HTC's first new mid-range phone of 2014 is a phablet, with a design that echoes the HTC One. The Desire 816 is almost as big as the One max in size (but not quite) yet thin and light, with a relatively premium design, 13-megapixel camera, and BoomSound speakers, for a low price. We check out the hardware in this hands-on.
HTC announced the Desire 816 at Mobile World Congress today. Here are some first impressions based on a quick look at the new phone.
Sprint today announced that its juiced-up 4G network, called Sprint Spark, is now available in Salt Lake City and Jacksonville, Fla. Sprint Spark uses tri-band LTE to help improve access to, and the performance of, its 4G network. In order to use Sprint Spark, Sprint customers must have Spark-compatible smartphones. Only a handful of Sprint's smartphones work with Spark, including the LG G2, the HTC One max, the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and a newer version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Sprint Spark is available in 16 markets, and Sprint plans to cover 100 markets by the end of the year. Sprint claims Spark enables peak download speeds of 60Mbps. Sprint also said that its LTE network has expanded to a total of 382 markets, including Detroit; Rochester, N.Y.; Manchester, N.H.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.
HTC today announced the Desire 816, a mid-range device that offers the best features of HTC's One series devices in a less expensive package. The Desire is made from a polycarbonate shell and has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display. It comes with some of HTC's more advanced features, such as BoomSound, BlinkFeed, and Sense 5.5. It has a 13-megapixel main camera with an aperture of f/2.2, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera with back-side illumination. It is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The Desire 816 supports microSD cards up to 64GB. It uses a nano SIM card and has a 2,600mAh battery. Connectivity options run the norm, with LTE, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and GLONASS all on board. The device runs the latest version of Android and will go on sale first in China in March and worldwide in April.
HTC is widely expected to reveal new phones at MWC this year. They already have a big dedicated event on the calendar in a few weeks, where we expect to see their new flagship. But today we're expecting some interesting new mid-range phones. Tune in here to get the news as it's revealed.
HTC Americas today announced HTC Advantage, a new commitment to its U.S. customers that includes repairs and operating system updates. Under the terms of the program, HTC will offer a one-time free screen replacement to all One series devices sold after February 18, including the One, One mini, and the One max, during the first six months of ownership. The repairs will be performed in Houston. Further, the company is committing to provide all One series devices core system level updates for a period of two years after the initial launch date for each device. Timing of updates will vary depending on carrier, but HTC will deliver them as soon as it is able. HTC Advantage also offers customers free online storage for back-ups. Owners of One series phones will enjoy 25GB of Google Drive storage at no extra cost for a period of two years. Last, HTC is offering free backups through its own HTC Backup program. HTC Advantage is only available in the U.S.
Sprint today announced that its juiced-up 4G network, called Sprint Spark, is now available in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Sprint Spark uses tri-band LTE to help improve access to, and the performance of, its 4G network. In order to use Sprint Spark, Sprint customers must have Spark-compatible smartphones. Only a handful of Sprint's smartphones work with Spark, including the LG G2, the HTC One max, the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and a newer version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Sprint Spark is available in 14 markets, and Sprint plans to cover 100 markets by the end of the year. Sprint claims Spark enables peak download speeds of 60Mbps.
HTC today indicated that it will offer a more diverse lineup of handsets throughout 2014. The decision effectively reverses the course set by the company in late 2012 to focus only on the high-end of the smartphone market. "The problem with us last year was we only concentrated on our flagship. We missed a huge chunk of the mid-tier market," said HTC co-founder and Chairwoman Cher Wang in an interview with Reuters. HTC told investors the new entry-level and mid-tier handsets would help increase its revenues after the first quarter. HTC, once a leader in the smartphone space, has seen its share eroded by fierce competition from Samsung and other handset makers. A successor to the HTC One, HTC's main smartphone for 2013, is expected soon.
