August 29, 2014

34 Weeks of OHA: #9

Open Handset Alliance Member Profiles (Week #9 – HTC Corporation)
For 34 weeks, each Tuesday, Jordan from fandroid.net will be joining us to offer a profile of each of the 34 members of the Open Handset Alliance.


Company Name:
HTC Corporation

How the OHA site classifies them: Handset Manufacturer

What the OHA site says about them: Our mission is to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

What they do: Build pretty badass handsets.

I own an HTC S621 (the Rogers-specific version of the S620, aka T-Mobile Dash, aka Excalibur (hell yeah, Excalibur; kneel before me, peon.) Honestly, I love it. It’s slim, pretty to look at–I still think it’s the prettiest full-QWERTY candybar I’ve seen. The rubberized plastic gives it a pleasant smoothness in the hand, and nearly eliminates the creak of plastic-against-plastic that cheapens the feel of many handsets. The keys are nicely restistant and easy-to-use; despite the realtively small size thumb-typing is easy. It’s only a 200mhz processor, but feels peppy enough for most apps. And, I use the hell out of it; I browse my feeds, I read eBooks, I listen to my music and podcasts, I receive both work and personal emails, I keep lists, etc., etc., etc. I also make phone calls – not just over the conventional cellular connection but also using VOIP over the WiFi.

It’s not perfect. The JOGGR touchpad slidy thing is just silly. The battery life is not great, which is not helped by the Direct-Push email sucking juice. It doesn’t have a touchscreen, which I know is not the norm for this form factor but is still is on my wish list. The EDGE data connection is poky. The 1.3 megapixel camera gives a slightly purpleish hue to everything. Oh, and there’s the Windows Mobile part… I’ll get into that in a bit.

In the end, I’m proud to lay this thing down along side my friend’s Motorola Q or the Blackberries that are so common in the corporate environment in which I swim daily. People admire it, ask to hold it, make nice comments. And then the inevitable comes out: “Who is HTC? Never heard of ‘em.”

Unfortunately, in the electronics business the unheard-of brand carries a stigma, that of the cheap-knockoff, Made in China (which these days is actually a sign of quality), Radio-Shack no-name crap.

So who is HTC?

The High Tech Computer Corporation of Taiwan, founded in 1997, was originally in the market of building stuff for other people: T-Mobile, Verizon, Dell, HP. A lot of the folks I work with don’t realize that the Palm Treo 650s they were still using until just a few months ago were built by HTC. Recent indications are that Palm is actually going back to HTC for some manufacturing, and Engadget Mobile has rumoured that the new Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 that caused so much stir at the World Mobile Congress (and which, as well as being pretty-as-hell, has a feature list that reads like smartphone version of a Penthouse letter) is an HTC design. HTC are ODM leaders.

It was the decision to produce HTC-branded Windows Mobile handsets, however, that brought the company out into the open. It was a smart choice for both Microsoft and HTC: HTC got Microsoft and the recognizeable Windows brand behind them, and Micrsoft got probably the best smartphone maker on the planet.

Truthfully, Windows Mobile sucks. In my experience, it’s buggy, ugly, and hard to get around in. At least once a week I have to do a hard reset on my phone ’cause something’s locked hard. There are a couple of good points…okay, not a couple, one: there are plenty of folks out there building apps for Windows Mobile, so its relatively easy to find programs to do almost anything I want (an SSH client, eBook reader, a better media player). But, basically, Windows Mobile is ass. Really.

It’s a good thing that the elegance of the HTC hardware is there to save the day.
To an unsuspecting public, however, the Windows name is a selling point, and that has served HTC well, to the tune of $3.7 billion in revenue in 2007. The HTC touch, which saw the company’s TouchFlo interface apply a serious coat of paint to the Windows-Mobile-interface-of-the-devil, has sold 2 million units, which ain’t too bad at all.
What they bring to OHA and Android: As I said above, these guys are likely the best makers of smartphones in the world. The problem is Windows Mobile. If we take WM out of the mix, and replace it with a sexy, open, LINUX-based mobile OS, the results just may be brilliant.
The buzz is that HTC will produce 2 or 3 Android phones in 2008. Let’s conjecture that we’ll see a candybar full-QWERTY sans touchscreen (a la my S621), a primarily-touchscreen-interface job with a small form factor (like the Touch), and a slide-out or clamshell full-QWERTY + touchscreen ultra-handset (The Kaiser, the XPERIA X1).

Are you telling me that thought doesn’t get you excited?