The HTC Desire was widely acknowledge as the best Android phone of 2010. In 2011, that Honor went to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Another big blow to HTC is after manufacturing the original Google phone, the Nexus One, Samsung was commissioned to build the next two Google phones, the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. HTC want's to regain it top Droid status in 2012, and its new series of premium phones is called the One series, which is an obvious reference to the Nexus One and HTC's Glory days.
HTC has two problems when it comes to retaining the status of top Droid. It does not manufacture its own displays or design its own chipsets, two important things in making a Android super phone. Initially, HTC Desires had AMOLED displays but as Samsung ramped up its own smart phone production, it was unable to even supply its own requirements, hence in the later part of 2010 and for the entire 2011, HTC phones had to shift to S-LCD and LCD displays which are not as good as AMOLED and Super AMOLED displays. Samsung also came up with its own in-house designed Exynos chipset which turned out to be the fastest Android chipset for 2011. With the best display and fastest chipset in the Samsung camp, it took the top Droid title.
That situation continues in 2011, the HTC One S gets a Super AMOLED display, but a 4.3 inch qHD (540 x 960 pixel) resolution display. The higher end HTC One X has a 4.7-inch 720p HD (720 x 1280) will feature a Super IPS display instead of a Super AMOLED or Super AMOLED Plus display. HTC One S and One X phones will be Qualcomm Krait and Nvidia Tegra 3 based systems. How well these will stand up to the next generation of Samsung Exynos powered systems remains to be seen.
It does seem like HTC knows it will lose the display and speed fight to Samsung in 2012, and is instead focusing on other aspects of the phone.
Catching-up. The Samsung Galaxy S II has an amazing camera. It rivals the best camera's in Apple's and Sony smartphones, though the best camera phones are still built by Nokia. HTC has been putting a lot of work in its camera's. It appears HTC has succeeded in this respect. CNET Asia has compared the HTC One X camera with the Apple iPhone 4S camera. CNET Asia found that "The One X delivers sharper images at the expense of some noise, whereas the iPhone 4S delivers better colors and noise control. You can check the comparison pictures here at CNET Asia.
Another area where HTC "has" to catch up is in the thin and light category. If you ask me, once you get to about 10-12 mm, anything thinner does not matter all that much. Ergonomics count more. As for weight, lighter is better. But plenty of people like the novelty of super thin devices. The Galaxy S II came in at a slim 8.5 mm highlighted more by the fact that the Galaxy S II is one larger phone.
The One X is 8.9 mm thin and 130 grams in weight and the One S (which is about the same size as a Galaxy S II) is 7.8 mm thin and 119.5 grams in weight.
Another new trend is larger batteries. In 2011, HTC already boosted the size of the battery on the HTC Sensation XE to 1650 mAh. The HTC One X has a 1800 mAh battery while the HTC One S has a 1650 mAh battery. These batteries are typical for high end Androids these days.
Changing focus. HTC seems to understand it that success lies not in the hardware battle. In 2011 HTC bought a controlling interest in Dr. Dre's Beats Audio. HTC also started collaborating with Dropbox. Every HTC One phone now comes with Beats audio and 25GB of Dropbox storage for 2 years. You can expect this move by HTC to add more features on its phones through services will continue through acquisitions and partnerships with service providers.
HTC also is known for building durable phones, maybe best known for their aluminum unibody designs. In 2012 HTC appears to be moving away from this using a though polycarbonate body for the One X (similar to what Nokia uses for its Lumia 800 and 900 phones) and a new aluminum-ceramic case. HTC claims between these though case and Gorilla Glass, you will not even need to use a protective case anymore. We will have to wait to see how durable these cases are.
Trade-Off's. The HTC do not have MicroSD card slows anymore. This is not too surprising. Google dropped the MicroSD card from its Nexus S back in 2010. I do not consider this as issue except that you do not get storage options with the One X and One S. The Apple iPhone comes with three storage options: 16, 32 and 64 GB. With the new One series HTC's, the One S comes with 16 GB, if you want 32 GB, than you have to go with the One X. The Samsung Galaxy S II came with 16 to 32 GB internal storage options, with a Micro SD card allowing you to expand internal storage to 48 or 64 GB. I do expect the new Galaxy S III to come with a 64 GB option, whether all internal or via MicroSD card slow. Still the One X should be enough for a current HTC user, since previous models came with a bit over 1GB of internal memory expandable to 33 GB at most.
The new slim designs do mean some changes. HTC also dropped the user replaceable battery. This is taken more from Apple than Google. We already saw this with the HTC Radar, which also did not have a user replaceable battery.