I had the pleasure of recently meeting Chialin Chang, HTC's President of Smartphones and Connected Device. He was in Dubai to launch the company's new flagship devices- HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play. The launch event was held at the Armani Prive and we were chatting outside in a dimly lit location. I pulled out my iPhone 7 to take a selfie with him and to indulge, I said "No Ultrapixels on the front cam here" referring to the technology present on the HTC U Ultra's front camera. He saw the photo but instead of pulling any punches at a competitor, said that it was a good photo regardless. Right then, I knew this was going to be a good interview.
Prior to my chat with Mr. Chang, I had a chance to play with the new HTC U Ultra. I had seen the launch event online a couple of weeks back and based on that, wasn't too impressed. However, seeing the phone in person changed my opinion. The design, the finish and the beauty, especially of the Sapphire Blue version is superb.
The gorgeous @htcmea Ultra U in Sapphire Blue and Cosmetic Pink.
A video posted by Tbreak Media (@tbreak_com) on
I mentioned this to Mr. Chang – how the phone looks so much better in real life compared to what I saw online and he commented:
There's an online article in a very reputable publication talking about our new phone and it was not positive at all. I asked internally who the person that wrote the article was and nobody knew. Nobody from our company had briefed him and the phone hasn't gone on sale so he had not seen the phone. I wondered why and if there is any motive behind such articles. You come and see the phone, compare and then comment.
My next question was if the HTC U Ultra U would be the only flagship for the year.
Every time there is a brand new CPU with power that we can leverage, we're always at the forefront doing that. Some people are talking about the timing [of our release] but timing was determined 9 months ago. This is the best CPU out there. When the next flagship CPU comes, HTC will be one of the very first tier doing that.
When we will look back, it will be clear why HTC introduced [these new phones.] We want to have a couple of months of leadership before the next flagship CPU comes. But that will be in another period of time- not at MWC. Not for us or any other player. I can tell you that for sure. When the new CPU comes, HTC will have another flagship.
One of the complains on the spec sheet of the HTC U Ultra is the bundled battery. At 3000mAh, it's on the lower side for a 5.7-inch device. Can the battery last a full day?
This battery will get you one day- it's basically at the same level as the HTC M10 from last year. We could have done a bigger battery- but the design would have been impacted. We wanted to get a symmetric design and the trimming on the sides impacts the battery. We had to find the right balance between the design, the software capabilities and the fast charging experience. I admit, the bigger the battery, the better but there's always a trade-off with the design.
Do you see your relationship with Google and Pixel continuing over the next couple of years?
It's not something that I can talk about but the relationship between both the sides is good. The Pixel is just one aspect with the relationship to Google. We're working on multiple things- Google is so big. There's always a different product.
What are your thoughts on wearables?
I can tell you that we're not going to have an Android watch. I don't think we've nailed it with [the experience of] watches. Android watch is one thing but even Apple as a big brand is declining [in watches.] We are not going to have a watch in the short term.
Will Google Assistant be coming to the HTC U series?
At some point it will come [to our phones] when its ready. Google wants HTC to do Google Assistant so it can spread to get big data and allow them many things. They want us to incorporate the Assistant in a standard, prominent way. We will use that, but that's on the cloud. Beyond that, there's a lot of device information that can be helpful to a consumer which we want to provide [with our AI]
* The article was updated on 26/01/2017 with a correction in spelling in the second last paragraph.