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Why are HTC & Sony Losing the Smartphone Game?

HTC just announced their newest flagship phone, the HTC 10 – and while we haven’t really reviewed it, nor do I really know if it’s a good smartphone or not – I have a bad feeling that the company won’t get the sales that they want to get.

I hope I’m wrong, and for sure, they could still win this by having a great smartphone with a little bit of marketing – but we all know that HTC doesn’t have the same amount of marketing muscle as Samsung or Apple. Also, their revenues have been going down – by a huge 35% last year, indicating that the company is indeed doing something wrong – or other companies are just doing it really right.

The problem is – HTC is barely doing anything with their flagship phone, the 10. It has all the high-end specs, but so does every other flagship phone. It has the premium design, but so does Samsung, LG, Huawei and even Xiaomi now. It could potentially have great software, a good set of cameras and long battery life – but then again, mostly every other phone has those too.

HTC also gave up their front-facing speakers, something that Apple, LG and Samsung do not have with their flagship phones, and instead, took the competition’s existing idea of a physical button housing a fingerprint scanner up front. It’s not modular, it’s not waterproof; basically, it has nothing to differentiate it from the rest – so why would you buy a $699 phone (Php30k+) from HTC, when you can get a Samsung Galaxy S7, an LG G5, or an iPhone?



It’s also the same deal with Sony, which is also losing money in its mobile division. Sony has been retaining a lot of things from the original Xperia Z, and ever since the recent years, Sony’s smartphones have been just the company’s smartphone with all the best specs and design – but it has nothing new and of relevance to offer most people. And aside from PlayStation integration and other Sony services, no – 4K in the Xperia Z5 Premium isn’t what I would consider differentiating.

Maybe Sony wants to change that, which is why they dropped the “Z” branding in favor for their “X” (yet with still confusing labels like ‘Performance’), but that will barely do anything. The stigma is with the entire Xperia line-up – not the letter Z. Also, what does this brand even mean to most people? The first Galaxy S brought in an Android revolution, the G series marked LG’s focus into the smartphone game, and even HTC’s recent branding is well associated with “premium” —  what is an “Xperia”? Their latest flagship phone, the Xperia X Performance – is just a powerful & premium smartphone with waterproofing and, assuming, great hardware like camera and battery. It doesn’t push forward anything at all.

I like these companies, and I would like to commend HTC’s push into VR with their Vive, and I’m also a big fan of Sony’s other products like their cameras and their PlayStations – but right now, never would I consider getting a mobile phone from them, and the only scenario I see that happening is if they release a Nexus.

The iPhone and the Galaxy are competing in the premium all-around smartphone market, so LG is taking the riskier route with dual cameras and modularity; mostly the rest are competing in a price war. If Sony and HTC would like to get my attention, they should release something different – even if that’s really hard to do.

Bob Freking occasionally contributes articles to the website. He is a UST Graduate of Commerce & Business Administration, Major in Marketing Management, and a full-time Sith Lord with three dragons.

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23 Responses

  1. J60 says:

    You keep talking about wanting something different, yet Apple is notorious for incremental updates with its phones.

    Samsung? The only really “new” thing they’ve introduced is their curved edge design — and that was last year. Under the hood you’ll find the expected specs for a 2016 android flagship.

    And why should Sony’s foray into 4k mobile screens be discounted? It’s not a huge feature like LG’s modular design, sure. But it is something “new.”

  2. Kunsel says:

    Why don’t you try checking this?


    HTC and Sony are struggling. But the difference in per unit profit is huge.

  3. Marbing says:

    I think its the price they need to address,and of course marketing. Iphones are not bring anything new to the table either but Apple is raking money from them. Samsung’s galaxy phones are better than Xperia and One in more ways than one but they dont have any spectacular features that separate them from the latter either. Apple is a powerful brand and ecosystem. People buy iphones for the sake of it being an iphone and Galaxy phones are just easier to get and more familiar than competitors. If HTC and Sony price their phones cheaper and extends availability they will surely gain more customers. Anyway HTC 10 will be my next phone.

  4. the other says:

    A Sony Nexus phone will definitely help in brand recognition worldwide. Huawei did it when it released the 6P. I read a report online that Google wanted to partner with Sony Ericsson to build the Nexus One in 2010 but Sony Ericsson turned down the offer and the Nexus One project went to HTC. Speaking of HTC, I think the best way for them is to concentrate on midrange phones with updated designs not copied from Apples Iphone.

  5. Fox Hunter says:

    People who buy Apple products are idiots and zombies. Apple is overpriced junk. Samsung at least has lower end models that bring good value for money. I would not buy Samsung flagship phones either, people buy expensive flagships for the status symbol, nothing more.

  6. Mat says:

    I have tried both Sony (Z1) and HTC (One x+) in the past and my reason for dropping them both was simple: Poor after sales support. Both have next to no visibility with Sony being worse than HTC. They outright lie about their guarantee of “repair while you wait” and would take 2 weeks to replace a battery.

    In terms of pure hardware, I would go for either of them over anything else in the market. Unfortunately, these devices are designed to fail after a certain point and thats where after sales comes in to play with these two brands not bothering to show up.

    I don’t usually rant online about anything, however, I think these two brands deserve it.

    ** Just to add about HTC; I was going to buy the M7 (I think it was the M7) at the HTC store at Megamall in cold cash, but decided against it when they had the gall to hike up the price because of “limited stock”. I understand the supply/demand argument, but there was next to no demand for the phone.

