HTC kicked off its new strategy of offering fewer but more differentiated phones in 2012 with the launch on Sunday of the HTC One series of phones, emphasizing high quality photo and audio technologies.
The company made the announcement in Barcelona on the eve of Mobile World Congress, the largest mobile trade show of the year.
The phones will be the first to come with ImageSense, technology developed by HTC that’s designed to make the cameras in the phones as good as standalone cameras. ImageSense is a suite of camera features including one that lets a user launch the camera and take a shot in 0.7 seconds, said Peter Chou, HTC’s CEO.
The phones will also let users hold down the shutter button to take continuous photos and improve shots taken in low-light conditions, he said.
ImageSense also has a neat feature that lets users take photos at the same time they are taking a video. It works by displaying an icon on the screen that users hit to take a photo while the video continues to record.
With HTC’s Media Link app, users can connect the HTC One phones via HDMI micro to any TV with an HDMI port to view photos and videos on TVs. “It does not force you to buy a special TV or lock you into one manufacturer,” Chou said. That may have been a subtle dig at HTC competitor Sony, which earlier in the evening emphasized links between its TVs and its phones.
HTC also announced a deal that gives HTC One buyers 25 GB of storage on Dropbox for two years.
HTC has also added some new capabilities around music features of the phone. The HTC One is designed to let users connect the phone to their PC once to transfer music. After that, any time a user adds new music to their music folder on the PC, the content will automatically be wirelessly synched to the phone.
Chou mentioned rival Apple several times. He showed side-by-side photos he claimed were taken by the HTC One and an iPhone that appeared to show better quality in the HTC photo. He also noted that users will be able to easily transfer music from iTunes to the HTC One.
The high-end HTC One X runs on an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, so HTX joins LG as the first to announce phones that use quad-core processors. In some markets, it will be available with an LTE-enabled Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with up to 1.5 GHz dual-core CPUs. It has a 4.7- inch screen.
The HTC One S is a lower end version in the series. It comes with a 1.5-Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor from Qualcomm and a 4.3-inch screen. It will offer the concurrent video and photo capture technology, fast camera startup and low light technology.
The HTC One V is the third phone in the series. The company provided scant details of the phone except to say that it will use the same design as the HTC Legend.
HTC said that 144 operators around the world plan to sell the phones starting in April. T-Mobile announced it would sell the HTC One S in the U.S.
The new series demonstrates HTC’s attempts to set itself apart from the competition, one analyst said. “The company lacks the resources to easily differentiate itself from rivals such as Sony, Samsung, and Apple in terms of value-added services, so its decision to focus on perfecting core smartphone functionality around camera and music playback is an extremely pragmatic one,” said Tony Cripps, an analyst with Ovum, via e-mail.
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy’s e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com