HTC made some waves today by investing $300 million in Beats Electronics to own 51 percent of the company that was started by Dr. Dre to improve audio quality for digital music. That’s a lot of paper (congrats Dre!) and I’m honestly wondering how much do you really care about the audio quality with mobile music?
A while ago, I set off in search of the best mobile music service and finally settled upon Spotify and Slacker as my music services of choice. Having recently switched to an iPhone that’s running a beta of iOS 5, I’ve ran into problems loading music on my phone, so these services have saved me from drudgery at the gym or during transit.
I’ve been an iPod users for so many years now that I can’t imagine not having those ear buds in and I’ve never been an audiophile. I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks, so as long as my mobile music service doesn’t sound like crap, I really don’t care what bitrate it’s coming in at. I also tend to lose or break my ear buds quite often, so I rarely pay more than $30 for a new pair.
Because of this, I’m a bit puzzled by the HTC investment in Beats and if it really can make its products stand out. I completely get that having Beats is a unique point of differentiation in a world where nearly every phone has similar specs but is that worth the $300 million? The HTC Surround showed that the company is willing to take some chances on music-centric devices but that handset flopped and I’d argue it was flawed from the inception because very few people want their phone to become a ghetto blaster.
A friend of mine said that audio quality is kind of like video quality – once it’s at an acceptable level, most people don’t think about it unless something like HD comes along. If Beats can make a tangible difference in the music listening experience on HTC handsets, then this deal could very well be worth it. There still could be a bottleneck in sound quality when it comes to the types of headphones that come with the device, though.
I tend to agree with Stefan that the money could have been used to beef up HTC’s own services with an investment in Spotify or the purchase of Mog. I know a lot of you out there think differently, so please let us know in the comments how big a role audio quality plays in your mobile music consumption.