Ina Fried

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Rather Than Just Watch Samsung’s Show, HTC Gets In on the Act

As reporters and others waited to get into Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, they had a chance to play with one of the latest high-end Android devices. But it wasn’t the Galaxy S4.

HTC One crashing Galaxy S4 party

It was the HTC One.

The Taiwanese phonemaker dispatched a street team to pass out snacks and hot cocoa while demoing the HTC phone as folks gathered for Samsung’s big event.

“For us it’s a good opportunity to let people compare real-time,” HTC President Jason Mackenzie said in an interview. “We have the best smartphone in the world right now, and we want to seize the opportunity to get it into as many hands as possible.”

To that end, HTC also passed out coupons offering $100 to those who trade in their phone for the new One.

HTC wasn’t alone in seizing Samsung’s big stage to try and grab some attention. LG had a billboard above Samsung’s Times Square signage, while Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller did a round of interviews ahead of Thursday’s launch.

But taking on Samsung so directly represents a new approach for HTC. For years, the company sold its phones under the tagline “quietly brilliant,” and tended to have a marketing approach to match.

After losing significant ground, though, the company has decided it needs to speak up if it doesn’t want to see its fortunes erode further.

Plus, the HTC One and Galaxy S4 are really targeted at the same buyer, and both are due to hit the market around the same time.

“We’ve got to compete,” Mackenzie told AllThingsD. “These two products will spend their product life in market together.”

All four U.S. carriers will carry the Galaxy S4. At its February launch, HTC announced the One would be carried by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. As first reported by AllThingsD, Verizon is also prepping to carry the One, though it is likely to arrive a month or two later than at the other U.S. carriers.

Pricing has not been announced for either product, though Mackenzie expects both to carry a similar price tag.

“I’m sure both products will come out under $200,” Mackenzie said. “That would be my expectation.”

After watching the Galaxy S4’s glitzy launch, though, Mackenzie quipped, “Maybe it wil cost more because they have to pay for the tap dancers.”

But, more seriously, Mackenzie knows that HTC has to compete not only with the new features Samsung introduces but with all the money they have to spend on billboards, TV ads and splashy launches.

“We expect Samsung to spend a ton of money on marketing,” he said. For its part, HTC can’t afford to match Samsung, but it also can’t hide or shy away. Whereas in the past HTC has spent heavily in spurts, Mackenzie said to expect a sustained push around the HTC One, one that will extend over the life of the product.

“As a consumer you will see us,” he said. “You will know there are things that make the HTC One great.”

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