HTC oddities on Sprint and Verizon

At MWC 2012, HTC announced that they were going to streamline their phone lineup. After an abysmal 2011, the Taiwanese mobile technology OEM decided to take a different approach in light of the criticism they received for over-saturating the market with one handset after another, releasing 21 different mobile phones in 2011 (24 if you include their lineup of Windows phones).

One of the main points of criticism was the inability for consumers to distinguish one Android phone from another and that there were so many that potential buyers were growing confused.

As a friend of mine likes to say, “If you give people options, they will opt.”

So HTC changed their game plan. HTC has decided to focus on promoting just one series of Android phones, aptly dubbed the “One Series.” They released three “tiers” to their lineup: the high-end One X, the mid-range One S, and the low-end One V.

But it seems that CDMA providers are unwilling to play along with HTC’s game.

Sprint and Verizon, the largest CDMA providers in the US, are known for redesigning and retooling OEM’s phones. While the One X arrived on AT&T relatively untouched (design-wise, that is. Internally, the phone is vastly different from its unlocked counterpart), and the One S entered T-Mobile’s lineup with little more than an accent color tweak, Sprint redesigned the One X from top to bottom, renaming it the Sprint EVO 4G LTE, and Verizon took the One S, added it to its DROID Incredible lineup, and named it the Verizon DROID Incredible 4G LTE by HTC. (Oh yeah, Sprint and Verizon also like to come up with nice long names for their phones.)

I won’t go into any details on the phones themselves, but in my opinion, these designs are ugly. I never quite understood the DROID Incredible line’s bizarre shape on the back of the phone, and a kickstand on a phone seems impractical to me.

But I digress.

I haven’t done enough research to make any informed judgments, but from where I’m sitting, it seems like the CDMA providers in the US are so consumed with “exclusivity” that they’re willing to mess with the design of a beautiful handset just to claim that they have a phone that no one else has.

To me, it seems a little counterproductive. A company like HTC is the hand that feeds carriers like Sprint and Verizon. Wouldn’t it be in their best interests to help HTC in their plans to streamline their product lineup and promote the phones that HTC has designed and is trying to market? Or is it HTC’s fault? Should they strong-arm the carriers into selling their phones unmarred by the carrier’s design team? Do they need to spend more money on marketing their phones?

I mean, look at AT&T. The HTC One X is arguably the best phone in AT&T’s lineup right now, but it’s being overshadowed by phones that are more heavily marketed. The Lumia 900 is the phone with the most marketing clout behind it. Microsoft and Nokia cashed in all their chips for this device. The iPhone 4S is still atop AT&T’s selling list. Has HTC missed the boat?

What do you think? Do you know why Sprint and Verizon redo phones that OEMs make for them? Is it the OEM’s fault? Or do you think this kind of fragmentation is actually good for the OEM?

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