    • art says:

      The worst thing about HTC was their outright lie when M7 was released with a defective ultra pixel camera. HTC Phil support even said, that it will be fixed with the new firmware update. i waited and when the update arrived, it still has the same pinkish problem when shooting at low light. HTC should have have replaced those units affected by pinkish problem outright since they know that the problem was with the ultra pixel sensor. Now, HTC M10 is having the newer ultra pixel sensor all over again as the banner feature. lol

  7. Easy E says:

    Yung pagiging mahal ng phones nila, isang side lang yun ng kwento. Maganda din naman ang build at quality ng hardware at software ng sony at htc.

  8. JPlusO2 says:

    If Samsung and Apple are out of the equation, I’d totally buy the HTC 10 over the G5. It’s just a much worthy competitor.

  9. RAD says:

    For me HTC and Sony are the only smartphone manufacturers who has their own original idea. People who buys HTC or Sony are the ones who knows what they really want. You are talking about the front firing speakers removed? you should have read the details of the new speaker that HTC installed to the M10 with the twitter and woofer separated it’s another first and original from HTC not to mention the headphone amplifier built in. As I’ve said it’s for people who knows what they really want and what they need.

    • Abe Olandres says:

      Was a huge fan of HTC phones back then. I bought all 4 flagship devices they released in a single year. Stopped buying them since HTC One M9.

    • RAD says:

      I also didn’t get the m9 because of all the issues..I’m still using my M8 and looking forward to buying the 10.
      Also, about the 10’s speaker I meant tweeter not twitter HAHAHA.

  10. Heinriq says:

    The way I read this, you sound lik you’re too “nega.” I don’t know if the main purpose of this article is to show your dismay to HTC and Sony’s marketing strategies or just to shower them with bad vibes hoping your reader would absorb this and believe on every statement you made. Well what do you get from that though? ????

  11. Anna Marie says:

    Personally, I’d rather get the HTC over the Samsung. I don’t like Touchwiz’s look. Although I know na currently S7 is the king.

    Magaling lang talaga magmarket si Samsung ng products and same goes with Apple. Mapapawow talaga ang nga fan at mga mangmang.

    I’m waiting for XperiaX to be released here hopefully as replacement sa LG G4 ko. Disappointed kasi ako sa G5.

  12. Buboy says:

    Sa tingin ko kaya nalulugi pa lalo ang htc at sony, kung titignan mo saan mang anggulo ng design ng Sony Z series halos walag pinagbago sa HTC naman natalo sila sa camera kaya halos walang bumili + wala na ring HTC PH kaya d lalong makikilala ng ibang tao + sa tingin ko ang dapat nilang gawin ay ibenta ang high end phones nila in mid range price even na mahirap gawin un, and yes lahat ng tao sinasuggest un pero kung ikaw na mismo ang nasa company medyo mahirap gawin un,

    And why apple still leading in mobile/phone industry because of it’s Apple/iOS ecosystem like iMessage, FaceTime and iCloud. And kung their After Sales support sila ang the best dyan

  13. mi says:

    PRICE .. with all those cheap ANDROID phones coming out.. who would want an EXPENSIVE phone.. might as well get an iPhone -_-

  14. King says:

    Sony and HTC, gaganda ng products nila, reasonable ang price pero para makalamang sila s apple at samsung, kailangan ng excellent customer service talaga… Yung kapag may defect ang nabili mu, replace kaagad, automatic… Tapos dapat mabilis ang update ng os like nexus…

  15. JAMES says:

    iPhone is not just for status symbol. It has more to offer. Sabi nga ng iba, you buy what you need. We cannot generalized those who really prioritizes vices than needs, there are people who can shell out huge amount to satisfy their hunger for the wanting, and won’t break their banks.

    Samsung is not just more on marketing. You can buy their flagships at your own cost, or better get a postpaid plan (Plan 599 + 26400 cashout = 41k)* for S7 Edge Globe. Think of buying a handset with almost the same amount of plan? Think again if you need a postpaid line. Samsung has better optics, better displays, and the s7 series is exceptional due to waterproof feature (for now), though Sony has been keeping this on most of their models.

    HTC and Sony were really good before, but todays, hmm. Prices really indicate market share, not just pure marketing (may it gimmick or not). These companies are good manufacturers, but not much on the consumers side. You can say they are the best, but profit indicates. If you are good, word-of-mouth marketing is much powerful than marketing ads.

    After sales is always a key to a recurring customer and recommending the product to friends. And this one is present on the top tier brands on mobiles.

    Lastly, many of the people that ads are reaching are those who rely basically on ads. Many who do not not care of the money or specs, sometime they cling on brands and/or endorsers. Few really checks and compares. At the end of the day, we care for ourselves, for our money, for our handset. But we should not hail brands just because of their brands, we should buy what we like most, and what really fits our needs and budget.

  16. rush says:

    Its all about the price hehe..

  17. Roni says:

    The reasons both not doing well are Huawei, Lenovo, One Plus One, Xiaomi and even cherry and my phone. Sony and HTC are expensive with low specs especially Sony.Quality not that good either i know cpz am a former sony owner.

  18. Java the hut says:

    Here’s what I think they could improve on (without the heavy cost)

    1. Increase the software lifetime and DO NOT emulate Google’s recommendation of deprecating devices after 2 years.
    2. Switch to AMOLED screen (the typical consumer loves the Galaxy screen).
    3. Encourage telecom companies to put their devices in postpaid plans.
    4. Market differently. Not harder, but differently.

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