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HTC: Samsung spent money on marketing, not innovation

"I went from laughing to feeling embarrassed" about the presentation, HTC President Jason MacKenzie tells CNET.

HTC President Jason MacKenzie during the launch of the HTC One.
Sarah Tew/CNET

After watching Samsung Electronics unveil the Galaxy S4, HTC President Jason MacKenzie was feeling pretty good.

Actually, he felt bad -- but for Samsung.

"I went from laughing to actually feeling embarrassed at some of the acting," MacKenzie told CNET.

Samsung chose a unique way to present the Galaxy S4 and its many new features, staging a number of skits to highlight the phone's new capabilities. The theatrics were appropriate given that the event was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

MacKenzie said he believes his HTC One is still ahead of the competition -- including the Galaxy S4 -- and that the phone sits in a good position.

"Watching the presentation, it looks like they invested a lot in marketing instead of innovation," he said.

He slammed the presentation for the lack of any significant new features, noting that some of the ones that were highlighted, including S-translator, are already available on other Android phones.

Samsung refused to take the bait and directly address the comments.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," said Ryan Bidan, director of marketing for Samsung Telecommunications America.

He did note that he believes Samsung handles both marketing and R&D well.

HTC is an underdog position despite a strong offering in the One. As with last year, the company continues to get outmuscled on the marketing front, where Samsung dominates the radio and television airwaves with its commercials.

The company took advantage of the buzz around the Galaxy S4 launch, sending representatives with cans of Pringles chips and bottled water, held in trays with the HTC brand, to visit the line in front of Radio City Music Hall before the event kicked off.
An HTC representative handing out food to attendees waiting for the Galaxy S4 event. Dan Ackerman/CNET

MacKenzie said he was encouraged by the early buzz and positive reviews but acknowledged that the company need to do a better job of getting the products out to consumers.

"It matters a lot when customers are able to put the phone in their hands," he said. "That's our responsibility."

HTC has run into hiccups of its own, and has said it would push back the launch of its One to April. The company hasn't specified the reason behind the delay, but many suspect it is related to the complicated manufacturing process of the all-metal body.

MacKenzie declined to comment on the reasoning behind the delay, saying only that he was anxious to get the phone out to the market.

MacKenzie noted that Samsung could risk disappointing customers after the tremendous build-up in hype. That provides an opportunity for a product like the HTC One to swoop in and win new fans, he said.

"At the end of the day, product matters," he said.