2013 the year of the 5-inch phone? HTC chief says not necessarily
Talk of 2013's releases is all about 5-inch devices, but HTC's chief product officer says smaller screened handsets are here to stay
Numerous correlating reports have seen the tech world gearing up to the idea that from 2013 onwards will see an era of 5-inch smartphones dominating the market. But in an insightful interview HTC’s chief product officer, Kouji Kodera, has revealed that this may not be such an inevitability after all.
The news comes courtesy of an extensive Q&A between Kodera and The Verge.
Kodera is currently in Japan to promote the launch of the 5-inch 440 pixels-per-inch (ppi) HTC J Butterfly, but earlier reports have indicated a re-designed global version of this model will launch soon with the exact same display technology built-in (possibly called the HTC Deluxe, though reports are conflicting).
However, this isn’t the first or last rumour of a 5-inch 440 ppi display-equipped smartphone scheduled for next year – Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is said to have one, as is LG’s Optimus G successor and a forthcoming model from Lenovo. Meanwhile, Huawei has plans for a monstrous 6.1-inch handset.
Earlier reports have also indicated that these larger display sizes are at least in part due to that 440ppi goal, which is allegedly easier to attain with the technology used at a larger scale.
This prompted a question during the interview with Kodera regarding trends in display sizes and if 5-inch beasts will indeed be not only the norm, but a dominant force in the space.
The report suggests that Kodera believes manufacturers have ‘hit a ceiling’ with 5-inch displays and that customers won’t be too fond of anything larger.
He added: ‘We’re going to see smaller displays that are capable of that resolution, so pixel density is going to keep going up.’
Other gems from the interview included an insight into HTC’s new marketing strategy.
Not long ago the company promised to focus on a smaller range of higher quality handsets, it delivered on that promise with the One range but despite positive reviews these models failed to shift in significant numbers.
We've since heard that HTC has undergone a management reshuffle with a new global marketing lead being recently installed. Said marketing chief is understood to be setting a new marketing strategy in motion.
Kodera says that having fewer handsets is actively a marketing strategy because the more models the company produces the less marketing money it has to throw around for each device.
He described HTC’s aim to produce ‘less product, more exposure on those… and bringing some real differentiated factors to the market, rather than just bringing many new products’.
HTC’s product chief was also quizzed on why, alongside Android, it is pursuing Windows Phone 8, a platform with a license fee, small market share and lower levels of customer awareness, compared to the opposite case on all counts with Android.
‘While it’s true that Windows Phone has a license fee and that the core Android OS is free, once you add software (HTC Sense) your license fees go up accordingly,’ Kodera said.
'The biggest difference is that Google doesn’t do any advertising for Android, while Microsoft pays to promote Windows Phone on its own. So you can’t compare categorically just on the basis of license fees… the bigger factor is how strong the products are and whether or not people will buy them.’
One disappointing nugget to come from the interview is that the HTC Sense interface overlay is apparently here to stay on Android. Kodera was asked if we'll see an HTC One style device with stock Android.
'The Nexus devices are Google’s lineup,' he said, 'but in general, we’re very proud of HTC Sense, and we’d like to continue shipping it on every device.'
Lastly, Kodera implied that HTC might not be entirely finished with tablets, saying that the company is still ‘interested’ in bringing one to market and that it has continued to work on concept models, but hasn’t yet managed to come up with anything it’s entirely happy with.
Kodera said HTC has already cancelled around ‘six or seven’ tablet concept projects since the flop that was the HTC Flyer.
‘What we decided is we will really focus on our product, we will re-do it as many times as we need until we get a concept and a product that we feel comfortable with,’ Kodera said.
Or in other words, yes you’ll see another HTC tablet at some point in the future, but only once the company has 100 per cent confidence it’ll be well received.