This week OG smartphone users were treated to a retro blast from the past, as news broke that former mobile heavyweight HTC may be working on a new flagship-level smartphone.
To most, this may not be big news. For the past few years, HTC has been a virtual reality brand focussed on creating new Vive headsets. Even those who remember its final U line won’t have fond memories, as the series never really had much impact or carrier support in the UK. As a result, it’s not terribly surprising that the news HTC may be making a new blower to take on the iPhone 11 and Galaxy S20 might be met with a profound ‘meh’.
But, for me, it was wonderful news that tugged oh so many nostalgia strings. This is because, despite dropping out of the market years ago, HTC will always be the company responsible for some of my favourite Android phones growing up.
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The HTC Wildfire was my first Android smartphone, and the Desire still holds a spot as one of the most fondly remembered Google-OS handsets ever made. The Wildfire, in particular, is famous as it was the first good affordable Android phone. For years I’d belligerently stuck to Nokia handsets, despite Symbian’s obvious shortcomings, because decent Android phones universally cost an arm and a leg.
The Wildfire changed this and showed top-dog Android phone makers it was possible to make a decent, affordable phone with the OS. In this way, it set the groundwork for Motorola’s Moto G line, which has since taken the mantle from HTC with each new entry to the line earning a place as one of, if not the, best cheap Android phone year-on-year.
The company’s first batch of One-brand smartphones is also still very fondly remembered and again show HTC is an unsung innovator that was way ahead of its time. This is because the phones were among the first to use pixel binning camera tech.
This is a process that combines four pixels into a single pixel when shooting, in a bid to remove noise from the end shot. If it sounds familiar, it should, pretty much every smartphone, including the current iPhone 11 line and Pixel 4 family use it. But back when HTC did it, the tech was a rarity and unique selling point for the One-line – and further proof HTC was more of an innovator than most people give it credit for in the mobile space.
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Before the trolls come raging in, I will put up my hands and admit, not all of HTC’s experiments with new technology paid off. The less we say about its Windows Phones, the better… and yes, the HTC First was the first and last Facebook Phone anyone paid attention to for a good reason. But you can’t deny that many of its experiments have proven right given the test of time and have helped shape the current mobile landscape.
Which is why despite the new HTC phone only being a rumour, despite it almost certainly only being set for a Taiwan release, I couldn’t help but get a little excited about the prospect of it returning to the flagship market.