Nokia and HTC have settled all patent litigation between the two companies. HTC said it will make some payments to Nokia regarding the standard essential patents in question. Further, Nokia and HTC have agreed to collaborate on certain LTE 4G technologies moving forward. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
HTC today indicated via one of its Twitter accounts that Verizon Wireless has approved the Android 4.4 and Sense 5.5 system update. HTC said the over-the-air update should be available to One owners shortly.
HTC today announced that Sprint is the first U.S. carrier to offer the Android 4.4.2 KitKat update to its variant of the HTC One. The update can be downloaded manually by HTC One owners via the settings menu starting today. Sprint will begin delivering the update over the air beginning February 11. In addition to Android 4.4.2, the update brings the One to the latest version of HTC Sense.
HTC today said it will miss its self-imposed deadline of updating the One within 90 days from the time Google released Android 4.4 KitKat. It originally committed to giving the One the latest version of Android by the end of January. According to HTC, KitKat is now undergoing carrier testing with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Though it will fall short of the 90-day cutoff, HTC expects the update will take only another week or two to complete for each carrier. HTC asked customers for patience as it finalizes the system update. More information should be available soon.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has dropped its patent infringement lawsuit against Huawei. The suit was originally filed last year, and included co-defendents Google, Samsung, and HTC. Rockstar believes the companies are violating its patents. Neither Rockstar nor Huawei indicated why the suit was dropped, nor whether or not Huawei signed a licensing agreement with Rocktar. The lawsuit still stands against the other companies. Google, in particular, is accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents.
HTC today indicated that the One X and One X+ will receive no more software updates. In a statement provided to Phone Scoop, an HTC spokesperson said, "We can confirm that the HTC One X and One X+ will not receive further Android OS updates beyond Android 4.2.2 with Sense 5. We realize this news will be met with disappointment by some, but our customers should feel confident that we have designed both devices to be optimized with our amazing camera and audio experiences." The X and X+ launched in 2012 and were sold by AT&T in the U.S. They were replaced with the HTC One in 2013.
HTC USA has launched a new software update status page, providing a new level of detail on Android software updates in progress. The page currently lists the status of the Android KitKat update for various versions of the HTC One. The site also includes a detailed infographic explaining the steps HTC takes in bringing new versions of Android to its phones.
HTC today announced a promotional plan that will allow consumers to finance the cost of the HTC One smartphone over a period of 24 months. The device is being offered at the full retail price, and thus comes unlocked (GSM only) and without a carrier contract. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. Customers with good credit can order the One through HTC's web site for no money down and then make 24 payments of $25, totaling $600 over two years. The model comes with 32GB of storage and Android 4.4 KitKat installed.
Google announced that the Play Edition versions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 should receive the Android 4.4 KitKat system update in the coming days. The Play Edition versions don't have HTC's Sense nor Samsung's TouchWiz user interfaces, respectively. Instead, they run a stock version of Android, like Nexus devices.
Verizon Wireless quietly made the HTC One max handset available online and in stores today. Verizon is asking $299 for the max with a new two-year agreement or $25.22 per month with the Verizon Edge plan. The full retail price of the One max is $599.99.
HTC recently indicated via its official Twitter account that it plans to update the Verizon version of the One to Android 4.3 by the end of the year and then to Android 4.4 by the end of January. All other versions of the One will receive Android 4.4 by the end of January, too. HTC also indicated that it will update the Droid DNA to Android 4.4 and Sense 5.5 by the end of the first quarter, pending carrier certification.
FreedomPop today announced the availability of a new device, the HTC EVO 4G. FreedomPop is selling the EVO 4G for $99 with no contract. FreedomPop also said that it will accept a broader range of old Sprint devices on its network with its "bring your own phone" option. FreedomPop is an MVNO that uses Sprint's network. Rather than use traditional voice, FreedomPop's voice calls are sent over the data network through VoIP technology. FreedomPop offers 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data free each month, and recently introduced a plan that includes unlimited texting and calling for $10.99 a month. Earlier this year FreedomPop announced that it is transitioning from Sprint's WiMAX network to Sprint's LTE network, but it is so far offering only one LTE-capable product (a mobile hotspot). FreedomPop said that it will offer LTE-capable smartphones later this year, though price points will be closer to $200. The EVO 4G uses WiMAX.
