HTC’s big push for more smartphone buyers in 2014 might not focus on hardware, despite an incoming new flagship; instead, the company is announcing a host of new customer service initiatives that could convince potential customers it’s the Android maker they want to hitch their cart to this year. A new program that offers free screen replacements to U.S.-based owners of the HTC One line of devices for the first six months of ownership is part of that push.
The plan overall is called HTC Advantage, and it includes the previously announced software support for a minimum of two years from the phone’s launch, as well as between 25 and 50GB of free Google Drive storage for two years from time of purchase. Remember, though, these offers are all U.S.-only, and are limited to devices in the HTC One line – which currently includes the One, One Mini and One Max.
Still, it’s an appealing package, and will likely become even more so when HTC introduces its next-generation flagship One device March 25. Not only will you be guaranteed a device that’s more or less up-to-date for the duration of your contract if you buy a sign up for a new one when the device launches, but you’ll also be protected against your own clumsiness for the first six months of owning your new gadget.
While the storage and software support are nice, I suspect the breakage insurance will be the big seller for the average buyer. It’s rare to go a full day anymore without seeing someone carrying around a top-end smartphone with the tell-tale cracked spiderweb pattern of shattered front glass. I’d say as many as a quarter of the people I know are, at any given time, making due with a phone with a broken screen because of the cost of replacement and/or contract limitations. Six months’ protection isn’t going to get you through to the end of your contract, but it’s a lot better than nothing.
U.S. customers can get their screen replaced under the Advantage platform by sending their device out free to HTC, and getting it back within eight to ten days. Paying $29 will get you overnight shipping for faster turnaround, and the plan includes refurbishment or replacement of hardware if the broken glass is only the surface indicator of deeper problems, providing you’re still within the term of your original warranty.
Android smartphone makers have always struggled to differentiate their products from the rest of the field, and in the past the way they’ve tried to accomplish that is with modifications at the OS level that often come across as at best unnecessary and at worst, frustrating. Targeting post-purchase care and support is a smart move by HTC, and Advantage hits a lot of the pain points of owning a modern smartphone, so it’ll be interesting to see how shoppers respond.