More HTC handsets with Beats headphones? Probably not

The HTC Rezound will likely be the last phone for a while that will come bundled with Beats headphones, despite the highly touted partnership between the two companies.

The Rezound will likely be the last HTC phone for a while to come bundled with Beats headphones. Josh Miller/CNET

Don't expect HTC to pack Beats headphones or earbuds with the Evo 4G LTE -- or any of its smartphones for the time being.

HTC is shelving the idea. One lesson the company learned from last year's Sensation XL and the Rezound: customers don't really choose smartphones based on the headphones -- even headphones with a brand as recognizable as Beats.

"An accessory like the headphone doesn't factor in when someone is buying a smartphone," Martin Fichter, an HTC product executive, told CNET. "If they want a Beats headphone, they'll buy it directly."

The incorporation of Beats Electronics' technology and the featuring of its headphones were key selling points in HTC's decision to take a majority stake in the audio-accessory company. With handset vendors desperate to set themselves apart from the pack, HTC has bet heavily on sound as a differentiating factor. Music, for instance, figures prominently in its flagship One series of phones, as well as in Sprint Nextel's Evo 4G LTE.

But the decision to nix the headphone bundle does call into question the value of music and of the Beats deal. In August, HTC spent roughly $300 million -- and potentially more -- to acquire a 51 percent stake in Beats. If the headphones aren't enough to move a smartphone, what's the point?

The Beats logo is seen on the One X. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Fichter, however, said the plan for HTC was to work with the technology behind the headphones, which is still getting incorporated into its handsets. Beats has consistently popped up in HTC's products in one way or the other, including speaker technology and the way the phones sound through headphones.

The bundling arrangement wasn't helped by the fact that the Rezound sold poorly. Even longtime partner Verizon didn't put its full energy behind the phone, preferring instead to push the Droid Razr as its flagship product for the holidays.

Don't expect HTC to be in a rush to go back to packing Beats headphones with its products.

The Evo 4G LTE for Sprint and the One X for AT&T won't be carrying the headphones. Fichter wouldn't completely shut the door on bundling headphones, but he said it wasn't something the company is considering in the near term.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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