That’s the approach which Apple has taken against HTC, a small competitor which produces Android platform smartphones which compete directly against Apple’s iPhone.
Why would Apple, which has market dominance in the smartphone arena as well as a huge market cap, concern itself with HTC? I’ll tell you why. They make a better phone.
Let’s go back two years ago at this time. iPhones are becoming more popular and are successfully converting users from conventional cell phones to smart phones. The newest version is revealed amid great buzz, thanks to the marketing genius of Steve Jobs and company. The phones get great reviews overall; the screen is attractive, it has a front and back camera, and the display movement is smooth. However, the drawbacks include a low battery life, a substandard megapixel camera, and any potential user is limited to the AT&T network – a not inconsequential barrier for many consumers to stomach. Many consumers are not happy with Apple’s “walled garden” and do not want to be told who their provider should be.
At that time, HTC comes out with the EVO 4G on the Sprint Network. This phone is phenomenal. It boasts an 8 megapixel back camera, an impressive 4.3 inch display, a kickstand, and all the functionality that comes with the latest version Android operating system. Since it is Android, it syncs contacts and calendar entries seamlessly with Gmail. It also has access to Sprint’s 4G network (unavailable at that point in time from AT&T). Streaming data and downloads are fast! (I am going to come clean here and let you know that I own this phone. I not only own it, but I may have actually stood in line to buy it on the day it came out. The reviews were that good.) What was the main drawback to this phone? Battery life. It was definitely substandard, but at least I could buy aftermarket batteries on eBay (2 plus a charger for $10) and switch them out if the phone started to die when I was away from a charger.
Contrast that to the iPhone 4, which was also released in June of 2010. The new iPhone had a new attractive “retina” display, but still boasted only a 5 megapixel camera and a new design: the wraparound “band antenna” which sure looked cool, but turned out to cause more dropped calls from hand interference. (Although being that it was on the AT&T network, who could have really told the difference?)
What’s happened since that time is that Apple has continued to move forward. They improved battery life, introduced the Siri personal assistant feature, and upgraded the camera. They also opened up the iPhone to other providers such as Verizon and Sprint – removing a HUGE barrier for consumers that wanted an iPhone.
HTC has done its thing as well. They’ve offered various Android phones through all of the major carriers. None of the phones that they offered in 2011 had a tremendous amount of innovation, but they still had good reviews.
Here’s my point: I believe Apple is a better company, and the iPhone is a better product, BECAUSE of competition from HTC. HTC experienced strong growth due to robust sales of its Android smartphones – arguably some of the best on the market. Would Apple push itself as hard without serious competition? I would argue that they would not.
HTC recently announced that they were releasing the latest version – the HTC EVO 4g LTE. This is the next version of the EVO and reviews say that it is a worthy successor to the original. Some of the features include longer battery life, a 4.7 inch display screen, a dedicated camera button, and refinements in the camera functionality. That sounds great – if I am lucky enough to get one. Apple has again filed an injunction for copyright infringement against HTC and Samsung. (This is the new normal; seems every high tech out there is suing each other for something. Take a look at Google, for example… most of their recent acquisitions has been strictly for the patent rights.) Both HTC and Samsung deny that they they have committed copyright infringement. But for a smaller player like HTC, the resources necessary to wage a Samson versus Goliath battle might be enough to knock them out of the game completely.
It’s not only a shame that Apple isn’t looking at HTC functionality as a catalyst to drive further innovation for the iPhone; it’s a travesty that ultimately punishes the consumer. When the latest iPhone version came out, I was one of the consumers that considered switching away because of the innovation in the Siri app once my plan expired. Now, I will do everything in my power to never buy an iPhone. I highly doubt my decision will make a dent in Apple’s market share – but I wonder if there are others who feel the same?