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HTC – where did it all go wrong?

HTC – where did it all go wrong?

CES is now under way in Las Vegas. And while HTC should be celebrating with the impending release of its much-anticipated M7 smartphone-cum-tablet, instead it’s reeling from the news that it made a profit of just £21 million in the last quarter of 2012.

That might seem like a hefty sum, but it’s actually the lowest profit made by the Taiwanese company since 2004.

HTC’s fall has been swift and spectacular. Q3 2011 saw the company post £389 million profit, a 68 per cent year-on-year increase.

It’s been downhill ever since. Net profits dropped by 26 per cent in Q4 2011 and it was doom and gloom throughout the following year. Meanwhile, Samsung is now the biggest Android maker, its share doubling in 2012.

Peter Chou, HTC’s CEO, has sounded an optimistic note this week, saying rivals have been “too strong and very resourceful, pouring lots of money into marketing”.

Peter Chou HTC at keynote

He claimed that 2013 wouldn’t be ‘too bad’ and that the worst had passed, pinning hopes on some ‘unique products’, presumable the 1080p, FUVE-inch HTC M7. But there’s more behind HTC’s failings than simple marketing.

Samsung and Apple may have gone large in that department in 2012, but they also produced solid, dependable devices that weren’t hamstrung by complaints of poor performance, sluggish updates and creaking design.

HTC’s Sensation, a 2011 device that should have been a winner, was an early signifier of problems to come.

The device was plagued with issues that saw it crash and the touchscreen malfunction.

Battery life on HTC devices has been a long-standing issue, as has the lack of decent design to compete with the very best mobile makers.

HTC One X close up

The much-fabled HTC One X, which was supposed to fix all the niggles of past devices, had amazing reviews and was rightly lauded when it first came out. But a Wi-Fi fault saw the company tweak the design and apologise for the error.

That sense of disappointment was compounded when the One X only recently Android Jelly Bean 4.2 – a snafu very much in keeping with HTC’s failure to release Android updates in quick fashion.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that HTC has spread itself too thinly, releasing too many average devices when it could compete better with Samsung and Sony if it outed fewer, better handsets.

Hopefully, that will be its approach in 2013. Because as things stand, HTC is staring down the barrel.

If it doesn’t have a good CES and MWC, then it could well find itself slipping even further down the smartphone pecking order.

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