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Tech Interview

HTC's Claude Zellweger on future of HTC, One Brand and invisible phones

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Claude Zellweger

HTC One

© HTC

HTC One



HTC's Lead Designer Claude Zellweger is "really happy" with the initial global launch of the One.

The flagship smartphone has reportedly sold around five million HTC One handsets, which should please the Taiwanese company after a tough first quarter.

The One has received rave reviews, particularly for its design and overall feel against the more plastic-feeling Galaxy S4.

We sat down with Zellweger to find out if he's still happy working at HTC, what's next for the mobile makers and what tech he'd like to see play out in the future.

In recent times, several senior and well respected employers have left HTC. Is HTC still an enjoyable place to work?
"Well, it's been an amazing ride for me. Since the design team have been working with them on the diamond, we've really been able to take the company from an OEM-based company, to a very design-centric company. We really have the opportunity to be at the centre of what's happening. We can drive innovation from the inside, it's not something that's being fed to us. So for the design team it's been great to work here."

The HTC One is one of the finest smartphones out at the moment and certainly the best handset the company has made, largely down to its beautiful and premium design. Can you talk us through the development of the HTC One?
"I think the most important thing for us was to create something that was going to be the new standard for large screen devices. We have three simple principles for design - simple, humanly and crafted. We wanted to hit each of these in equal ways. So the simplicity of it comes from the fact that we wanted something that really compliments the user interface a lot. We have a tile-based simple blink feed experience in the front and then on the back, even though we have this new metal unibody design that has to work with antennas as well.

"We wanted to do something that was really seamless. So that's the simplicity - when you go across the material, there's no breaks, no rigids, very very simple. The crafted side of things is that we want all the details on the phone to almost look like they were manmade. And then the human element comes in when we speak about the overall form. While the front face is very simple the back has this strongly tapered form that fits into your hand perfectly."

HTC One

© HTC

HTC One



Have any rivals influenced or inspired your design of the HTC One?
"When we design phones we just measure ourselves mostly against our prior work and other work we're doing as designers, consistently pushing the boundaries. Of course we're aware of what's going on in the industry but we very much try not to react to what our competitors do but rather follow our line of design."

Can we expect to see a smaller version of the HTC One?
"We have built a really strong brand with the One so we're obviously spending a lot of time thinking of how we're going to harness that in the best possible way. In the past we used to have a lot more products but now we're putting everything into one and I think in the next 12 months you're going to get a clearer picture of how it all fits together."

Now the One has launched globally, what's next for HTC?
"We built something really good we feel with the HTC One, so we're going to be building on that not just the brand but the design philosophy and the design elements of it. We don't plan to zig zag like crazy but we plan to always surprise the market with new elements. We will be maturing the One brand, getting more aggressive so we can get ahead of the competitors, even more aggressively then you've seen now."

What do you think is the future of smartphone designs in general?
"It's such an amazing fast-paced, moving world and certainly as designers we like to be part of it too. I think we're going to see a lot more experienced-based innovation - I think the camera experience that we put on the HTC One was one example of creating one experience that involves all new technology into one. But it [also] makes it very easy for the user to understand and put its top level on the device, as opposed to being just available through one of many apps."

Participants gather around the HTC stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011. The Mobile World Congress is held from Feb. 14-17

© PA Images / Manu Fernandez/AP

HTC booth at MWC



And what would you like to see on a smartphone?
"If I talk about the future in 10 years' time, this is sort of undermining my own work but
I'd like to see smartphones disappear in a way. I want it to be gone, to be invisible. The information that gets to me is done in a transparent way and the information that I'm giving to the phone is done in a transparent way. That is the furthest goal so they're going to be many steps from here to there. At some point you will have big displays everywhere around you and your information will travel with you.

"The idea of putting a handset up to your face or to your hand at some point will seem a thing of the past. In the meantime though, they'll be a lot of steps of innovation in the hardware area. We want to be more powerful, have longer batteries, become thinner and have edgeless displays."

What do you think of the HTC One? Do you feel there's still a place for HTC in the smartphone market? Leave your comments in the box below.

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