The Interview: Peter Frølund, vice-president, HTC

4 Mar 2015

Peter Frølund, vice-president and general manager for UK and the Nordics, HTC

It’s all about craftsmanship, said HTC vice-president Peter Frølund. That’s the defining trend of 2015 when it comes to the latest smartphones on show at Mobile World Congress and he said HTC exemplifies this trend.

Frølund, who is also general manager for UK and the Nordics at HTC, is discussing the prevailing trends this year and said the company’s new flagship phone the HTC One M9 is setting a benchmark for other manufacturers to follow.

HTC is narrowing its focus from a myriad of device types to a few signature devices and the One M9 carries a standard that predecessors the M7 and M8 have set in terms of unibody design.

Unveiled on Sunday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the all-metal M9 uses a nano-SIM and is festooned with a variety of sensors, including an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, an accelerometer, a compass sensor, a gyro sensor, a magnetic sensor and a sensor hub.

The device comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core CPU capable of 64-bit processing.

The device has 32GB of total storage and comes with 3GB of RAM built in. An expandable microSD slot can support memory cards up to 128GB.

It comes with HTC’s Dolby Audio BoomSound speakers and a 20MP camera that can record video in 4K.

Its 2840mAh battery can carry on with 25.4 hours of talktime and 402 hours of standby time.

But the most striking thing about the M9 is its appearance. It gleams brighter than its predecessors and gives off such colours in different light that you have to look a few times.

“It’s all about craftsmanship. We took our inspiration from the watch industry, using one piece of metal to create a dual-tone effect.

“That was the inspiration and aspiration. We wanted to make a phone with the same quality feel as a premium watch.”

The HTC One M9 will be available in dual-tone silver and rose gold, single-tone gunmetal grey and single-tone gold in Ireland. Pre-orders begin on 16 March and the device will be in stores by 31 March.

Frølund also said the personalisation inside the HTC One M9 has been notched up a gear, including a new feature that creates design themes around pictures. “Take a picture and the colours become part of a theme you created yourself.”

‘Other manufacturers are late to the party’

The HTC One M9 smartphone

Frølund’s views on craftsmanship are likely to be echoed by smartphone rivals such as LG and Samsung. The days of plastic phones are numbered and the emphasis is on materials science.

On Sunday, for example, Samsung’s head of global marketing Younghee Lee emphasised the level of craftsmanship that went into the new S6 and S6 Edge smartphones. For example, she said the metal for the body of the devices was tempered to 800°C just to curve the device. “It will not bend,” she said, no doubt referring to the negative PR that stalked Apple in the wake of the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus.

Frølund said other manufacturers are effectively jumping on the back of HTC’s bandwagon, imitating its unique approach to antenna design in order to build unibody smartphone devices.

“What you have seen in the UK and Ireland over the last 18 months is the Desire products getting a lot of traction because of their design and I can tell you a lot of dedication and craftsmanship goes into making these devices.

“We have focused on creating a phone that is built around a unibody experience with parts that give you a solid feel.”

Frølund explained that each unibody comes from a solid block of aluminium that is crafted down to 5pc by the time the body is finished. He is quick to add that the remaining 95pc gets used elsewhere in the process.

“The body of the device is retouched 70 times for the brushed hairlines look and you can see the depth in the material so the design stands out more.”

He said HTC also experimented with 70 different types of oil to achieve the finish on the phones.

“It illustrates that we are a company that goes to the limit of what is actually possible.

“HTC has always been first in these things. Our antenna technology emphasises this. The competition like to talk about craftsmanship but they are a bit late to the party.

“Our CEO Peter Chou is an engineer and that’s the way he looks at everything we do. It would be tough to find anybody else who knows more about how to make a phone. He’s not just a CEO, he’s an engineer who knows every single component in the phone and that dedication to quality is what HTC is all about.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years