HTC seems to have done almost every right with its latest flagship. The HTC 10 is superior to most of its early-2016 competition, with audio quality (at least on paper) that surpasses all other flagships so far and with a camera that outclasses everyone except maybe Samsung’s Galaxy S7/S7. The Super LCD 5 display, with improved touch responsiveness and (allegedly) more vivid colors than any other LCD screen, threatens to outclass even the Super AMOLED panels on Samsung’s latest and greatest. Throw in easy availability of unlocked models (cough cough Samsung), a low-bloat user experience and some unique features such as the OIS-enabled selfie camera and HTC’s gridless homescreen and HTC might have the best smartphone available in early 2016. That one thing they failed to do is beat the competition on price.
Make no mistake, the price is certainly competitive for a flagship phone, and HTC sweetened the deal with a $100 discount promo, but they missed what I think was an opportunity to actually crush the competition at the flagship level. Had they taken a cue from their colleagues on the other side of the Taiwan Strait by offering top specs for a lower price, they could have dominated the top tier this year. No, I’m not talking about a $300-$400 tag like the latest Xiaomi, Oppo or Meizu – I’m only suggesting that a $600 price tag out of the gate with promo codes for a further $50-$100 off might have made some people say “Galaxy what?” and allow HTC to actually cut into Samsung’s market share.
As it is, the HTC 10 will certainly be competitive with Samsung and LG, maybe even slightly superior, but it won’t rout the competition the way a $600 price tag before the promotional discount could have. There are a couple potential drawbacks to this pricing model though. For one thing, HTC doesn’t have the internal infrastructure or the discounts with component vendors enjoyed by Samsung and (to a lesser extent) LG. This means HTC might have been selling at a loss with a $600 price tag and further promotional discounts. The other problem is that even if the HTC 10 did blow away the competition this year with a better phone for a significantly lower price, many customers would come to expect that sweet combination every year, so the Taiwanese company would face a sizable backlash from the market if they charged a more “on-par” price for their next flagship.
That said, HTC has been on a downward spiral in terms of market share for years now, and a $600 full retail price might have been the shot in the arm they needed to get back on the road to their 2010-2011 glory days. They’re probably on their last leg now and they need more than the brief recovery they got with 2013’s One M7 – they need a blowout win to really turn things around. Make no mistake, I fully expect the HTC 10 to be a bigger hit than even the M7, and quite possibly win various “Best of 2016” awards. It’ll probably be enough to breathe life back into the ailing company and eclipse many competing top-shelf phones, but I don’t think it’ll be what it could have been.