After more than a year, HTC is all set to revamp its high-end offerings in India with the introduction of the E9, E9 Plus (both MediaTek) and M9 and M9+ handsets.
It was in April last year that the company launched its M8 in the country, and followed it up with the E8 launch in July.
Since then, the Taiwanese manufacturer has been busy with its mid-range Desire series, successfully introducing a range of smartphones with a new look and features such as dual front speakers (so-called boom sound) that have been much appreciated.
However, while the Desire series did sell well, HTC’s high-end customers were feeling left out as the company’s M8 had ‘grown old’ in just three months when LG launched its G3 flagship in July.
With the launch of the quad-HD G3, HTC lost its technological edge as the M8 had just half the number of pixels on its display as the LG model. It was a pretty early obsolescence for what was one of the most expensive phones in the market. This was followed by the launch of the Note 3 and the Xperia Z3 in subsequent months.
All this while, HTC fans yearned for some competition.
Finally, it’s here, in the form of the HTC One E9, HTC One M9 and their plus-sized brethren.
So, why did the company take so long? Frankly, we don’t know, but we’re guessing that part of the reason may be that the company was working on not just one, but four flagships.
In many ways, the current upgrade of the phones has seen the company break away from the traditional concept of flagship phones – a model that exhibits what a manufacturer is truly capable of and bets most of its marketing dollars on.
For example, while traditionally the One M9 would be the flagship for 2015, the M9 is actually inferior to the M9 Plus in specifications and price.
Similarly, no other manufacturer has a concept of two closely-placed models at the flagship level as HTC has with its E and M series.
The reason for this lies in HTC’s ‘nationality’ and the ongoing rivalries in the chip business.
HTC, as a Taiwanese company, is seen as a natural partner for MediaTek, another Taiwanese company that is competing with the Goliath of the mobile chip world -Qualcomm.
At the same time, it looks like HTC didn’t want to go purely with MediaTek and avoid Qualcomm altogether, while it didn’t want to ignore MediaTek totally either. Hence, the E9-M9 combo.
The second factor is the confusion over the ideal size. While Samsung has successfully straddled the 5 inch/5.5 inch size bifurcation with its S series and Note series, HTC has been focusing on the 5.5-inch space with its Desire launches.
The Desire 820 and 826 – its recent and successful launches in the mid-to-high range, were both 5.5-inch models, and they have done exceptionally well. Hence, the launch of two different sizes.
Finally, the resolution vs battery life issue. Research seemed to indicate, according to HTC sources, that many people don’t notice a difference between a full HD 5-inch display and a quad-HD display. On the other hand, with twice as many pixels to render, a quad-HD display would drain the battery faster than its 1080p counterpart.
The result of trying to balance all these three factors are the four phones – two of them (Plus versions) come with 5.5-inch displays and the other two (M branded) 5.2 inch.
Two (E9 and M9) come with full HD displays, while the Plus versions have quad-HD displays.
Similarly, the E Series have MediaTek processors, while the M series have Qualcomm Snapdragons.
The One series, therefore, now stretches across the entire value chain from around Rs 28,000 (the price of E9) to Rs 38,000 (E9 Plus and M9) and Rs 48,000 (the price of M9 Plus).
Will HTC’s strategy work? Will HTC also move away from the plasticky look to more premium, metallic look like Samsung? We will know by May as all these models are expected to be launched by the end of this month.