MWC unwraps the winners and the losers

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Paul Withers says Mobile World Congress is the perfect opportunity for HTC and Samsung to turn things around

Mobile World Congress is the biggest trade show in the industry and with all records set to be smashed, it provides the perfect opportunity for HTC and Samsung to demonstrate how they can revive their mobile businesses this year.

By the time you read this, both manufacturers will have taken the wraps off their flagship smartphones for this year in Barcelona in what could be turning points in their futures, for very different reasons.

Let’s start with HTC.The manufacturer was criticised in many quarters for not doing enough to gain global brand recognition but appeared to have put egg in our faces when it hired Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr on a two-year deal in August 2013 to head up its latest advertising campaign.

The vendor made a lot of noise about this. It was part of a $1 billion spend for that year – the same as the year before – but a greater percentage was to be allocated to more major markets such as the UK, Germany, US and China.

New ‘playful’ identity

The campaign was all about portraying HTC with a more “playful” identity, and the adverts, some of which featured excitable and dancing green trolls, were actually quite catchy. HTC-M8_PerLeft_GunMetal-web

HTC then released the One M8 last April and it looked as if it was finally ready to crack the market.The flagship smartphone was a beautiful piece of kit, one that really stood out on the shelves alongside its competitors.

Its claims last February that it was looking to double its UK market share to 10 per cent seemed doubtful, but the arrival of the One M8 and a vow to focus on the mid-range market added hope.

However, that never got close to materialising, as according to smartphone sales share figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, HTC finished Q4 2014 with share of 5.6 per cent – up by just a percentage point from a year earlier.

The heavy marketing that had begun with Downey Jr seemed to fizzle out last year and the only time we seem to see HTC’s brand is in association with UEFA football competitions.

There is no doubt HTC makes fantastic phones, which is the case with the One M9, but it needs to show more marketing muscle, starting immediately with the release of its newest handset.

S5 disappointment

Samsung, on the other hand, has the opposite problem. It more than competes with Apple when it comes to advertising, but its products have been criticised for feeling cheap and tacky.

It launched the Galaxy S5 at last year’s MWC but on first glance, the lack of apparent change from the Galaxy S4 and keeping its plastic feel proved to be a massive disappointment.

It’s no real surprise then that the manufacturer has encountered a rocky time since, losing its smartphone leadership position in the UK to Apple, a lead it has seen stretch to nearly 18 per cent since. Samsung-Galaxy-S5-mini-web

Recognised its errors

However, it appears to have recognised the error of its ways. The recently released Galaxy A3 and A5 smartphones have been cased in all metal bodies and already look pleasing on the eye and feel good in the hand. It really does feel like you own a piece of kit worth a few hundred pounds.

The Galaxy S6 is going the same way and with Samsung’’s marketing clout, it will at last provide the market with a viable competitor to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

If it does put a little more focus on the mid- and low-end of the range as well, as it said it would back in October when it admitted sales of its high-end devices were “somewhat weak”, then Apple may begin to look over its shoulder again.

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