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HTC One E8, Desire 616 first impressions: Tough competition awaits new arrivals

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HTC One E8 is seen in this photo. Image credit:TechTrainIndia

HTC, the struggling Taiwanese smartphone maker, today launched two new devices in India: the One E8, a cheaper version of the flagship One M8 and the Desire 616 dual-SIM device. While the HTC One E8 is priced at Rs 34,900, the Desire 616 is priced at Rs 16,900.  Given that HTC has faced some serious challenges in the smartphone market for the past two years, coupled with heavy losses (close to $100 million in Q4 2013 alone) the company really needs its new batch of devices to do well in India, one of the biggest smartphone growth markets in the world.

It was interesting to hear HTC CFO Chian-Lin Chang talk about how the company was planning to concentrate on the mid-range segment (Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 priced smartphones) and the premium segment instead of focussing on devices which were below Rs 10,000. Given that almost every analyst has been talking about the growth opportunity in the sub-$100 segment, HTC’s price positioning is a little strange and risky for a company that is facing losses.

As far as the two new devices are concerned, both seem to continue with the design philosophy that we’ve come to see in HTC phones, ever since the original HTC One was launched; basically a large screen with dual-speakers on the front and a solid camera.

During the launch event, we got a chance to spend some time with both devices, and here’s our first impression of the phones.

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HTC One E8 has a Snapdragon quad-core processor

The HTC One E8 is basically a cheaper version of the One M8. It’s the polycarbonate iPhone 5c equivalent to the metal-bodied One M8. While there’s no denying that this is a good looking device and the polycarbonate doesn’t seem to have a very ‘plasticky’ feel, you can’t help but wonder what’s new in this device in terms of design. Sure there’s a full HD 1080p 5-inch screen with Gorilla Glass, dual-front facing speakers but it doesn’t look very different from what HTC already has to offer. The Rs 34,900 price appears to be a tad high, when you think that this is basically a lower-build version of the One M8.

The Desire 616 dual-SIM smartphone also has a 5-inch screen with 720p HD resolution. It’s also got a polycarbonate back with a glossy finish, which honestly speaking doesn’t look too good and reminds you of smartphones from two years back. It’s also got dual-front speakers, which is great for a mid-segment smartphone. What might hold back the Desire 616′s popularity is again it’s price of Rs 16,900 and that the fact that it will face competition from cheaper Chinese devices such as Xiaomi’s Mi3 (launched at Rs 14999 for a full HD device).

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Selfie on the One E8.

The HTC One E8 has a quad-core 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 16 GB memory space (of which around 12 is available to users), 128 GB capacity microSD slot, 2GB RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, 3G and will get 4G LTE via an update on 15 August. It’s also got a 13 megapixel camera, plus a 5 megapixel front camera. The battery is 2600 mAh.  In terms of a high-end rival like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the specs are pretty competitive and once the 4G update comes, the HTC One devices will have a slight edge against their competitors. For those who don’t mind spending Rs 35,000 on a smartphone and want a good brand for their money as well, it’s a option that can go on the list.

HTC Desire 616 has an octa-core processor clocked at 1.4 GHz, has 1 GB RAM and 4GB total storage space of which around 2GB is available to users. It also supports microSD up to 32GB. For most potential customers, while the idea of Octa-core processor sounds great, the amount of RAM and storage space offered with it is far too less. The Desire 616 also has an eight megapixel camera, a 2 megapixel front camera with HD recording.

Where battery is concerned Desire 616 has a 2000 mAh battery and according to HTC it offer 14 hours of Talktime on 3G.  The battery is removable. If the battery is as good as HTC claims, then that is a big plus for the phone and it could be a decent mid-budget smartphone, since battery is often a big concern for potential users.

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HTC Desire 616 smartphone during the launch event. Image: TechTrainIndia

Both smartphones are dual-SIM devices, which should be a big plus for users who don’t want to carry around two devices, though that is never a factor alone in choosing a device.

But other specs and pricing don’t really help the Desire 616 stand out and again given the competition from Gionee to Xiaomi to Oppo, users feeling more adventurous would want a smartphone that has better specs for a lesser price, and that’s wholly possible now too.

In conclusion, HTC two new offerings come at a time when the market is facing no dearth of options. There’s no doubt that the E8 is a rather ‘elegant’ looking-device (HTC claims E stands for elegant) and doesn’t appear to be tacky-looking despite a polycarbonate back.

HTC Desire 616 has only 4GB storage space which is disappointing. Image: TechTrainIndia

The Desire 616 while it is a budget segment smartphone, is offering an octa-core processor and is priced cheaper than Micromax Canvas Knight (which is closer to Rs 18,989) or the Gionee E7 mini (which is around Rs 17,000) but doesn’t have enough RAM or storage space to convince users who go by specs.

For HTC, the hope will be that being a recognised brand name will help it get an edge over the newbies and help claw back some lost ground in a market that’s becoming more and more smartphone obsessed.

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