HTC Surround

So HTC and Beats Entertainment (aka Beats by Dre) have hopped into bed together. It's a $300 million "marriage," as HTC CEO Peter Chou and music mogul and Beats chairman Jimmy Iovine officially announced Thursday night ... and again Friday morning. If you joined us for the liveblog of the conference call and Q&A, you know that we didn't learn a whole lot more than we already knew the night before.

We did learn, however, that it was Beats who approached HTC, back in March. And that despite Beats' business doubling, according to Iovine, the $300 million buy-in (HTC now owns 51 percent of the company) remained unchanged.

Perhaps the phone you see above is what kicked it all off. That's the HTC Surround, which was one of the first Windows Phone 7 devices. We've never considered HTC devices to have the best speaker quality; that crown goes to Motorola. But the Surround (see my initial hands-on from the Windows Phone 7 launch event) sought to change that with its crazy slide-out speaker. Gimmicky, to be sure. But it also sounded a slide shade better than anything else HTC had on the market, for sure. Try one. You'll be surprised. Anyhoo, that speaker's built with Dolby Mobile and SRS WOW HD. (As have a couple Android phones since, but not as well.) And I still don't know what that means, 'cept it sounds better than most of the smartphones I have.

And that's where Beats comes in. You can argue all day about the sound quality -- and you will argue all day about the sound quality. But it's got name recognition and a bit of the ol' sex factor. And that's important. Or maybe it means better earbuds and/or gaudy headphones. Know what? Just about anything would be better than what you get now. So long as they're subsidized in the cost of the phone, we're all for it.

One way or another, this deal is a big one for HTC, and an even bigger one for Beats, as Iovine underscored as he repeated several times how Beats "had to get to the phone." We know you wanted new hardware. We know you want Ice Cream Sandwich. Those things are coming, and coming pretty soon, we reckon. In the meantime, ponder what kind of audio miracle we might soon see -- Chou said Beats-impregnated devices are coming this fall.


Reader comments

HTC's dabbled in the whole audio thing before


It is all about branding and name recognition to catch people's attention. Love it or hate it young people know about Beats, some well known celebrities use it or endorse it.

For this to work as a 'marriage' they need two things to come together. The first is a strong social marketing angle that aligns HTC name and technology with the Dre image. This will be very difficult to do but, I suppose, it is possible.

The second is a powerful and unique technology angle that will be compelling to both the Dre/Beats demographic AND a much broader slice of the smartphone buyer market. This means something that is part of the HTC handsets that can deliver amazing sound beyond anything else that a consumer has ever imagined. If they can make the consumer say, "That sound can't be coming from a phone? Really?? That is AMAZING!!" they have won.

If they just include a pair of Beats headphones as part of a optional package with some extra branding they have lost.

I can't wait to see which way they go!

Phone and laptop speakers all suck. Some just suck less than others. As an audiophile, it kills me to hear music played directly from a laptop or phone.

Question for you then, is it possible to implement "good" speakers into a phone? I dont know much about audio but I have always wondered why they havent tried this.

I see people in New York wearing the overly big Beats Studio headphones everyday. Overpriced just like Bose. I really wonder if they can do anything with tiny mobile speakers at all. Meanwhile I'll stick to some actually good brands like Sennheiser, AKG, or Audio Technica.