First it was user interfaces, now app stores - handset makers cannot find sufficient differentiation in hardware specs and pricing and are increasingly turning to software.
On the UI front, this has produced some innovative consumer experiences such as HTC Sense and Motoblur, several steps ahead of the vanilla Android design.
But the user advantage is less clear in stores, where HTC is the latest in a long line of companies threatening to make the mobile apps process hopelessly confusing.
As with the user interfaces, device makers' stores (and those coming from carriers like Verizon and China Mobile) have one key advantage over Android Market - they usually span more than one operating system, making it easier for users to change handsets without learning a whole new experience from scratch.
Otherwise, though, the stores are likely to be less innovative than the UIs. A few players, notably Amazon, will have the expertise to create a truly differentiated and attractive purchasing process, but most stores will house the same apps under a front end that is only marginally different.
HTC has one of the most popular UIs in Sense, and is seeking to translate that success to a forthcoming app store.
According to sources who spoke to the Financial Times, this could open in the early part of next year. The Taiwanese vendor is said to be hiring content editors already, to build a shopping platform for apps, eBooks and magazines.
The team is currently just a few people in Taiwan but should expand to about 100 staff worldwide.
First talk of an HTC store emerged when the firm announced a partnership with US eBook distributor Kobo in September, to offer the latter's content worldwide on its smartphones.
This is likely to be an element of the new shopfront, as will an extended version of the HTC Sense.com portal, which promises data management and services that bridge the phone and PC.