Virgin Mobile today announced the availability of the HTC Desire. The Desire includes features first seen on the HTC One, such as Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with Sense 5.0, BlinkFeed, and HTC Zoes. The Desire has a 4.5-inch qHD display; 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM; 5-megapixel camera with back-side illumination and 1080p HD video capture; dual front speakers with BoomSound; and an embedded 2200mAh battery. It also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. The Desire (known in some markets as the Desire 601) can be purchased today for $279. Virgin Mobile does not require contracts.
Sprint today announced that the HTC One max will be available online and in stores beginning Friday, November 15. Sprint is charging $249.99 for the One Max with a new two-year contract or $25 per month with Sprint One Up.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Google, Samsung, Huawei, and HTC. Rockstar alleges that the companies are violating its patents. Google, in particular, stands accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Specific details about Samsung, HTC, and Huawei's infringements weren't immediately specified. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents. Google and others attempted to buy the same patents won by Rockstar. "Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe," read a portion of the lawsuit.
Jimmy Lai, a wealthy businessman in Hong Kong, has acquired a 2% stake in HTC. Though Lai's new ownership position in HTC is small, the Wall Street Journal reports that Lai is outspoken. "It's no secret that Mr. Lai is active in the Taiwan market and no secret he has opinions," said Mark Simon, Lai's spokesperson. Lai is a media mogul who founded Next Media Ltd., which publishes newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Journal suggests that Lai's interest in HTC could lead other investors in the ailing company to seek changes in the how it is managed. HTC CEO Peter Chou has come under fire in recent months due to the company's poor performance. It recently reported its first-ever quarterly loss as a public company. Lai believes HTC still has potential. "HTC is undervalued and there is an opportunity for growth," said Simon.
HTC today said that it plans to update the HTC One to the latest version of Android in the months ahead. "We're all excited about Google's Halloween treat and plan on breaking off a piece of that KitKat bar for the HTC One. In North America, we'll deliver Android 4.4 with Sense 5.5 for the HTC One within 90 days, and the HTC One max and the HTC One mini will follow." Google plans to update the HTC One Google Play Edition to Android 4.4 KitKat in the next few weeks.
Sprint today announced Sprint Spark, its next-generation networking technology that will make use of all three Sprint spectrum bands to boost mobile broadband speeds to 50-60Mbps. "Sprint Spark is a combination of advanced capabilities, like 1x, 2x and 3x carrier aggregation for speed, 8T8R for coverage, MIMO for capacity, TDD for spectral efficiency, together with the most advanced devices offering both tri-band capability and high-definition voice for the best possible customer experience," said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. Sprint said it will deploy Spark in 100 of the country's largest cities over the course of the next three years, but five markets are launching Spark today: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Miami. Sprint expects 100 million Americans will have Sprint Spark or 2.5GHz coverage by the end of 2014. Sprint Spark gives tri-band devices the ability to actively hand-off data sessions between its three spectrum bands. Sprint says this helps boost both speed and capacity. The devices first to include Sprint Spark are the Samsung Galaxy Mega and Galaxy S4 mini, and the LG G2. All three handsets will reach stores November 8. The two Samsung phones will receive a system update shortly after they go on sale that will activate their tri-band services, while the G2 will receive the same update in early 2014. The Mega will cost $199.99 with a contract or $19.59 per month with Sprint One Up; the GS4 Mini will cost $99.99 with a new contract or $16.67 per month with Sprint One Up; and the G2 will cost $199.99 with a new contract or $22.92 per month with Sprint One Up. Sprint also said that the HTC One max will be available "soon." It will cost $249.99 with a new contract or $25.00 per month with Sprint One Up.
