IntoMobile Perspective : HTC Then and Now

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This is the second installment in our on-going series about the businesses that made the wireless industry what it is today. Earlier, we took a look at LG, and now it’s time to focus on another Asian manufacturer – HTC.

Company History

HTC hails from Taiwan and was founded by Cher Wang, H.T. Cho, and Peter Chou. Chou is likely the most familiar of the group as he is the current front man for HTC. He is both the chief executive officer (CEO) and the president of the Taiwanese manufacturer. Chou is the one you will see waving phones in front of a crowd of eager journalists during a press event.

Cher Wang is another high-profile executive for the Taiwanese company. She is the daughter of wealthy businessman Wang Yung-ching and has followed in the footsteps of her entrepreneurial father. Before she started HTC, Wang also played a critical role in the founding of chipset company VIA and is one of the wealthiest people in Taiwan. She is the Chairman of HTC and is considered by many to be the most influential woman in the wireless industry.

Last but not least is H.T. Cho. He is the third founder and served as the President and CEO of the company in its early days. He is now the Director of HTC. He also  is the Chairman and Founder of the HTC Foundation, a philanthropic organization that HTC says “supports and promotes a number of programs in education, character development and cross-cultural awareness.”

Most people don’t realize it, but HTC started off as a notebook manufacturer. It was Wang’s influence that guided the company away from the competitive notebook arena to the nascent mobile device market. The Taiwanese company started making PDAs in the late 90s, but most of HTC’s early products were sold to other companies, which slapped their branding on the devices. HTC didn’t toil in obscurity, though. The company’s design work on products like the Compaq IPAQ and Palm Treo 650 put HTC at the forefront of the maturing PDA market and the fledgling smartphone market.

Shortly after negotiating an agreement with Microsoft to put Windows Mobile on the devices it was designing, HTC took a bold step and announced that it would finally start selling devices under its own name.  Since that day in 2006, HTC has designed and sold its own phones.

Important Phones

Before it started selling its own phones, HTC designed many popular phones like the O2 XDA, the T-Mobile Dash, and Verizon Wireless XV6700. In its heyday, HTC produced a plethora of Windows Mobile handsets that attracted a strong following of users who enjoyed modifying their phones and chatting about it over at the xda-developers forums.

HTC also kicked off the Android revolution with HTC Dream/G1 and the Nexus One. Though it dabbles in the Windows Phone platform, Android remains HTC’s bread and butter. Join us below as we take a walk down memory lane and look at some of HTC’s important handsets.

HTC Apache (XV6700/PPC-6700)

It was tough to decide which HTC phone to profile first because there were so many early models and most were sold by companies like UT Starcom, O2 and T-Mobile. I chose the HTC Apache because it was the first HTC-made Windows Mobile phone that owned.

The Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC device was sold as the XV6700 on Verizon and the PPC-67000 on Sprint in late 2005. The side-slider was the first CDMA device to run Windows Mobile 5, and the first Windows Mobile 5.0 device to hit retail shelves in the US.

Hardware-wise, the XV6700 featured a 416MHz Intel Xscale processor, 64MB RAM, 128MB ROM, a 2.88-inch color display with 240×320 resolution, a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, WiFi and USB.

HTC Raphael (Touch Pro)

Another solid Windows Mobile offering was the HTC Touch Pro. It was one of several “Touch” branded phones sold by HTC in the late 2000s. There were several variants of the phone including the Touch Pro on Sprint and Verizon, the Fuze on AT&T and the MDA Vario IV on T-Mobile.

Released in late 2008, the handset featured a 528MHz Qualcomm processor, 288MB RAM, 512MB ROM, a 2.8-inch 480×640 resolution display, a side-slide QWERTY keyboard, 5-way D-pad, microUSB expansion, GPS and a 3.1-megapixel camera. Connectivity options included Bluetooth, WiFi and either GSM/HSDPA/HSUPA or CDMA/1xRTT/EV-DO. It ran Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional with HTC’s TouchFlo UI.

HTC Dream/G1

The HTC Dream/G1 was a monumental handset that shows just how popular HTC was back a few years ago. When selecting a manufacturer to build its first flagship phone, Google chose HTC as its premier partner.

The G1 was introduced in 2008 as Google’s first Android device. It went on sale October 22, 2008 in the US and then landed in Europe a few days later. T-Mobile was the launch carrier for the device here in the US.

By today’s standards, the Dream is old technology, but it was the first real challenger to Apple’s iPhone. The G1 shipped with a 528MHz Qualcomm processor, 192MB RAM, 256MB ROM, a 3.2-inch display with 320×480 resolution, and a 3.1-megapixel camera. Distinctive features include a side-sliding QWERTY keyboard, a track ball and a signature chin-shaped profile. I had one for a short time and remember it well.

HTC Passion (Nexus One/Incredible/Desire)

Launched in 2010, the Google Nexus One was the flagship phone for Android 2.1 and the first handset sold through Google as a developer device.

The Nexus One had modern specs, including a 3.7-inch display with 800×480 resolution, a 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, and a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity options like WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 and HSPA/EVDO round out the specs on the handset.

The HTC Desire and the Droid Incredible share many of the same specs as the Nexus One and were sold by HTC to carriers like Verizon Wireless, Telus and Vodafone.

HTC One X

The HTC One X is HTC’s latest flagship Android handset. After a string of mediocre phones like the Salsa and the Rezound, the One X is HTC’s big comeback device.

The handset has top-of-the line specs including a Tegra 3 processor (1.5GHz Qualcomm S4 in the LTE version), 4.7-inch display with 720×1280 resolution, 16GB internal storage, 1GB of RAM, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080P recording and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. It ships with Android 4.0 and HTC Sense 4.0.

When it was released earlier this year, the One X was  the best Android handset on the market. Now, it shares that title with the Samsung Galaxy S III.

On the Horizon

Once a prominent smartphone maker, HTC is at a turning point. The company has seen its quarterly earnings and its market share plummet. In the past year, HTC’s profit has dropped 60 percent, its stock price has fallen more than 50 percent and its global smartphone market share has been cut almost in half from 10.7 percent in Q2 2011 to 5.9 percent now.

It’s not as bad off as rivals Nokia and RIM, but the Taiwanese manufacturer is getting squeezed out of the market by Samsung and Apple. HTC is turning to developing markets like China to make up for its decline in North America and Europe. This is a risky bet as HTC will have to compete with local favorites like Huawei and ZTE. It’s far from over for HTC, but the company has some serious work ahead of it, if it wants to regain its former glory.

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