HTC IS appealing to its fan base to counter "unconstructive" criticism of it's latest weird squidgy phone, originally in return for "swag" (arrrrrr, Jim Lad).
The HTC U11 has met with some positive reviews, including from ourselves, but the struggling Taiwanese maker has expressed concern that people who haven't used the phone are leaving negative comments.
Morally, this is dubious. It has a name, astroturfing, and it's like seeding but with fake seed. What the company is effectively doing is paying for leaving reviews and that, on most people's radar, is not cool, not cool at all.
The HTC Elevate group were invited to write reviews on websites that would counter the negative press. However, it now appears that the Elevate users themselves have criticised the practice saying it could lead to "spammy comments", and HTC has therefore removed the freebie element.
"While we'll continue giving out swag throughout the year (as we always do) we're removing it from this activity said the announcement. We just want you to be honest and convey how you really feel about the HTC U11."
It added in a statement, "No one in HTC Elevate is paid anything and only receives the same small bits of swag we already send to the community on a regular basis. No one is forced to say anything they don't believe."
HTC is not the first phone company to try this little trick but it's unusual to be quite so open and gauche about it - especially given that it has had to backtrack.
The U11 is the company's first phone with the gimmick of squeezable sides to trigger actions. Our reviewer said it didn't even need this to be a good phone, but sadly, HTC, once the kings of Smartphone have struggled recently after a string of critically-acclaimed but low-selling devices.
It is, however, the clandestine maker of Google's hugely successful Pixel phone, proving that it's quite capable of making some sexy devices.
However, astroturfing never ceases to backfire. A certain smartphone maker tends to use our forums to spread its artificial seed. We tend not to take too kindly to it. µ
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