HTC says One M8 momentum still strong

HTC Americas President Jason MacKenzie says sales continued to be strong in the third and fourth quarter and he teases a new ad campaign.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
3 min read

From left, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, Harman CEO Dinesh Paliwal, and HTC CEO Peter Chou. Sarah Tew/CNET

HTC is still on a roll.

That's according to HTC President Jason MacKenzie, who said activations of its HTC One M8 remained strong going into the third and fourth week of sales. Those weeks outperformed every week of sales in 2013 except for two in the summer, when the carriers held their back-to-school specials.

"It's a significantly more positive trend," he told CNET after the unveiling of the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition.

The sustained strength suggests people are still coming to HTC One M8 in the wake of the Samsung Galaxy S5 launch. The success or failure of HTC's latest flagship smartphone will have a critical impact on the company's position as a viable competitor in the market. The market leader in Android just four years ago, the company has seen its sales and profits tumble as it got outmuscled by the likes of Samsung Electronics.

Despite critical praise for the HTC One last year, the aluminum-clad smartphone was overshadowed by Samsung's Galaxy S4. History is poised to repeat itself with the One M8 and Galaxy S5, but HTC has taken care to bring a little more punch to its marketing message this time around.

HTC CEO Peter Chou at the Sprint event today. Sarah Tew/CNET

MacKenzie said another round of advertisements featuring Gary Oldman would hit in late May or early June, part of his promise of a more sustained campaign to build up the HTC name.

The custom edition HTC One M8 for Sprint is another example of HTC making an effort to stand out. The company is hoping Sprint will put even more advertising support behind the device, which features special software from Harman Kardon and a pair of high-end earbuds for improved audio performance.

"It's a big deal," HTC CEO Peter Chou told CNET after the unveiling. He said he was confident this would help with sales, and said it continued his own personal push on improved audio quality.

For HTC, it's an interesting shift in audio partners. In November 2011, it released the HTC Rezound with Verizon Wireless, an Android smartphone that came with pricey Beats headphones. The handset was a flop, with few consumers able to justify paying an on-contract price of $300 for a smartphone with a fancier audio accessory. The Rezound was the fruit of what was supposed to be a strong partnership (and ownership stake) in Beats Audio.

In September, HTC and Beats separated, with Beats buying out HTC's remaining stake in Dr. Dre's headphone company.

The HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition. Sarah Tew/CNET

Enter a new partnership with Harman Kardon. Harman CEO Dinesh Palwal told CNET that he started talking to Sprint CEO Dan Hesse about his Clarifi audio software late last year, and said he sent his engineers to Taiwan to work with HTC shortly after that.

MacKenzie confirmed that HTC didn't have to do different to the hardware, aside from the custom finish and having its speakers slightly tuned. For the most part, the change was in software.

Chou declined to comment when asked about whether Harman Kardon's software would be brought over to its lower end phones down the line. The company has taken its cues from the HTC One and included front-facing speakers on its mid-tier Desire family.