Realigning Mobile Innovation
JACK YANG PRESIDENT, HTC SOUTH ASIA
With over 20 years of experience in the mobile telecommunications industry, What do you think it take for a company to deliver a successful product today?
First, the organization has to be laser clear on what it is aiming for. If you have too many devices, it is hard for a company to focus. For any company to be successful, it needs a team to be focused on doing the right thing from the supply chain, product design, pricing to the marketing. Just look at Apple and Motorola during its heydays; there is always a team that is very clear on what they are doing.
HTC is also trying to achieve this; we had a lot of different products in the past, but this year’s portfolio is a lot cleaner. We have the HTC One family – the One, the One (M8) – and the Desire family – the 816 and 610. There is a lot of synergy on the design and user interface. Now, our phones have a consistent look and feel.
Second, a company has to deliver what it promises to the consumers. That’s the reason why Peter Chou (CEO of HTC) stepped out of the day-to-day operations to focus on the product. At the end of the day, product is really the king for any company. If you look at Apple, which is one of the best companies, Steve Jobs did the same thing and took that to heart. We got to take a focused approach to the consumers and the design of our products.
What’s your take on wearable devices? Are consumers ready?
Consumers are ready for wearable devices, but wearable devices are still in the early stages. Just look at Nike; they just abandoned the hardware team and is solely focusing on the software.
To me, wearables will get onto clothing at some point. I don’t think they are wrist watches or glasses. I think they (consumers) want wearables to be part of their lifestyle where they can clip onto something that is already existing or integrate somewhere on their clothing.
We will have our wearables in the middle of the year. Everyone is trying to figure out how to make wearables as standalone devices. Wearables have to use kinetics or motion to self-generate the energy, and if someone gets that, it will bring wearables to the next level. I think the biggest question is what constitutes a true wearable device that everybody really wants to have. Wearables are very subjective; (i.e.) people buy watches based on certain looks and feel.
We’ve noticed that recent Android smartphones are a little underwhelming. Have innovations stagnated?
I do not totally agree with that; innovations are still there. If you look at the HTC One (M8) and its Duo Camera, it is the first of its kind in the world and has taken imaging technology to the next level. Right now, the Duo Camera is at the infancy stage. As we continue to innovate in the latter part of this year and into next year, there are going to be a new set of software and better cameras to be brought out. Consumers can expect to see something very interesting from HTC later in the year.
Chinese phone makers Oppo and Vivo have released smartphones with 2K displays. Why hasn’t the industry followed yet?
The industry hasn’t moved towards 2K displays because of three reasons. One, the footprint of the device is very limited. Two, there aren’t many 2K display manufacturers at this stage. Three, there is still a lot of concerns on battery life and giving the best display at the right cost.
As the evolution of mobile displays gets better overtime, I believe there will be more phones with 2K displays. HTC (too) is looking at 2K displays and it is on our roadmap somewhere.
The next battleground for smartphones is in emerging markets as the high end segment is saturated. How does HTC differentiate its products from the other phone makers who usually compete on price?
We carry out research in these markets to see what consumers really want in a phone. What we found out across the board is that consumers are looking for a design that has a certain look and feel that in their opinion, represents value for money and premium. That’s what we did for the Desire 210 which was launched in India.
We understand the high end segment is collapsing into the mid-tier. Consumers are beginning to question whether it is still worth to pay so much for flagship models. The entry level space is different; consumers are trying to migrate to using smartphones and we can’t expect them to jump straight to the mid-tier devices when they do not need to use the advanced features. Our intent is to give the consumers who migrate from these feature phones a good impression with their first smartphone, so that they can eventually aspire to move up to the mid and premium tier. We are now playing strategically in all tiers that make sense to us.
Many emerging markets are still going through the 2G to 3G convergence. Consumers in these markets are price sensitive yet demand a certain level of quality, and that’s what we are trying to do with the Desire 210. Unlike other phone makers who use previous generation hardware and lower their prices, HTC is bringing brand new devices with price points that we believe fit the markets.