HTC is considering whether or not to have other companies build its phones. HTC has spoken with several companies that run production facilities, including Hon Hai Precision and Wistron, about taking over some of HTC's manufacturing needs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing sources familiar with HTC's plans, the Journal says the company is looking for ways to save money as its cash flow weakens. HTC has always manufactured its own hardware because it owns various factories in Taiwan and China. Most of HTC's competitors, save for Samsung, outsource device manufacturing to other companies. The Journal also said that HTC might sell some of its plants. In a separate report, Reuters said that HTC has already idled several of its manufacturing facilities. Reuters reporters who visited an HTC facility outside of Taipei saw that it was shuttered. The facility in question handles about 20% of HTC's manufacturing capacity. When asked about the shuttered plant, HTC Chief Marketing Officer Ben Ho said, "Like any manufacturer, we do volume planning to optimize our lines, our manufacturing, and production facilities. Whether we are operating those facilities depends on market demand and our own expectations. When you have less demand you work with less facilities to optimize your costs. When you have demand, or bigger growth, you definitely have to activate all these facilities." Ho also said the company has no plans to sell its manufacturing plants.
T-Mobile today said that Android 4.3 may be downloaded and installed on the HTC One. The update adds features to the base Android operating system, as well as to HTC's Sense user interface. It can be downloaded and installed via Wi-Fi.
HTC CEO Peter Chou has shifted some of his management responsibilities to the company's chairwoman, Cher Wang. In a statement, HTC explained, "At this crucial time, it is important for HTC to remain focused. That means that Peter is focusing on creating the best products and ensuring the best execution across the company. He has invited Cher to participate more in certain areas such as operations, sales and marketing. With Cher's involvement Peter will have more time to focus on product innovation. Peter remains the CEO with full and final decision-making responsibilities." HTC has seen its share of the smartphone market drop over the last two years and recently reported its first-ever quarterly loss as a public company. HTC said the change in Chou's responsibilities will be temporary, but left the timeframe open-ended.
Sprint today confirmed that it will offer the HTC One Max to its customers later this year. Sprint didn't say exactly when the device would become available, nor how much it will cost.
Sprint today announced Messaging Plus, a cloud-based messaging service that connects Android and iOS devices across carriers. The application, which is powered by Jibe Mobile, lets smartphone owners send text, instant, and group messages; share photos and videos; and conduct live, two-way video chats. Sprint says the service lets Sprint customers connect with any mobile device in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Once Sprint customers have installed it, they will be able to invite their friends and family to download it -- even those who are using service from other network operators. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. It is compatible with the HTC EVO 4G LTE and One; the Apple iPhone 4, 4S, and 5; and the Samsung Galaxy S III, S4, Victory, and Note 2. Sprint said that it will be included with most Android smartphones moving forward.
HTC today announced the One Max, an over-sized Android smartphone that looks to compete with Samsung's Galaxy Note 3. The One Max, as the name implies, is a larger version of HTC's flagship smartphone, but offers a unique fingerprint scanner on the back. The scanner can be used to unlock the device as well as launch specific apps. The Max has a 5.9-inch 1080p HD display with HTC's signature aluminum design and dual BoomSound speakers. The phone is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, with each core clocked at 1.7GHz. The phone offers 2GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory with additional storage supported via microSD cards. Like the One and One Mini, the One Max includes an UltraPixel camera with back-side illumination, HTC's ImageChip, and HTC's Zoe shooting mode. The user-facing camera is 2.1-megapixels and has a wide shooting angle. The One Max has a bevy of sensors, such as gyro, accelerometer, proximity, and ambient light; as well as myriad connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, and HDMI via MHL. The One Max supports a wide range of cellular data networks, including LTE 4G networks of Sprint and Verizon in the U.S. The HTC One Max runs Android 4.3 and ships with Sense 5.5, which is HTC's user interface software. Unlike the One and One Mini, the Max has a removable back cover that provides access to the memory card slot and SIM card, but not the battery. The device hits select markets later this month. U.S. network operators have not yet announced plans to carry the One Max.
