So Long HTC

I’ve been using HTC phones exclusively for 5 or 6 years. I started out with the Orange M600 (a rebranded HTC phone) running Windows Mobile 5. It was limited by the software, and the small screen size.

Seeing the value in having a large screen touch screen phone, my next phone was the HTC Touch HD (still one of the nicest looking phones they’ve built. It was a great phone, let down by running Windows Mobile 6.

Next up was the HTC Desire. Maybe the most important phone in HTC’s history. It’s announcement and launch correlate with the start of the ascent of the biggest climb in HTC’s stock price. It was announced in February 2010 and released a couple of months later. It was a pinnacle for HTC – they were getting better and better.

I loved the Desire. It was a great phone. Unfortunately it was slightly short-sighted in that it had a very small memory for installing apps (as many other phones did at the time), and so it quickly ran into space limitations. Orange’s bloatware didn’t help!

You can expect therefore, that the successor to it would be entirely awesome? It sort of was. They had a bunch of phones out in the following year or so, but for me, the timing of my contract meant that the next big device that they released was the HTC One X.

I have to admit, the One X is a great phone. It feels fantastic in the hand. The back is a soft, subtle texture that feels awesome. The screen is super smooth. It feels like a quality product.

It launched with some awesome features too. The camera can be launched and take a picture within a second or two. Remember all those times you saw something great, grabbed your phone, unlocked it, opened the camera, waited for the auto-focus to tune, and then waited a second or two for the picture to capture – this phone demolished that. It also allows you to take videos and photos at the same time. All that, and the image quality is superb. It’s the first phone I could actually substitute a compact camera for.

I also like HTC Sense (mostly). Their phone app, for example, is superb. By far the best I’ve used. In my opinion, mainly for one feature – it’s integrated phonebook/call list/keypad. If you start typing 3662 it will both allow you to call ‘3662’ and start showing you all your recent calls (and phonebook entries) that match the digits 3662, and any that match any combination of letters that are on those keys (like ‘Emma’ for example). This is genius. It’s so quick to use – no faffing around going into the phonebook to find people to call etc. The Nexus 4’s default keypad seems prehistoric compared to this. It’s not a new feature either – it’s been on their phones for years.

However, my 11 months with the One X have not been smooth. I’ve had the phone replaced 3 times in the last 5 months. The first two for a known bug with the model where WiFi/Bluetooth signal quality drops, but squeezing the phone between the volume button and camera makes them shoot up again – a hardware issue. The last 2 phones I’ve had don’t appear to have had an issue with WiFi, but the Bluetooth signal has had serious issues. Regularly when using a headset, people can’t hear me, or hear a lot of static noise and buzzing (I have tried multiple headsets and phones – definitely the One X that has the fault).

So, unfortunately, after 5-6 years of HTCs – I’m going to have to change. Vodafone will offer me a comparable phone up to £250 in value, so I won’t get anything near the same spec. That means I’m going to sell it privately, and buy a new handset. For the money, it has to be the Nexus 4. For £240/280 – there’s nothing comparable.

The new HTC One looks nice. It has some cool features like more camera improvements, and a built in IR zapper to allow it to be used as a TV remote control. But at £520 – it’s not twice as good as a Nexus 4.

This really makes me worry for HTC as a company. Their stock price has been falling dramatically for the last year or so, to near 2005 levels, fuelled by poor financial performance. They made a decision to stop focussing on lower end models a year or so ago, and the One family is the result. However, it feels like they’re throwing all their eggs into the One basket, and they seem to be getting outpaced by the Samsung Galaxy S family of devices.

I feel sad in a way, because I’ve really loved them for the last few years. I’ve felt like they were the underdog in a big corporate market, pumping out cool and innovative devices that carried a bit of ‘cool-factor’. I hope that the One is successful, and maybe by the time my contract ends next April, I’ll be on time for their next big device (if they’re still going) and we can start a new chapter. However, right now – I just need a phone that works.

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