HTC announced the latest version of their flagship phone today, replacing the One M9 with the evolutionary HTC 10. It looks to be a solid phone, with premium build, great screen and a handful of borderline innovative features that attempt to set it apart from the Android crowd.
The new camera and laser autofocus system allegedly put the 10 on a par with the Samsung S7 / Edge, which currently ranks as the best smartphone camera available. Paired with a selfie camera packing OIS and some fancy 24-bit sound hardware the 10 manages to differentiate itself in some areas.
However, the problem for HTC remains: how can it compete against the Samsung steamroller? The weight of the Samsung marketing steamroller is going to prevent the 10 getting much of a foothold.
It has tried to make its new phone more like a Nexus, with a redrawn Sense UI and toned down customisations, but the value proposition for the Nexus - instant updates - will be denied it all the same.
HTC faces the same problem as Sony. There's a limited market for premium Android phones. And Samsung mostly has it strung up. And if you aren't buying a Samsung, Huawei is making great strides in turning into its number one challenger. The P9's dual camera setup looks like it has a lot more retail presence than the new HTC camera setup. Ironic given HTC's previous efforts with dual camera setups.
It's difficult to see where HTC increases its customer base with this phone.
Which makes the way the HTC 10 performs almost immaterial. Its market is primarily those Samsung and Apple customers prepared to try something different. If it can persuade more of those to go for the 10 than it loses M8 and M9 customers to everyone else, it will have a minor success on its hands. And if it can do that without discounting the phones too heavily it may even turn a small profit on the deal.
Right now that seems like the best it can hope for.