HTC’s slow-motion fall from smartphone grace will reportedly continue into 2022, with the company said to be working on a new “metaverse”-focused phone in April as the smartphone company remains. The once-flagship continues to desperately cling to whatever zeitgeist terms it can to stay afloat, according to DigiTimes.
The news comes from Charles Huang, HTC’s general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, who reportedly commented at MWC 2022 that the company would unveil a new high-end smartphone next month with unspecified “metaverse” features. Details are scant, including specs, markets it will be released in, or even what kind of AR or VR features the new device will offer.
The news sounds a lot like HTC’s latest major pivot toward relevance: its Exodus line of blockchain phones that has been offered for the past few years. With promising decentralized applications (“Dapps”) and a built-in cryptocurrency wallet, the phones could run blockchain nodes and even mine negligible amounts of cryptocurrency, but, like many instances of blockchain technology, it was a solution in much of it looking for a problem that never really took off.
For the sake of argument, a metaverse phone would make at least a little more sense than a blockchain one, if only because HTC has been a major player in the VR space.
HTC’s main announcement at MWC 2022 was the debut of a nebulous “Viverse,” the company’s metaverse concept that promises to merge VR, XR, 5G, blockchain technology, NFT, and more into a futuristic new platform.
It’s even possible to imagine what an integrated smartphone could look like in the metaverse, given the existence of projects like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces or Microsoft Mesh, which aim to help integrate traditional devices like smartphones into virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.
In that sense, a high-end HTC “metaverse” phone could be one that ties deeply into the company’s VR headset for an integrated cross-device experience that boldly changes the way we think about using smartphones (and other smartphones). devices) in virtual environments.
That said, the metaverse phone could also be a lackluster smartphone that has some half-baked VR apps preloaded. For what it’s worth, HTC’s Vivese site explicitly says that one will be able to interact with its metaverse concept from “any phone, tablet, PC, or VR headset,” complete with a picture of a smartphone that appears to be doing just that.
Since HTC’s Viverse doesn’t really exist, nor does the widespread adoption of any modern metaverse concept, it’s easy for the company to simply say it’s creating a metaverse app or phone. After all, who’s to say you’re not?
Perhaps the metaverse phone HTC is launching is a revelation, the kind of product that makes HTC relevant again and puts the company back at the forefront of the industry. But the recent history of the company does not give much hope that this will be the case.
HTC used to make good phones
It’s almost hard to remember in 2022, but HTC used to make good phones: devices for both Android and the different versions of Windows Phone that were among the best hardware you could buy. Phones like the legendary HTC HD2, the HTC Evo 4G, the HTC One X, the ultra-sleek HTC One, or the jewel-toned HTC U11.
But that was, in many ways, a different company than the HTC of today, before the company sold a good chunk of its smartphone talent to Google in a $1.1 billion deal in 2017. Pixel phones have since Google’s have only gotten better and better, while HTC’s smartphone fortunes have languished.
Despite its hardware prowess, HTC, like LG, Motorola (before its own trials and tribulations with Google), and other Android device makers, failed to find lasting commercial success, squeezed by Samsung’s most popular Galaxy devices on one end and Apple’s. iPhones in the other.
And that brings us to today’s HTC: hollowing out the engineers and designers who once made their phones so great, frantically churning out blockchain phones, metaverses, and whatever other major buzzwords come next to stay afloat in a market. of smartphones that barely resemble the one in which it was a major player.
It’s not that HTC is completely devoid of ambition or good products: the company still produces high-end VR headsets aimed at businesses, and recently launched its unique-looking Vive Flow headset for more casual customers, too.
On the other hand, looking back at products like the Evo 3D or Facebook-focused HTC Status and HTC First, it’s possible that being doomed to chase tricks on the road to irrelevance has always been HTC’s fate.