HTC simply turned 20 and the corporate celebrated its birthday with the U11, the most recent and brightest telephone ever.
From humble beginnings with Home windows Cellular, HTC constructed a fame as an innovator after which seized the chance to actually develop from white label maker to world model as an Android pioneer.
By 2011, the corporate was driving excessive, and was edging out market leaders Samsung and Apple, combining high quality and innovation with a cool, understated picture. Issues have spiraled downwards since then. It has been just a few years now that HTC launched a success smartphone, and it has been even longer for the reason that Taiwanese firm’s smartphone division turned a revenue. Nonetheless, HTC is set to show that it is nonetheless a drive to be reckoned with on the smartphone scene. We flew world wide to seek out out what he had deliberate.
Flying into Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, means you are really touchdown within the metropolis of Taoyuan. It’s a part of a bustling city sprawl that additionally contains New Taipei and the Previous Metropolis. Greater than 7 million individuals reside right here, and it is usually residence to HTC.
We’re right here for the launch of HTC’s newest flagship smartphone, the U11. It’s the successor to the HTC 10, however it’s a part of the corporate’s new U sequence. Earlier this 12 months, HTC launched the U Extremely, the primary entry within the new sequence, to blended opinions. Following within the footsteps of LG and Samsung, HTC is giving us a behind-the-scenes take a look at its headquarters, design lab, and a manufacturing facility the place its smartphones are made. That is the primary time these doorways have been opened for the press.
on the manufacturing facility flooring
Our tour begins at HTC’s manufacturing facility in Taoyuan metropolis. It’s a easy constructing that appears like an workplace block. A sea of mopeds stretches so far as the attention can see into the massive entrance parking zone. There is not any billboard, or perhaps a massive flashy signal to mark the birthplace of HTC’s smartphone — only a refined brand on the manufacturing facility fundamental door. Earlier than we climb the manufacturing line, we have now sneaked cameras within the giant, ethereal foyer. After donning a white coat, some shoe covers, and a flashy hairnet, it is time to hit the manufacturing facility flooring.
Something lower than perfection is rejected.
We’re guided in small teams by a relaxed foreman, who walks by every step of the HTC U11’s journey, from the straightforward steel body to the shiny, packaged smartphone. The meeting line begins with a stack of parts and chips, that are organized in trays. Robotic arms in a sequence of protecting glass circumstances merely maintain the parts in place by drilling or soldering them collectively. Once in a while, there’s an inspection station with an HTC worker sitting behind a large magnifying glass. Diagrams and charts point out what every set of parts ought to appear to be – something lower than perfection is dominated out. It is a noisy, robotic atmosphere, however the automated accuracy is mesmerizing.
The subsequent section entails 12 human staff sitting in entrance of a conveyor belt, diligently becoming extra parts into what seems to be a smartphone. Every employee has just a few seconds to finish the unit in entrance of him earlier than transferring on with the subsequent. It would not sound like plenty of enjoyable, however somebody has to do it. We do not have time to talk, and even look on the press onslaught, as we cuddle side-by-side. On the finish of this part, the HTC U11 is nearly full – it simply would not have its personal liquid glass again.
One other military of robotic arms put the brand new telephone by its paces. The shows present a QR code, which is scanned earlier than the display is calibrated and different features, corresponding to optical picture stabilization, are examined. Throughout this section all telephones are linked by way of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to a central server, to allow them to ship again diagnostic information from every check and any issues might be flagged instantly. They appear to be operating inventory Android. It is arduous to see how faults can undergo such a rigorous system, however smartphones are difficult beasts, and issues with early manufacturing runs are all too frequent throughout the business.
The handset is then plugged in, so the suitable software program (and service bloatware) for every market might be put in. Packaging is subsequent, as staff sporting microfiber gloves apply the suitable brand to the extremely shiny liquid glass backs and polish them to a shine. Staff apply a protecting sheet of plastic to the show—which is plenty of enjoyable to peel off—after which equipment solder the completed handset to the curved white field that holds the HTC U11 legend.
The model new U11 pallets have been rolled out, however a random pattern of 15 p.c has been put aside for testing. Rows and rows of newly boxed telephones are stacked exterior the testing lab, which is saved in a facet room on the finish of the road. A smiling observer proudly explains the testing course of. Staff unbox new telephones and put them by quite a lot of assessments to connect with Wi-Fi, check apps, cost them, after which manufacturing facility reset the telephone to move. Every is then fastidiously polished, and repackaged for delivery. We ask what number of fail and observers snicker, shake their heads, and, after a pregnant pause, say lower than 0.01 p.c.
HTC’s Hello-Tech Headquarters
The subsequent a part of the tour contains grabbing a bus to HTC’s glittering headquarters. It takes about an hour to get there, passing by a valley from Taoyuan, into the plush, mountainous and vibrant metropolis of New Taipei.
