Whenever the next major flagship phone from a company like Apple or Samsung is announced, it’s fairly common for the focus to be on the hardware side of the device. Maybe it’s got a new screen or a they’ve changed up the form-factor in some small way.
As a result, little thought is given to the software side of things. Maybe this hypothetical handset might run on the latest flavour of Android but often that’s as far as things go.
HTC’s new U range looks to take a different tact. The company’s latest rebranding will see them try and define themselves with a form of AI they term “accelerating intelligence”.
According to HTC Australia’s Product Manager Thomas Deximer, the company’s decision to embrace AI was one that spoke to their core values.
“We absolutely love innovation and we’ve pushed hardware innovation to the limits,” he says.
“The next step for us was to do something quite special in software and AI was where we think the market needs to go and where we need to take consumers,” Deximer says.
Both the HTC U Play and HTC U Ultra feature a new AI-driven application, called HTC Sense Companion, that they say will allow it to learn and adapt to a users habits and tastes.
It’ll be capable of filtering your contacts (moving the most-frequent individuals to the Ultra’s smaller second display), actively inform you about the weather, remind you to charge and even recommend restaurants to you.
Deximer says that some of the Ultra’s AI-driven features will kick in within hours, while others will only really become noticeable after “a couple of weeks.”
Simply put: “The more you use HTC,” the more you’ll get out of it.
HTC are hoping it adds “stickiness” to the brand.
Given that HTC say that their Sense Companion will be able to pull user data from one device to another, it might actually be the right tool for the job.
Deximer notes that the data gathered by the Sense Companion will be encrypted, stored locally and then finally backed-up on HTC’s servers. He says that if users break their HTC phone and get it replaced, they’ll be able to take that data with them.
Unfortunately, at least for now, the potential of the Sense Companion is going to be locked to first-party applications.
Deximer says that while third-party applications will gain access to the Sense Companion data later down the line, the version of the app that comes with the U range will only offer basic features like reminding users about their battery life to begin with.
Even the Sense Companion’s frequent contact filtering will come limited to text messaging. This means that while you’ll be able to quickly and intuitively reach out to your most-common contacts, you’ll only be able to do so via phone calls or texts. No social networking, at least for now.
The final question we pose to Deximer during our time with him is whether or not the Sense Companion is a feature that will see HTC’s competitors follow in their footsteps.
“I wouldn’t use the word following. Everyone’s got their own definition of AI,”
“It’s early days,” he admits.