NEW YORK-Is top-notch audio hardware enough to persuade you to buy a smartphone?
That's a question HTC seemingly wants consumers to answer in the affirmative. The main selling point of its just-announced HTC Rezound smartphone is the device's tight hardware integration with Beats, audio technology developed by Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre.
At a Nov. 3 unveiling event here, Iovine told the assembled media that Beats was explicitly designed to counter the audio degradation that comes with pushing digital music through a pair of "one-dollar headphones." He succeeded HTC CEO Peter Chou and other executives, who likewise pushed the idea of crystal-clear audio as a game-changer for smartphones.
Aside from Beats, though, the Rezound's specs align closely with those of other high-end Android devices on the market. It boasts a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, Android Gingerbread (skinned with HTC Sense), a 4.3-inch screen offering 1280x720 resolution, and an 8-megapixel rear camera (paired with a 2-megapixel front aperture) capable of shooting 1080p video. In the hand, it feels relatively light but not cheap. The black finish and detailing are handsome, but not necessarily in a way that makes the Rezound stand out from Motorola's Droid Razr or some of the other premium smartphones currently on the market.
Both Verizon and HTC indicated during the event that the Rezound is ready to receive "Ice Cream Sandwich," the next major Android upgrade.
However, a device focusing on audio offers potential advantages for all parties involved. Verizon, which will carry the Rezound on its 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, now has a particularly data-hungry device in its stable-and those types of devices demand big data plans, which in turn boost the carrier's bottom line. HTC already offers high-end Android smartphones, but the street cred associated with Beats audio could give it an added advantage in the tooth-and-nail consumer market. And Beats itself now expands onto yet another tech platform, following its deal to import the technology onto desktops and laptops manufactured by Hewlett-Packard.
With so many other options out there, however, it's a big question whether the prospect of crystal-clear audio (and a ticked-out pair of Beats earbuds included in the box) is a big enough selling point to draw in consumers who might otherwise opt for the Droid Razr, the Apple iPhone 4S or other high-end devices arriving on the market for the holiday season. That question will begin to be answered Nov. 14, when the device arrives on store shelves for $299.99 with a two-year contract.