#HTC

Ron Amadeo of Android Police scored what appears to be a very legit APK of HTC’s incoming “Facebook Phone”. Everything seems to be pretty much as expected. A couple interesting notes:

  • You’ll apparently be able to install this launcher on a number of Android devices. The HTC device should just be the pre-installed, flagship “Facebook Phone” for now. And the specs are meh.
  • There are graphics in the APK for a Google button of some sort, which points to Google Search functionality being built-in to this launcher. Again, that was basically expected since whispers have Google being okay with all of this. But it’s still a little weird given Microsoft’s stake in Facebook.

One thing I’m not sure Amadeo caught:

"Chat Heads" is a new feature included in both Orca (Facebook Messenger) and Wakizashi. Other than the new name, I’m not sure what exactly is different from the normal Messenger.

"Orca" is no doubt a codename for Messenger, as you’ll recall it arose from Facebook’s 2011 purchase of the messaging startup Beluga. Get it?

Nice scoop by Josh Constine of TechCrunch:

Facebook just invited press to an event at its headquarters on April 4th to “Come See Our New Home On Android”. Sources tell us it will be a modified version of the Android operating system with deep native Facebook functionality on the homescreen that may live on an HTC handset. The evidence aligns to say this is the Facebook Phone announcement people have been speculating about for years.

Others have since backed this up as well.

I was a few months off, but this is basically what I had heard back in January as well.

There seems to be some disagreement over whether or not this would constitute a “fork” of Android. It would seem there is a way for Facebook to do this with Google’s blessing (just as they bless TouchWiz and other “skins”). But make no mistake, this is not stock Android. Facebook will deeply inject their own apps into the core of the OS. As long as they don’t replace Search, Maps, and a few others, Google should be okay with it — for now.

One wildcard is the Play Store. Facebook has their own App Center (which right now links to Play Store and the App Store), which they presumably could make work as a stand-alone Android app store as well. But it’s hard to see how that wouldn’t piss off Google. See: Amazon.

Another question: what will the carriers think of this? Presumably, they’ll have at least one on board with the HTC phone. Facebook has been making a lot of noise about “free calls” within their Messenger apps — this could all but destroy the notion of cellular “minutes”. 

Of course, that writing has been on the wall for some time. Data phones are the way going forward. Still, the carriers must be a little scared of the post-minutes, post-SMS world that this Facebook Phone highlights. It’s a huge change. The carriers are finally becoming the dumb pipes they were meant to be.

Ingrid Lunden for TechCrunch:

The new HTC One unveiled last month is increasingly feeling like last-chance saloon for the troubled Taiwan handset maker. Today HTC noted that its sales for the month of February fell by nearly 44% to 11.37 billion Taiwan dollars ($384 million), from NT$20.3 billion for the same month one year ago. Looking at the bigger picture, that NT$11.37 billion is barely higher than what HTC made in January 2010, when it reported NT$11.12 billion in sales.

This follows a quarter in which profit fell 91 percent. And that followed a quarter in which profit dropped 79 percent.

This is a two-horse race. Apple is winning the U.S. and Samsung is winning the rest of the world (with Huawei being an up-and-coming wildcard). It’s that simple.

Yes, there are other companies which help extend Android’s market share but none of them can seem to make any money. That’s not a viable long-term strategy

Tim Culpan for Bloomberg on HTC’s most recent quarter:

Fourth-quarter operating income for the period was NT$600 million ($21 million), compared with the NT$1.11 billion average of 20 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Net income was NT$1 billion, the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company said in a statement today. That’s the lowest since 2004 and less than the NT$10.9 billion it posted a year earlier.

Not good, But Bloomberg dances around the truly stunning number, Sky News does not:

The Taiwanese firm, whose phones include the Butterfly, said net profit in the fourth quarter of 2012 had missed forecasts and plunged 91% year on year.

Ninety-one percent.

The Android ecosystem isn’t alive and well, the Samsung one is. Expect to hear a lot more out of this story in 2013.

Unleash the “Android peace" stories but remember that HTC was and is in a very vulnerable position right now. Profit is falling like a rock as a result of selling Android devices so they appear to be shifting more towards Windows Phone (and remember that Microsoft and Apple already have an agreement in place).

Also not explicitly stated in the release, but clear: HTC is paying Apple as a part of this agreement. It may not have an “adverse material impact" on their financials, but maybe that’s only because they’re simply not selling very many Android devices…

If this is accurate, Samsung is on pace to pay Microsoft upwards of $2 billion to use Android this year. That’s Microsoft, not Google.

HTC, which barely made money last quarter after profit fell 57%, may be paying Microsoft around $500 million to use Android this year. That’s Microsoft, not Google.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is paying $1 billion to Nokia each year to ensure they keep using Windows Phone. This is the same Windows Phone operating system that Microsoft charges a fee for OEMs to use. Including Nokia.

Aside from Apple, the entire smartphone ecosystem is quite fucked up.

Bloomberg:

HTC engineers wanted to build a Windows device with a customized home screen that would be distinctive to its devices, as manufacturers are allowed to do with Android. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft refused, said the people, and HTC was left off the list of companies the software maker provided with early versions of the software.

Ouch. This combined with the warning today that they would be far short of sales/revenue goals for the quarter equals a pretty horrible day for HTC.

That’s long-time partner Microsoft dissing them. Things with Android are going the wrong way. How long until HTC buys/builds their own OS?

HTC posted the following update to their Facebook page:

HTC has been working hard to get its Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades ready, and we’re excited to announce that our first round of ICS upgrades will roll out by the end of March for the HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation 4G and HTC Sensation XE, followed soon there after by the HTC Sensation XL.

In addition, we can confirm Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades will be coming later this year to the HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, HTC Amaze 4G, HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G, HTC Incredible S, HTC Desire S and HTC Desire HD. Stay tuned for more updates on Ice Cream Sandwich releases in the coming weeks.

In other words, roughly 5 months after the initial ICS roll-out, 3 HTC phones will finally get the new OS. A 4th will get it in an undisclosed time “soon” thereafter.

Meanwhile, “later this year”, 8 more HTC phones will get the update. Presumably, “later this year” stands for well past the 6-month mark after the initial ICS release — and potentially much later.

Let’s say it’s late summer that this happens for some of those phones. Who wants to bet that the next major release of Android, Jellybean, will be announced by then? 

Google I/O is June 27-29…

One Out Of Three Ain’t Bad…

All we’ve heard for the past year-plus is how Android is killing it. The phones are taking over the world. And that’s true — from a unit perspective. But from an actual business perspective, things are decidedly murkier. Google says they’re making a good amount of money as a result of Android, but it’s clearly nothing compared to their main business. The carriers are doing well too — but carriers always do well. Being overly greedy tends to have this effect. As for the OEMs… well, that’s a different story.

The three largest Android OEMs are Samsung, HTC, and Motorola. Samsung just posted record quarterly profit. So far so good. But HTC just reported its first profit drop in two years. And Motorola just warned that its 4th quarter sales were going to miss as well. When you have to warn ahead of actual earnings, that’s a very bad sign.

So one of the three top Android OEMs is doing well. The other two are doing poorly. This matters because of what it means for the future. 

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