August 11, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
HTC’s announcement that it would partner with Beats by Dre to improve the audio quality of its smartphones was met with mixed reactions. Some thought it was an interesting move for the fast-rising Android smartphone manufacturer, but it did not initially seem worthy of the “major” news that was first teased yesterday.
However, the HTC and Beats Audio marriage may be a bigger deal than people realize based on today’s teleconference about the deal. Continuing the theme from last night’s official announcement, HTC CEO Peter Chou said that HTC is “planning to bring studio sound quality to your hand” as a critical effort to improve the listening experience on handsets. That’s because mobile has made it easier than ever to discover and listen to music on the go, but “the sound quality has not [caught] up yet” according to Chou.
HTC is going to deliver headsets designed to deliver better sound quality, but there will also be software/hardware improvements to work in conjunction with those headsets. Interscope Records executive and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine argues the integration between the two matters, and suggests that helped Beats sell more than 8 million headphones in 3 years.
“We have lost two generations to bad sound when music was digitized…When you take an MP3 player and spend $400 on it and the earbuds cost 80 cents, the math doesn’t work.” – Jimmy Iovine, Beats Audio
While I’d argue that the advent of CD’s and .Flac files have helped sound quality more than records and cassettes, Iovine has a point about the degradation of accessories used in the listening experience. Portable music devices and the headphones associated with them typically matched levels of audio quality. Today, digital music is most often consumed through a phone or MP3 player with cheap equipment that ships with the phone or is purchased in Best Buy for $10 to $25.
Upcoming HTC phones will provide better sound quality and have an optional headset to enhance quality further. HTC has an exclusive that allows only its phones to have Beats audio, but how much of an advantage will that really prove to be over competitors? Iovine claims that people purchasing laptops consider sound quality, but that was never a deciding factor for me. I’m not sure audio quality – unless there is a considerably noticeable difference – will sway me when making my next phone purchase, either.
How about you?