what they wanted, people had gotten used to the Symnoan devices and all of a sudden Elop announced that they were going to kill it off and tried to force Windows Phone down the throats of people. Until his speech Symbian still accounted for 26% of all the smartphones sold thats a lot for an OS with just one manufacturer.

    HTC needs to copy Samsung with its product differentiation, their is the S-series, Note, Grand, Express, Mini, Pocket and a host of others. Even if they are immemorable they still help to keep the manufacturer’s name in people’s minds.

  12. @martinkem, what was the average price of an android phone in 2011? How many android devices were readily available in Nigeria then? You talk of Htc copying samsung by offering many devices. The problem is, they tried it in the past and it didn’t work. Sony, LG and a few others are doing it now, yet nobody is making any sort of impact on samsung’s runaway success. What everybody seems to be realising nowadays is that you only need one popular flagship product. That is why LG, Sony and the others are going out of their way to make beastly flagships.

  13. Methinks Efe has made some valid submissions here. There are different strokes for different folks. So, what works for Samsung may not work for HTC; so also, what works for Apple may not work HTC…this second part is what, I think, HTC need to pay attention to before flying before they have mastered running.
    Considering the low abyss in which HTC have found themselves, they need to START AGAIN from the ground up like a new OEM by finding a foothold in the consumer mind first. The real issue with HTC is loss of MINDSHARE or brand recall. There’s nothing like a stroke of luck in this terrain. Samsung and Apple are not lucky; they are simply doing some things right that connect with consumers. So, my take is that while MicroSD and Removable Battery may not be such a big deal, HTC over-reaching themselves by wanting to act ‘premium’ like Apple won’t cut it. Imagine, pricing for the new HTC One is said to be very steep; in some cases of carriers, even more expensive than iPhone 5! HTC One is indeed excellent in hardware and all that jazz, but if HTC don’t first regain mindshare first before going gaga with ‘premium’ pricing, the new flagship will be dead on arrival. As it is, most smartphone consumers that want a new device will even want to wait to see what Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S/6 have to offer on features and pricing before they whip out their money.

  14. Let me address the argument that Sony includes memory card and removable battery in their devices and still have not done so well in the market.

    Sony’s Android history has been one of releasing new devices with outdated software. In the Android world, that is a huge mistake. Sony would release devices running a year old version of Android with a promise of updates on the way. How many Android fans would buy one or recommend one?

    For the records, Sony is also guilty of excluding memory card slot in some of their devices. The Xperia P that I am reviewing is a case in point. The average Android buyer will opt for an alternative from Samsung that has this feature.

  15. can you define the winning formula in today’s ultra-competitive mobile world? Most analyst including Mr Mo agree that HTC makes some of the best phones in the world today.

    HTC makes some of the best phones in the world today, leaving out features that people who prefer the Android platform wants. That is NOT a winning formula. As I have said before, giving people what they want in as many shades as they want them and at the right price is certainly a winning formula. HTC is currently not doing that.

    HTC phones are currently more expensive, and have less features, than the Android (read: Samsung) competition. There’s absolutely no incentive for the majority of Android lovers to buy them.

  16. @Mr Mo, you are right, Sony has a few devices without expandable memory. However, it only goes to show that nobody is really sure what the winning formula is. I took time to check for the most popular devices from three of android phone’s biggest manufacturers; Sony, HTC and LG. Curiously, the most popular phones from all three in 2012 had something in common, lack of SD slot and non-removable battery.

    From what I have seen, lack of SD slot is only a deal breaker in the event of extremely low internal memory e.g the 8gb Nexus 4. A device with 16gb may not require additional memory for most people and for a 32/64 device, it is probably not needed. As for removable battery, reactions are mixed. For us in Nigeria, an additional battery may be required but is it a deal breaker for users in developed countries with steady electricity?

  17. efe,

    How did you arrive at this popularity results, and which devices are these? Also note that popularity and interest do not necessarily translate to sales.

  18. I think one problem with HTC has to br after sales service support, this cannot be over-emphasized. Design will always be subjective, but to keep and attract new customers, you need to always be available to them. Aside Samsung, most other Android phone manufacturers have not really tapped into this medium.

  19. Further proof that HTC is chasing after Apple’s market: HTC One will be able to import data from iPhone backups

    This is just sad….or maybe not. Their strategy may be to clinch and convert a couple of Apple disciples directly. A different approach from the aggressive internals tactics of some other OEMs.

    I believe HTC issues lie within marketing and pricing. The goal to successful marketing is convincing a client that your approach is better than the rest. I give you unibody and you receive an elegant not-the-usual-slab. Memory cards? Psst! I will release 32/64gb models for you. Non removable batteries? Its all taken care of, I’ve equipped it with a monster xxxmah battery that would not need recharging till your grand-kids have grand-kids etc.

    On pricing level, source for cheaper more reliable technology (ever heard of innovation?) Yes yes, easier said than done but its amusing that a Sensation price is higher than a Samsung S2 (at least last I checked). It doesn’t matter if it can outmarch the S2 in a gun battle, fact remains that it is much older.

    So in my opinion, they should work on pricing and marketing, your ultrapixel is odd then launch a campaign and make the consumer want it, need it…heck crave it. After all who knows the consumer better than producer. A successful manufacturer is one who anticipates the consumer’s needs even before they (the consumer) realise it.

    Hit the boardroom HTC, the ONE can be THE ONE.

  20. @Mr Mo, I am talking about Sony Xperia S, LG Optimus G and Htc One X. These were the most popular devices from sony, lg and htc. I do not know if they were the best selling.

    @Khene, you are right. HTC’s marketing is terrible. When they decided to streamline their brand in 2012, I thought adequately marketing few devices was one of the deciding factors. Alas, the marketing department is still doing a bad job. Nevertheless, we musn’t forget that HTC is a small company when compared to samsung so resources are expectedly scarce.

    On pricing, I have always wondered why HTC phones seem to be overpriced. Their pricing scheme definitely hurt sales. On the other hand, their phones generally have better build quality than competitors which may or may not justify their pricing. Competing with Samsung in pricing is futile. Samsung has too many comparative advantages. So for the foreseeable future, it is going to be Samsung all the way.

  21. I wish I can buy an HTC device though. But they are yet to cut it for me when compared to Samsung. No doubt they have better quality build. I even prefer their sense UI to Samsung’s TouchWiz. It’s so unfortunate that their sales are running downwards.

    With the HTC ONE, they probably would have experience better sales pattern(esp as it’s presently the fastest phone around) but Samsung will be dropping the highly anticipated s4 next month. Unfortunately for HTC, Samsung is replacing their exynos processor with the same type running in the HTC ONE but clocked higher (1.9gzh). I am also sure that the s4 won’t be as steeply priced as the HTC ONE (it won’t be cheap either). It will also come with all the goodies HTC ONE left out. Now tell me, how will a normal android fan not want to buy the s4 instead of the HTC ONE?

    I really wish HTC can get their acts right. You know they entered into a contract agreement with Apple last year on some patents. I hope they are not just dashing out their few dollars to Apple without any result.

    The feature Mr Mo mentioned about being able to transfer data from iPhone to the HTC ONE is also available on the Samsung kies. Every OEM wants converts from ios users I guess.

  22. In the previous article on HTC, someone mentioned the unibody as reason why HTC have to make their battery unremovable and also for the skipping of memory card support on their new phone.


    That argument from whoever is very baseless for removable memory. Nokia has unibody phones with microSD card slots. As for non-removable batteries, bummer. That can’t be argued. If its unibody, the battery has to be sealed. Sadly.

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