Back in Q3 2011, Samsung’s lead over Apple was already starting to grow, while Nokia ranked third after years of crushing command, HTC was fourth with over 10 percent share, and RIM, aka BlackBerry, followed in fifth after its own Nokia-style fall from grace.
Let’s start at the beginning
It’s no big secret that HTC has had a tough past few years. In fact, it’s been so hard lately to turn a profit that the company gave up some precious intellectual property and a talented team of design and research employees in exchange for a $1.1 billion Google payment. If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is.
Founded in 1997 as a designer and manufacturer of laptop computers (bet you forgot that part), the Taiwan-based consumer electronics outfit quickly sensed the potential for growth of the nascent smartphone business.
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Where did it all go wrong?
2011 was HTC’s peak, but somehow, by the end of the following year, the company had already tumbled out of the world’s top seven smartphone vendors. Ironically, it was similar risks as the ones that so handsomely paid off before which threw HTC in a downward spiral with seemingly no end in sight. 2011’s Evo 3D was a useless gimmick rather than a forward thinker, the ChaCha insultingly (and poorly) copied BlackBerry designs, while 2013’s HTC First “Facebook Phone” went down in the history books with its record-breaking low sales of 15,000 units.
And yes, there is such a thing as excessive advertising. Especially when it’s ineffective and crazy expensive, like that billion-dollar Robert Downey Jr. campaign.
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But what exactly can HTC do?
First of all, the company has to make a decision. It’s a tough one, but it’s been long overdue. After trading designers for cash, laying off factory workers, and losing top talent, as well as seasoned executives, is there any point in manufacturing and marketing its own phones?
The TCL-made KEY2 looks just like a classic BlackBerry… with a modern twist
That brings us to the most obvious possible solution to these never-ending creative and money problems – a brand licensing agreement. You know, like the ones signed by BlackBerry and Nokia with TCL and HMD Global.
The U12+ is not a bad phone per se, but it’s a little late for average designs like this
If HTC can find a licensee, preferably a new and ambitious company like HMD, willing to try and save its name in the smartphone business, perhaps the Vive VR division can also grow at a steadier pace, proving once and for all virtual reality is not a gimmick. The HMD example feels fitting from another standpoint as well, since the company was founded specifically to carry on Nokia’s legacy by a number of Nokia and Microsoft veterans. The venture technically came into existence in December 2016, but it never felt like a hesitant startup. It was more a mini-Nokia, and that’s precisely what HTC needs. A new company with big goals, experienced leaders, and a refreshed vision focused on innovation.
Of course, someone like TCL could also help HTC, with more extensive experience in gradually building up brand recognition and a global retail presence. Not to mention more money to invest right off the bat in (smarter) marketing and robust distribution.