HTC held a big event in New York City this morning, and the phone at the centre of the launch — the HTC One — is nothing short of the bravest thing I have seen HTC do in years. So brave in fact that its gamble might not pay off, and it might be relegated into the realm of HTC failures. Here's why.
The HTC One is a fabulous looking phone with all the specs a new flagship should have in 2013, except for the camera. While other devices like the Sony Xperia Z are launching with 13-megapixel cameras and such, HTC is launching its new flagship with a 4-megapixel camera.
That's right: Four.
The reason for this minimalistic megapixel-madness is a new technology that HTC is using on its cameras called "ultrapixel", and it's HTC's attempt to kill the megapixel-wars dead on smartphones.
Basically, an ultrapixel sensor is HTC's way of saying that it's able to capture more light from a smaller sensor because of the size of its pixels, which are bigger than those offered by competitors. You can read more about it over here. The problem comes when you need to explain that to someone who sees a 4-megapixel camera on a spec sheet when comparing the HTC One to other phones.
If an ordinary consumer saw three phones — the Nokia Lumia 920 with its 8.7-megapixel camera, the iPhone 5 with its 8-megapixel camera and the HTC One with its 4-megapixel camera — they're going to give points to the Lumia for having the highest number of megapixels. Ordinary consumers probably don't have the foggiest idea what that means, but it has less of the megapixels when others have twice as many, so surely it's only half as good?
Worse still, as soon as someone says the word "ultrapixel", ordinary consumer will think it's just an obnoxious buzzword designed to trick people into buying phones, which will likely serve to turn them off even more.
When digital camera manufacturers decided to end the megapixel wars, it made a lot of sense. HTC is making a play to end the megapixel wars in smartphones, but I don't think it has the nuclear deterrent — so to speak — when it comes to ultrapixel technology.
I'm really not sure how HTC is going to combat the like-for-like comparisons of its camera to other camera phones currently on the market. Hopefully their marketing wizards have something up their sleeves.