The past few years have taught once high-flying cellphone makers one or two things about demand. As Samsung rose in Android prominence, the rest of the manufacturers fell one by one. LG? Life’s not good. Motorola? Mostly moribund. Then there’s HTC.
HTC made quite a splash with its impressive One last year. The styling, the features, and the price were right and the company allegedly sold over 5 million units in 2013, although these numbers are estimates. This seems great until you understand that Apple sold 33.8 million iPhones in the September quarter of 2013 alone.
So yeah, HTC needs a miracle.
We’ll have a full review shortly but let it be said that I’m very impressed by the One M8. It’s a beautiful phone, metal clad and meaty, large and usable without being a monstrous phablet. The styling is great, the little accessories – like the hole-punched case that allows you to read the time and caller ID using an ingenious simulated LED system – are clever, and the whole package is very reminiscent of HTC’s salad days when Sense was new and the Android ecosystem had not yet been infested by the destructive Northern Snakehead fish that is Samsung.
Can this phone – or any phone – save HTC? I don’t know. The presentation today spoke mostly about software features that are already available on the Android store. The unique Lytro-esque camera is cute, but the rest of the ecosystem, including Zoe (a photo sharing app) and Blinkfeed (a new reader), is nothing new and can easily be eclipsed by extant software.
Where HTC has really changed the game, however, is in warranty protection. That’s right: something so boring and so simple truly makes this phone stand out. First, you get six months of cracked screen protection. That’s a big deal. That we, in this day and age of Gorilla Glass and ballistic cases, can be excited by a warranty is a testament to the flaccidity and sameness of the cellphone market.
So here’s to the Hyundai of mobile, the company with the best warranty in the business. Its efforts will give other manufacturers pause, and if you can’t convince the world to buy your phones for the features, you can at least convince them to buy because they’ll get a free replacement if they drop their devices. It’s the little things.