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HTC shouldn’t go all-in on nostalgia and expect it to be a long-term solution

Opinion post by

Jimmy Westenberg

Would you look at that, HTC might try to make a nostalgia-driven comeback. It’s something many of us at Android Authority want, and I’m sure many of our readers would be happy about it, too. But before we get too excited, Negative Jimmy needs to make a return and ask if this is the right thing to do.

I care about HTC. I do! At least, I used to back when it made compelling smartphones. I miss the days when HTC was a serious contender to Samsung in the US flagship market. As much as I’d like to see HTC at the top again, I don’t want it to waste money it doesn’t have on a revamped phone line that it’s not sure many people will buy.

HTC is in the right place to bring the nostalgia back

Drew Bamford, the head of HTC Creative Labs, recently asked on Twitter which classic HTC phone the company should bring back with updated technology. Plenty of comments ensued, with people reminiscing about nearly each and every model HTC ever made.

The HTC One M7 certainly came up a lot. For its time, it was one of the best-designed phones on the market, and one of the first to feature front-facing stereo speakers. That was a big deal in 2013. Following that, the One M8 was a fantastic follow-up to an already great smartphone. A lot of people indicated to Bamford that they would buy an updated One M8.

We can’t, however, forget about classic HTC phones such as the One X, Droid Incredible, and Droid DNA. People especially loved the One X for its solid, industrial design. My favorite was the DNA with its soft-touch back. Remember, these were the days before every phone was glass or metal, and HTC phones were up there with the best of the best in terms of design.

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What I’m trying to say is that HTC has more than a few classic phones it could resurrect and bring back to market with a 2019 design and specs to match. However, there’s more to nostalgia than bringing back a classic phone just for the sake of it.

Inspiration from the competition

The HTC U12 Plus.

Part of the nostalgia that surrounds the HTC brand is because of its fall from greatness; it used to be so good, but there’s hardly a hint of the old HTC around anymore. That’s partially due to Google buying a few thousand employees from HTC’s R&D team in 2017. The Taiwanese company doesn’t exactly have the resources — capital or personnel — that it once did.

Things were getting rocky, however, long before Google stepped in. The HTC 10 was a good follow-up to the lackluster One M9, though it struggled to compete against the fantastic Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. HTC then shifted gears in 2017 with the uninspiring and overpriced U Ultra. While the U11 was a great phone and a step in the right direction, the 2018 follow-up HTC U12 Plus was a nightmare to use. (Those pressure volume buttons!)

Through all of these missteps, HTC lost a lot of what made the company so great all those years ago. The U-series phones look nice, but they’re slippery and super fragile. What happened to that wonderful metal design language we all loved with the One M7/M8 series? The company was also slow to adopt major design trends like larger displays with minimal bezels, but quick to make user-alienating features like removing the headphone jack. The company completely dropped the ball on software improvements, too.

Before HTC plans to jump on the nostalgia train, it needs to get the basics right. The company can’t release a revamped One M7 and expect people to buy it if it’s not a competitive phone for 2019/2020. In other words, people aren’t going to buy a revamped One M7 if it runs into the same issues that have plagued recent HTC phones: Old/bloated software, annoying buttons, and weak battery life.

HTC should look to OnePlus for inspiration here. For everything you may not like about OnePlus, the company has shown a lot of restraint (well, until recently) in not releasing too many phones each year. Instead, it focused on making small improvements to ensure each new iteration had a number of thoughtful updates that made people want to upgrade. OnePlus focuses on getting the basics right while not biting off more than it can chew.

Ticking the nostalgia box is a short-term play, not a long-term solution

Simply bringing back the One M7 won’t save the company, sorry. As much as we want that to happen, the name alone won’t save it. HTC has a lot of work to do to make up for its past offenses, and I’m not sure it has the resources to do that. If our speculation turns out to be true and HTC does release a new flagship phone, can we ever trust that the phone will receive timely software updates? Will it be able to sell the phone at a reasonable price? What about customer support? HTC’s track record in these areas has been uneven over the years.

The nostalgia play is an interesting one: It gets people talking for a few weeks/months, but is it a long-term solution? I’d say no, not if it doesn’t have a solid foundation upon which to stand.

A new HTC phone doesn’t need to be a carbon copy of an older One-series phone to get people talking — it needs to have a reason to exist, and it needs to offer more than the initial “Oh man, remember the One M7? That was beautiful” reaction.

As it stands, we don’t know if the company is even considering coming back with a revamp of a classic phone. After all, that Tweet from Drew Bamford could’ve just been for amusement. But when the head of the Creative Labs division asks a question like that on a public forum, we need to at least entertain the idea.

HTC wants to make premium phones again, and I want it to as well. I just want there to be more to it than slapping an old name on a new phone and calling it a day.


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