The shiny, white constructing is within the Xindian District close to Previous Taipei Metropolis. You’ll be able to see it from fairly a distance, and this time the acquainted, inexperienced HTC brand is proudly displayed on the prime.
The foyer is spacious and clad in white marble, above which is an open area that extends seven tales, with inside walkways in each instructions and the corporate canteen on the prime. There’s deliberately no air-conditioning within the foyer of this eco-friendly constructing, however the marble and area mix to scale back the 104-degree Fahrenheit warmth from exterior to a snug degree.
We take a glass elevator as much as the sixteenth flooring, the place HTC’s fundamental design division is situated. It is a funky, open area with glass in all places, and many shiny, white furnishings. Casually dressed children across the mill. HTC primarily depends on this function to give you new telephones, nevertheless it additionally has a San Francisco design division to make sure a mixture of cultural sensibilities.
We will solely marvel what potential smash hits or disastrous flops have been forgotten in these drawers.
There is a tangled financial institution of mysterious drawers beneath the telephone we put up for our inspection. They embrace previous prototypes and deserted analysis directions. HTC’s design head opens to indicate us a prototype of a gaming smartphone with a D-pad on one finish and a display that slides out to disclose buttons. It was an idea for hardcore players that by no means received previous the mock-up stage, which might be for the very best.
Everybody desires to discover, however we aren’t allowed to look in some other drawer. As a substitute, we find out how the U11 was developed and check out the completed handset subsequent to fifteen various prototypes with slight variations like a bigger digital camera module, alternate button placement, or highlights within the body. One of many designers advised me that that is only a very small pattern of all of the prototypes earlier than arriving on the remaining design. When requested for his quantity, he exhales loudly and rolls his eyes.
It is a rigorous, painful course of to nail down an clearly successful design. The whole lot from the unique Need to the Evo 4G LTE to the HTC 10 went by this, however then once more, so did the Rhyme and Evo 3D. We will solely marvel what potential smash hits or disastrous flops have been forgotten in these drawers.
analysis and improvement
The final location is an impromptu workplace block the place HTC rents out just a few flooring. After passing a foyer the place some males have arrange a folding desk to promote youngsters’s toys, we take the elevator to a cubicle-filled workplace to seek out the sound division, the place we’re given a small steel speaker. What you will see inside every U11. A sound engineer accepts that every division must negotiate the quantity of area they must work with. Larger audio system can imply a smaller battery, so issues can get scorching.
The sound division is happy with the speaker area the U11 has secured. On the launch occasion the next day, HTC has demo areas set as much as showcase the BoomSound speaker high quality and quantity and the lively noise-canceling capabilities of the USonic earphones that ship within the field.
Again within the R&D division, we’re ushered into an eco-less, sound-proof chamber. Chances are you’ll really feel the sound disappear as quickly because it comes by your mouth. Thick corridors take away each signal of resonance and even prolong to the ground beneath the steel mesh. It’s an eerie vault and has a single, speaking model with a sensible mannequin of the human ear. She introduces herself to us and explains that the telephone’s speaker is examined right here, by mouth-holding in sure consumer conditions, to verify name high quality is excessive.
The subsequent chamber is at an angle, with one other model within the center. It is a man, and our information jokes that he is courting a woman from the neighborhood. This is a encompass sound system to check the noise cancellation expertise within the U11 by enjoying site visitors noise, background dialog, the clunk and clatter of plates in a restaurant, amongst different sounds.
Our tour ends in a completely black room, the place a severe group of digital camera designers check out totally different features of the U11’s digital camera expertise. They’ve a DxO Mark gentle field and some different machines to check issues like white steadiness. Whereas our eyes can see white as white even when bathed in numerous colour temperatures, a digital camera sensor can’t. It must be programmed and adjusted. The U11 has a Sony digital camera sensor within the LG module, however HTC’s designers fine-tune the show to their liking, aiming for a sensible colour illustration. The arduous work clearly paid off, as we later realized that the DxO mark the U11 digital camera scored at 90 – the best rating a smartphone digital camera has ever achieved.
a contemporary begin
In order that ends our tour of the U11’s design and manufacturing course of. It has been an enlightening glimpse behind the scenes of an modern firm that hardly ever explains itself. We expect the U11 has actual potential, however HTC has to persuade the general public in addition to the press. In spite of everything, final 12 months’s opinions for the HTC 10 did not translate into stellar gross sales.
As a bus pulls out, the sky opens with a formidable rain bathe, and HTC workers line as much as hand us umbrellas. It appears appropriate. It has been a stormy few years for the corporate, however maybe the impossibly shiny U11 might break by the clouds and supply a glimmer of sunshine to HTC’s fortunes.