HTC's struggles over the last four years are well documented. The business has declined sharply, the cadence of product releases has slowed, and while the phones themselves have continued to be pretty good they haven't garnered the public's attention on the scale necessary to run a massive international smartphone business. For some reason, this article on AppleInsider seems to think that Google's Nexus and Pixel phones are to blame for HTC's demise. Oh, and they also "gutted" Motorola. And by the way, they're bad products that nobody wants and are ruining the Android ecosystem one company at a time.
Okay, none of that is actually true. Take a deep breath and let me explain.
The primary assertion of the article is that a) HTC is failing as a business and b) it's been a partner with Google multiple times so c) HTC's failures are the cause of Google's partnerships for Nexuses and Pixels. It's the time-honored tradition of confusing correlation with causation. Yes, HTC is failing as a business. And yes again, it has partnered with Google many times to launch products. But that in no way means that the two are linked.
The article's primary evidence for this assertion that Google killed HTC is that Google purchased Motorola, released two Moto X phones that didn't do too well, and then sold it. This is, quite clearly, a completely different situation. Partnerships for individual phone releases is far and away different from purchasing a company outright — not to mention that one of the core reasons for purchasing Motorola in the first place was its staff and patent portfolio. And since selling the company, Motorola has done surprisingly well in the low- and mid-range segments across the world. Yes it's not the Motorola of old, but times change — and you simply can't argue that Motorola died (well, because it didn't) because of this "what if" thought process of the acquisition. This isn't relevant to the Google-HTC situation at all, actually.
Now let's cover the HTC situation. When it comes to Android, HTC was there from the very beginning. Google's first Android phone, the Sooner, was made by HTC. The second Android phone (though it was the first commercially-available one) was the Dream, also known as the G1, made by HTC. Google's first self-branded phone, the Nexus One, was made by ... you guessed it, HTC. In 2010 when the Nexus One came out, HTC's business was built on the back of Windows Phone — an OS that was well on its way to being a dead end. HTC's life ring was moving to making Android phones — its business would never have reached the heights that it did if it hadn't partnered with Google to get in on the ground floor of making Android phones.
From 2010 to 2014, HTC was synonymous with Android — and it was because of Google, not in spite of it. After the Nexus One, HTC launched a strong set of Desire phones, partnered with Verizon for successful Droid-branded phones and was a major influence in the Android world with the One line of flagships. HTC hadn't partnered with Google for a phone since 2010 (the Nexus 9 tablet was forgettable no matter who made it), yet it was able to build its business to its highest peak over the next four years.
HTC both rose to its highest peak and also started its downturn between its 2010 and 2016 Google partnerships.
But it didn't last. We remarked back in February 2016, some 8 months before the first HTC-made Google Pixel was announced, that HTC was having a tough time standing out from the competition. At that point, we were "almost two years removed from the last great HTC phone, the One M8" — indeed, HTC had started its downward trend in 2014. Well before the Pixel partnership was even put in place, and once again well after HTC and Google had last partnered for a phone. HTC had both risen to its highest level and also started its downturn in the time between the two Google phone partnerships.
Google seemed to be well aware that HTC was not doing well. But for some reason this article seems to make that case that Google is under some sort of obligation to make sure HTC doesn't go out of business. Despite the fact that Google is indeed under no such obligation, it has over the last couple of years invested heavily in HTC — first by contracting the company build the Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel 2, then by investing over $1 billion in HTC directly by acquiring much of its engineering staff. It's easily arguable that without the massive influx of cash from Google for manufacturing these three Pixel phones that HTC would already be dead — the company's position was that bad in 2016 when it started making Pixels.
So what about the other Nexus and Pixel partners? By this flawed logic that Google kills its partners, Samsung and LG should be dead as well. Google partnered with Samsung for the Nexus S in 2010 and the Galaxy Nexus in 2011 — which subsequently kicked off Samsung's dominance of the Android market from the Galaxy S II onward, forming the iPhone's biggest competitor worldwide. Google partnered with LG for four different devices: the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 5X and Pixel 2 XL. The Nexus 4 kicked off a six-year partnership between the companies that still stands today — and LG itself isn't doing particularly bad. Sure it isn't Samsung, but it's also a massive leap above where HTC is right now.
Interestingly, the whole point of the article seems to be to simply spike the ball and point to the fact that the Pixel phones aren't as wildly popular or big as the iPhone. What it fails to recognize is that there's a very large middle ground between "unsuccessful product line" and "Apple iPhone" — in fact, it's the entire smartphone market, because no single smartphone has been as popular as the iPhone. The two generations of Pixels have yet to be massive retail successes, that's pretty clear. But they, and the Nexuses that came before them, have not been complete failures — particularly if you understand that the goal of Nexus phones was to lend a hand to Android manufacturers, not sell in large numbers. Their lack of retail success has in no way contributed to the death or misfortune of any of the companies that made them. Shockingly, this nuance has been lost on AppleInsider.
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