So the follow up to the HTC Desire is nearly upon us – the HTC Desire HD. Not very imaginatively named I know, and you could be mistaken for thinking that this was just another iterative update, but I think that this new phone actually represents a landmark in the smartphone market, a quiet changing of the guard even.
HTC have been around for a while making loads of different smartphones of consistently high quality, but they’ve never really managed to get people excited about them as a brand.
The first HTC Desire started to change all that. It was the first phone that really started to compete with and even outdo the iPhone. One of HTCs biggest problems however was one of branding. HTC isn’t a brand it’s an acronym – the High Tech Company. And each phone they brought out tried so hard to sound exciting, but just ended up sounding a bit naff – the Hero, the Magic, the Legend, Nexus One, the Desire.
None of these phones quite lived up to their names, none of them was the giant killer that they were supposed to be (even the Desire) and none of them managed to become a brand in their own right. There’s nothing that was able to compete on a brand level with “iPhone”
So what is different now?
1) The first thing that has gone right for them is that they managed to land during a lull in the Apple marketing machine and indeed when Apple did come back into the frame it was a with a bit of a mixed bag. Bias aside, the iphone 4 is a admittedlygreat bit of kit, but not without it’s highly publicised technical flaws, and the iPad, though a joy to use is always going to have the “It’s just a big iPhone” type comparison. In this context, HTC and the Desire have managed to compete on a more level PR playing field with Apple, which would just have been unheard of 18 months ago
2) They’ve stuck with the Desire name and turned it into a franchise – the Desire HD and the Desire Z both come out in the next few weeks and their respective marketing campaigns will start to generate significant recognition for the name. This might not seem significant, but when you look at all the different names they and their competitors are using, it’s probably the first non-apple phone since the Motorola RAZR to achieve such a thing.
3) They are bringing out different models for different consumers – the Desire HD is clearly aimed at the entertainment focused user, the Desire Z (with a slide out Qwerty keyboard) is aimed at the business user and frankly I’m surprised they didn’t call the Wildfire a Desire Mini to appeal to the financially challenged teen market. This enables consumers to buy into a successful franchise without having to make compromises and represents a significant departure from the iPhone way of doing things.
These are all interesting developments and important for establishing HTC as a brand, but I think the most exciting thing they’ve done is not to do with the actual phone but instead is a piece of news that I just found out about
With the launch of the two new Desire models they are also launching a website called http://www.HTCSense.com . This website, (named after the highly acclaimed “Sense” user interface that HTC have created for their windows and android phones) will provide some really compelling functionality for all users of HTC phones. Examples of this functionality include:
– The ability to make your phone ring loudly if you have lost it – even if you have it on silent.
– The ability to find your phone on Google Maps if you have lost it further afield
– The ability to post a “REWARD” message onto the screen of a lost phone for anyone who finds it
– Not just limited to finding lost phones, if you leave your phone at home, you will also be able to send and receive text messages and see any missed calls that you have
As people become more and more dependent on their phones these are all highly valuable functions and services that will really start to make the HTC brand really sticky. I assume that the services will also include an automatic syncing of their contacts with their online account.
This is HTC really planning for the long term. When consumers come to upgrade their current HTC Sense driven phones, they will be incredibly reluctant to have to leave all of those services behind and have to install them in a new device. The HTCSense.com can expect to generate a powerful sense of loyalty and stickiness that only Apple has come close to so far
This is the first time since the launch of the first iPhone that I’ve seen a mobile technology provider really start to do something different for it’s consumers. I for one really hope it works