Wi-Lan today announced that it has resolved its patent-related suit with BlackBerry. The company sued BlackBerry over Bluetooth and LTE patents, which it alleged were violated in devices such as the BlackBerry Bold, Pearl, Storm, and Torch. Though terms of the agreement were not made public, BlackBerry has agreed to license some of Wi-Lan's patents. Wi-Lan has filed similar suits against Apple and HTC.
AT&T today confirmed that it is delivering the Android 4.3 system update to the HTC One. In addition to upgrading the operating system, the update adds Instagram to Blinkfeed, lets users lock the camera's focus, improves the gallery, makes improvements to Zoe, and adds the ability to include widgets on the lock screen. The system update can be downloaded and installed over the air.
HTC is one week away from announcing a new smartphone that has a fingerprint sensor, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing sources familiar with the company's plans, HTC will debut a device called the HTC One Max, a larger version of the HTC One, on October 15. Apple's iPhone 5s is the only other major smartphone to include a fingerprint sensor. In addition to the fingerprint sensor, the One Max will have a 5.9-inch display and an Ultrapixel camera, as well as Sense 5 features such as Blinkfeed. The One Max, like the One and One mini, will run Google's Android operating system. HTC did not confirm any of the details in the Journal's report.
HTC announced via Twitter that the Sprint variant of the HTC One will gain access to the Android 4.3 system update beginning today. In addition to improving the base OS, the update also adds features to Sense, including Instagram integration and video highlights in Blinkfeed.
HTC is hoping to avoid an import ban that may be levied against its flagship devices thanks to a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission. The ITC found HTC guilty of infringing on two Nokia patents last month. The initial ruling was made by an administrative law judge and will be revisited by the entire panel in January. If the panel upholds the initial ruling, HTC might be prevented from importing devices such as the One and One Mini. Unfortunately for the HTC, the violation has to do with hardware and not software. According to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, HTC is working with its chipset vendor, Qualcomm, to create a hardware-based workaround. HTC has only said that it "will keep its alternative plans ready to ensure no business disruption." The Journal also suggests that HTC might settle with Nokia rather than retool its hardware. The patents in question pertain to how phones transmit and receive phone calls.
FreedomPop today announced the availability of its first smartphone. It is selling the HTC EVO Design for $99 without a contract. The smartphone, though several years old, can access Sprint's CDMA and WiMAX networks for data and voice services. FreedomPop is not selling new smartphones; instead, the EVO Design has been refurbished and loaded with FreedomPop's software. Rather than use traditional voice, FreedomPop's voice calls are sent over the data network through VoIP technology. FreedomPop offers 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data free each month, and today introduced a plan that includes unlimited texting and calling for $10.99 a month. FreedomPop is an MVNO that uses Sprint's network. In August, it announced that it is transitioning from Sprint's WiMAX network to Sprint's LTE network, but it is so far offering only one LTE-capable product (a mobile hotspot). FreedomPop said that it will offer LTE-capable smartphones later this year, though price points will be closer to $200.
HTC today announced that it is selling its remaining stake in Beats Audio. The company invested $300 million in the headphone and audio company several years ago, and used Beats' technology in its phones. HTC had hoped the partnership would help it sell more devices. HTC sold half its stake last year for $150 million, and today is selling off the rest for $265 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, the relationship between Beats and HTC soured over strategy and investment priorities. Beats is actively seeking new investors as it looks to charge into new markets. Meanwhile, HTC can use the cash due to its declining device sales and on-going capital expenditures. HTC did not say if it will continue to use Beats Audio technology in its phones.
The U.S. International Trade Commission today ruled that HTC violated two smartphone patents owned by Nokia. The patents in question pertain to how smartphones transmit and receive data. The ITC's action today is an initial ruling made by an administrative law judge. The full panel will not review this initial decision until January 2014.