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Jan 29 2012   11:16AM GMT

Smartphone Makers Should Reduce the Number of Models They Offer

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

The head of HTC’s UK division said in an interview last week that, in 2012, his company is going to concentrate on making a few very good smartphones, rather than just throwing a big bunch of models at a wall to see what sticks. This is a good idea, and one that all mobile device makers should emulate.

To give you an idea of what HTC did wrong last year, I compiled a list handsets it released in 2011: ThunderBolt, Rezound, Titan, Radar, Arrive, Amaze 4G, EVO Shift 4G, EVO Design 4G, EVO 3D, Rhyme, Vivid, Sensation, Inspire 4G, Status, Droid Incredible 2, Trophy, 7 Pro, and Merge. I think everyone would agree that this is too many.

But Motorola wasn’t much better.  How about the Droid 3, Droid RAZR, Droid Bionic, Droid Pro, Admiral, Atrix, Atrix 2, X2, Photon 4G, XPRT, Pro+, Electrify, Titanium, and Cliq 2. Too many of these were too similar, like the X2 and the Droid Bionic.

Samsung Galaxy S II from T-MobileSamsung seems to have figured this out, and put most of its attention last year on the Galaxy S II. Still, it came out with other models that — predictably — didn’t sell nearly as well. Anyone remember the Samsung Continuum? I didn’t think so.

Apple epitomizes the “less is more” philosophy. It releases one (1) smartphone each year. While it’s possible that’s taking things a bit too far, it’s far better than HTC having to split its focus among 18 or so new models.

There’s a complicating factor here: the wireless carriers. Companies like Verizon and AT&T want exclusive phones, and they put pressure on device makers to provide them. In the U.S. the handset producers absolutely depend on the carriers, so it’s hard for them to resist this pressure.

Even so, companies have to cut down on the number of models — producing a dozen or so each year that don’t sell all that well isn’t a good strategy, either for them or their customers. Just think about support and system software upgrades — the fewer models a company has to deal with, the more time they can spend on each one. That leads to happier customers and bigger profits.

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