HTC offers Canadians a ‘quietly brilliant’ Hero

Smartphone maker HTC Corp. unveiled an exclusive device with Telus Mobility backed by a major ad campaign in a bid to raise its brand awareness levels to rival those of Apple Inc. and Research in Motion Limited.

Perhaps the Taiwan-based firm named its new Google Android-based device “Hero” because it hopes the phone will propel its brand into the limelight. Hero was made available Nov. 5 as Telus launched a new HSPA network that it shares with Bell Canada.

Hero is the third Android-based phone to be commercially available in Canada.

Rogers Wireless launched HTC Dream and Magic phones earlier this year. But the HTC device runs a more updated version of Android, with HTC’s Sense interface overlaid to boot.

It’s definitely a play for the consumer market, says Kevin Restivo, mobile research analyst at Toronto-based IDC Canada.

“The launch comes at a particularly great time from a market perspective,” he says. “The fact that HTC is trying to capitalize on a big growth opportunity makes this a smart introduction.”

HTC hopes the phone also makes some headway with the “prosumer” market and among small business operators.

Small business owners may benefit from integration with Google services, says Keith Nowak, senior public relations manager at HTC. Many rely on the free services already.

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“The HTC Hero does have many good features for Exchange support, Calendar, things like that,” he says “But I think where really the device shines is in its integration with Google services.”

Android features a Google Search bar on its home screen (it can be removed by the user) and also syncs with Google’s Calendar and Contacts services. HTC’s Sense user interface combines some of these information windows to display alongside one another – for instance, displaying favourite contacts next to oft-used applications.

There’s also a unified contact view. A contact’s profile displays e-mails, text messages, Facebook status, and phone calls logged with that person.

“It’s not about glossing over what Android has done, because it is really a good OS,” Nowak says.

HTC is complementing the phone launch with a major effort to boost its brand. It has purchased large billboard ads in London’s Trafalgar Square, New York’s Times Square and Toronto’s Dundas Square.

It has also produced 30 second and 60 second TV commercials featuring the tagline “you don’t need to get a phone, you need a phone that gets you.” The motto “quietly brilliant” has also been affixed to the HTC logo. The slogan is an allusion to HTC’s choice to not brand its devices for some time, allowing carriers to brand the phones.

That sort of brand presence is needed to compete in a tough smartphone market, Restivo says.

“If HTC makes Hero a success in Canada, it will be because it resonates with consumers,” he says. “Android may serve as a good underpinning, but it’s incumbent upon HTC to further its brand name here.”

HTC also creates Windows Mobile-based smartphones and will continue to do so, Nowak says. It will soon bring the HTC HD2 phone to North America. Currently only available in Europe, the phone features Windows Mobile 6.5 and the Sense interface.

“We’re not giving up on our efforts for Windows Mobile. But we’re certainly pushing the envelope on Android too,” he says.

Telus has already announced its next Android-based device. The Motorola Milestone will feature Android 2.0 and is to be launched in the New Year.

HTC Hero stats at a glance

Notable features include a 5 megapixel camera and Wi-Fi, and a nice display. Here’s a more detailed list:

  • Size: 112 mm tall by 56.2 mm wide by 14.3 mm deep, weights 135 grams
  • Connectivity: HSPA, Bluetooth, WiFi, and mini-USB
  • Camera: 5.0 megapixel with autofocus and video mode
  • Memory: 512 MB onboard, microSD expandable up to 16 GB (comes with 2 GB in box)
  • Display: 3.2-inch touch screen with 320×480 resolution
  • Battery: 1350 mAh for an estimated 420 minutes talk time and up to 750 hours standby

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