HTC's launch of the new HTC One smartphone is being billed as a "new perspective" on smartphones, with a big emphasis on software and hardware design. But there's a big echo of Apple in HTC's current push and a smaller one of Microsoft.
Don't get me wrong, the HTC One is a significant piece of work, with innovations in user interface, camera performance and audio. I'd put it on my short list of new phones in a heartbeat; however, when HTC starts talking about design and re-imaging the mobile experience, I start thinking iPhone and Microsoft Surface tablet.
Let's look at physical design first. In the second sentence of the press release introducing the HTC One, the company says the phone is "Crafted, with a distinct zero-gap aluminum unibody.” HTC adds that the all-metal case sits "comfortably" in hand and "showcases" its antenna technology, "which helps people achieve a crystal clear signal." Maybe that's not really a swipe at Apple's one-time iPhone 4 antenna/case issue, but maybe not.
At any rate, you can find plenty of pretty pictures and stories all about the craftmanship going into the HTC One, with HTC's design guru taking lead in interviews at places like CNET.
Heard this all before? Microsoft was keen to tell the world about the Surface Tablet's carefully crafted design, including its VaporMg magnesium alloy case. Microsoft spent over two minutes talking about VaporMg and how it fit in with creating its table when they introduced Surface. Expect other consumer electronics manufacturers to start talking up design more in the months to come, regardless of what they make.
Software gets a makeover with One, as HTC continues to separate itself from a stock Android experience. HTC BlinkFeed appears to be an evolution from its earlier social media FriendStream app, adding in aggregated content from more than 1,400 media sources. Appearing on the home screen, BlinkFeed includes social media, entertainment and lifestyle updates, news and photographs in one location. Microsoft kinda-sorta does this in Windows 8 Phone with tiles.
I'm interested to see how HTC's emphasis on camera and audio features play out in the marketplace against the iPhone and the slew of Android smartphones already in the market. It's great to talk about design, but people want better features as well. Instead of more camera pixels, HTC touts "UltraPixels" that gather 300 percent more light than existing smartcamera sensors.
I'm not sure if the dual front facing HTC BoomSound speakers integrated into the phone will trump the use of high-end headphones and external Bluetooth speakers in a lot of places, but it's nice to know the feature is there.
Finally, there's the more strategic aspect of HTC One. HTC will only have one model of One, rather than different versions sliced and diced for different carriers. This is the Apple "one product" policy big-time, and it should be a big win for both consumers and the company. Consumers won't be confused by having to compare different HTC handsets, then throwing up their hands and going with an iPhone or a Samsung model. HTC should get economies of scale by buying in quantity and cranking out lots of one type of handset.
Edited by Allison Boccamazzo