HTC unveiled its challenger to the iPhone 4 today as an angry Nokia ambushed the event with guerilla marketing and a snarky “survival kit” for journalists.
The increasingly popular Taiwanese smartphone maker unleashed its Desire HD and Desire Z products at an event deliberately held on the second day of Nokia’s Nokia World event in London.
HTC sent buses to Nokia World to shuttle journalists to its event, prompting Nokia to retaliate by distributing a lunch box (“HTC press conference survival kit”) containing a HTC sandwich (“ham, tomato and cheese – not the most exciting sandwich”), an energy bar (“in case you need a boost”), a giant foam Nokia finger (“to use during the Q&A”), a pen and a pad (“for doodling”) and ear plugs and an eye mask (“in case you feel snoozy”).
The HTC “press conference survival kit” Nokia distributed to journalists.
Nokia also ambushed HTC’s event venue by sending an army of shills to stand outside holding red Nokia balloons which said “I know where i’m going with Nokia’s Ovi Maps”.
Bloggers and Twitter commentators called Nokia’s tactics “dirty”, prompting the company to respond on its official Twitter page: “HTC drives buses up to our front door to hijack #nokiaworld – so we give out red balloons plus lunch…and u call us “dirty”!? LOL!”
HTC Australia’s managing director, Anthony Petts, said the stunt showed Nokia saw HTC as a serious competitor.
“That’s in some ways an accolade that we’re being taken so seriously. The feedback that I saw was that it [the stunt] actually probably backfired,” he said in a phone interview.
The new handsets
The Desire HD is an update to the original Desire launched earlier this year, which many critics said was superior to the iPhone 3GS.
The new HD model, which will go head-to-head with the iPhone 4, will be on sale before the end of the year in Australia and will initially be exclusive to Vodafone and three. Prices have not yet been revealed.
The Android 2.2 handset features a huge 4.3-inch touchscreen display (compared to 3.5-inch on the iPhone 4), an 8-megapixel camera, 720p video recording, a 1GHz processor, an aluminium unibody shell and Dolby/SRS sound support.
HTC’s other new handset, the Desire Z, includes a 3.7-inch touchscreen, 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. An Australian carrier and launch date has yet to be announced.
Both phones come with a new version of HTC’s user interface overlay, Sense, which includes a number of small tweaks and access to a new suite of online services dubbed HTCSense.com.
HTCSense.com, which can be accessed from a PC, has some similarities to Apple’s Mobile me, allowing users to find their phone on a map if they lose it, trigger it to ring loudly, lock the device, erase all data, forward calls to another number or leave a text message for the finder of the phone.
A complete history of calls and text messages, even those that have been deleted from the handset, can be accessed at HTCSense.com, as can a range of wallpapers and plugins.
“No longer is HTC about just putting a phone in your hand. We are extending the HTC experience beyond the phone,” said HTC CEO Peter Chou.
The new HTC Sense features a new navigation tool called HTC Locations, which includes turn-by-turn navigation and a compass that helps with orientation when users are on foot.
Like Nokia’s Ovi Maps, the maps can be stored on the phone so users don’t have to have an active data connection to access them. Through HTCSense.com, users can mark landmarks or specific locations on the map and have this data automatically sent to the phone.
Through a partnership with Kobo, users can access a range of e-books to read while also being able to highlight passages and add notes. Another new feature, HTC Fast Boot, promises to power the handsets up within 10 seconds.
There is also an improved camera app with photo editing tools allowing users to add effects such as fish eye and sepia.
Videos, photos and music stored on the phones can be played wirelessly on TVs that support DLNA home networking technology. those without DLNA-enabled TVs can buy a dongle adapter.
Unfortunately, Chou said for now at least the new features provided by HTCSense.com would not be added to existing phones such as the original Desire.
The Desire pushed HTC’s brand into the mainstream in Australia but Chou admitted he still had some work to do to create the mindshare enjoyed by brands such as Nokia and Apple.
“I admit that we are not that up to speed in Australia and we are actually trying to improve and we have [made] some good hires recently so hopefully we can improve HTC awareness,” he said.
Chou would not be drawn on whether HTC had plans for a tablet computer or on any specifics about its upcoming Windows Phone 7 range of handsets.
Yesterday at Nokia World, the Finnish phone giant unveiled three new handset models, the C6, C7 and E7, while also promoting the previously announced N8.
Asher Moses travelled to London as a guest of Nokia