HTC's marketing of Beats Audio on its One Series handsets has rapidly become a joke among critics and internet commentators alike. And that's probably putting it nicely. The fact that the entirety of the Beats "enhancements" found on aforementioned phones has been zipped up and packaged to flash on any Android 2.3+ handset has, at least in the collective minds of the internet, exposed the Beats partnership for what it is: equalization software and a fancy logo.
In a move that is going to surprise approximately no one who knows anything about selling smartphones, HTC has indicated to CNET that it no longer plans to bundle Beats headphones with its handsets.
The reasoning should be pretty obvious - people aren't going to buy a smartphone on the basis that it comes with a pair of decent headphones. Headphones are a separate market, and if you care about them at all, you're going to buy them separate of any other hardware.
In the world of premium headphones, there is an emerging market for "designer" products - a niche Beats By Dre has been all too happy to fill in cooperation with Monster Cable (until now - HTC will be taking over Beats' headphone production). In fact, Beats accounts for over half of the $1 billion headphone market in the US - succeeding in ways and in markets brands like Sennheiser and Grado could only dream of.
You made your nominations, and you voted. Now we have a winner. The Andy for Best Non-Nexus Android Phone of 2011 goes to...
Best Non-Nexus Android Phone Of 2011: Readers' Choice
The Samsung Galaxy S II.
This really comes as no surprise. The Samsung Galaxy S II is still one of the most powerful handsets on the market, and with an Ice Cream Sandwich update inbound sometime in the coming year, it's only going to get better.
Love 'em or hate 'em, Beats are a hit. Annual sales of the pricey headgear are reported to approach half a billion dollars a year. During a recession, no less! My favorite Android handset maker, HTC, has even entered into a partnership with the company that promises to play your music "the way it was meant to be heard." I can't personally speak to the quality of the sound, but I'm sure any enhancement would be lost on me; audiophiles would turn their nose up at the paltry 192kbps quality I rip my CD collection to.
We've been hearing information about the HTC Rezound (codenamed Vigor) for quite a while now, and HTC just officially took the wraps off of this beasty. Like most other new HTC devices, it's packed with Beats by Dre, and, similar to the Sensation XE, has those wicked red capacitive buttons. It's quite impressive in terms of hardware spec:
4.3-Inch 720p (1282*720) display
1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor
16GB built-in storage, 16GB microSD card
8P camera, 2MP front cam
Beats by Dre
4G LTE with simultaneous voice/data capabilities (like the Thunderbolt)
We've been hearing tidbits of information about an HTC device codenamed Runnymede for a few weeks, but the waiting game is now over. HTC officially announced the device as the Sensation XL, and it packs mediocre specs in an oversized shell:
4.7-inch 480x800 Super LCD
1.5GHz single-core Snapdragon
16GB internal storage (no SD Card slot)
8MP rear shooter, 1.3 ffc
Android 2.3.x with Sense 3.5
While the spec list may be less than impressive, there is one thing to be said about the device: it's dead sexy.
HTC has officially announced the previously-rumored update to the Sensation, dubbed the XE. We heard about it a few weeks ago as the "Special Edition" (or SE), and it looks like the leaked details were spot-on, right down to the Beats Audio integrations.
The press release for the XE touts it provides "the ultimate audio experience." When using the included Beats earbuds (pictured), the phone will switch to a special sound profile, "delivering audio tracks tuned specifically for the headphones."
Other specs of the XE:
1.5GHz dual-core CPU
4.3" qHD SLCD
8MP rear camera, VGA front
1080p vidoe recording
microSD card (8GB or 16GB) in-box
The phone is scheduled to launch in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Asia Pacific later this month.
It turns out we might not have to wait too long to see HTC implement the Beats by Dr. Dre audio technology into future phones. The Sensation will soon be getting an upgrade to the Sensation Special Edition 2 that brings a Beats in-ear headset, along with the following additional improvements:
Faster processor: 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon, up from 1.2 GHz
Bigger battery: 1,730 mAH, up from 1,520 mAH
More storage: 4GB, up from 1GB
These improvements will come at a cost - £520 (or around $847) off-contract, to be exact.