It looks like smartphone makers have stumbled upon a new gimmick amid the usual boring battle about which flagship can offer the best camera experience or gaming features, etc.
Although smartphones boasting support for 5G did grab some eyeballs around two years ago, it soon turned out to be a gimmick as the technology was not available everywhere. So, most of the early 5G smartphones have already perished even before the technology is here.
Now, ‘5G’ is not a feature smartphone makers can boast about anymore as even a decent mid-range or a budget phone now supports the next-gen connectivity.
Enter metaverse, a new virtual world that is based on Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and other technologies.
There is a lot of buzz around metaverse these days and several brands and platforms are jumping into this new virtual world bandwagon.
The smartphone makers have also sensed an opportunity here; it seems the next smartphone war will be fought on who can offer a dedicated smartphone for people to enter the metaverse.
And we already have a smartphone now which is ‘metaverse-ready’.
It’s noteworthy that the ‘phone to carry you into the future’ was launched around the 15th anniversary of the iPhone which brought a new era for tech and smartphones.
However, it’s not Apple or Samsung, it’s the long-forgotten HTC that has made the first move. The Taiwanese consumer electronics company hasn’t launched any notable flagship in years but has made a comeback with a “high-end” Android smartphone focused on the Metaverse.
HTC has launched the HTC Desire 22 Pro with the support for AR and VR applications for an immersive metaverse experience.
Notably, HTC announced the Vive Flow VR headset in October last year, with the headset requiring an Android smartphone to work as its controller. The Desire 22 Pro is designed to be the “perfect companion” to HTC’s Vive Flow VR headset and used to access Viverse, its vision for the metaverse. With this, it looks like HTC has gone way ahead of others to offer a full ecosystem for the metaverse.
There’s also some NFT functionality here as the phone includes a digital wallet to manage crypto assets, and comes with a free NFT.
HTC had earlier also tried to set a new trend in 2018 with HTC Exodus which debuted as a blockchain-optimised smartphone focused on cryptocurrency. It was launched after HTC sold a substantial portion of its smartphone business to Google for $1.1 billion in 2017.
On paper, besides the ‘metaverse support’ the Desire 22 Pro has pretty average specifications – the phone is powered by a Snapdragon 695 processor paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage.
It features a 6.6-inch 1080p display with a high 120Hz refresh rate, a 32-megapixel selfie camera, and a triple-camera setup on the rear, including a 64-megapixel main camera, a 13-megapixel ultrawide, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. There is a 4,520mAh battery with wireless charging, Android 12, and an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. But that’s that.
The HTC Desire 22 Pro is priced at Rs 31,800 approx. There is a Metaverse Early Bird package which includes HTC Desire 22 Pro and the Vive Flow headset for Rs 62,300 (approx).
Although it’s not clear when the smartphone will be available in India, HTC is expected to bring it in September this year.
But the question is, will a smartphone solely around metaverse be well received in India or anywhere else when metaverse is still an alien concept for many?
Even if some crypto backers give the metaverse-ready smartphones a chance, they may feel left behind considering everyone is looking for a flagship experience these days and optics still remain a crucial point when deciding on a new smartphone.
In India, the 5G gimmick worked because even though the technology is still not available in the country for the masses, chances are within a few months, people will have the taste of it considering 5G spectrum auctions are just around the corner.
Besides, most of the smartphones were geared towards the camera and gaming features that did not bother people from paying slightly extra for a 5G smartphone.
HTC’s ‘blockchain smartphone’, which could also mine some cryptocurrencies, couldn’t find many takers, so is HTC now trying to use some popular terms and making a move at the right time to sell something that people don’t need right now?
The contrary could also be true considering the Desire 22 Pro could revive the company’s fortune at a time when companies like Qualcomm are working with Microsoft to integrate smartphones with AR and VR experiences and a lot of brands have announced plans to enter the metaverse.
And HTC’s metaverse-ready smartphone could be a step in the right direction to change the way we use smartphones just as the metaverse momentum gains more pace.
However, there are the likes of Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark who recently predicted that 6G mobile networks will be in operation by 2030 but by then, smartphones will become obsolete.
Lundmark did not specify which devices will replace smartphones, though.
It remains to be seen if the Desire 22 Pro will actually ‘carry you into the future’ or if it would all be just another gimmick. When it looked like the fancy smartphones these days have nothing much to offer except good cameras, a metaverse-ready smartphone does sound exciting.