Originally, I was going to bore you with the history of HTC Sense UI, but I figure if you are interested you can Wikipedia it. HTC Sense 3.0 is the UI that the Telecom New Zealand provided HTC Sensation handset is running and I want to introduce you to it. Before we begin however, I must warn you of two things:
1. I have included a ton of screenshots.
2. I have changed the phone skin so everything is purple - the default is black.
I had heard some good things about Sense UI before using it on the HTC Sensation, but was wary due to my experience on the Samsung Galaxy S (SGS). I'm not going to say that the Sense has blown my mind, but it has certainly opened my eyes to how sensationally slick and integrated a custom UI can be (sorry, couldn't resist the urge to make an awful pun).
As you may know, my previous phone was the Samsung SGS. It was a device that came tainted with TouchWiz and looked like it was designed by children wielding brightly coloured crayons. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of overlays on Android and rather enjoy customising the look of my phone to suit me. Fortunately, in this regard Sense does not disappoint (remember: I warned you about the purple).
Calling Sense UI an overlay or comparing it to TouchWiz doesn't really do it justice or explain what it is. It is in fact much more comprehensive than TouchWiz and almost completely replaces the stock Android UI. The main component of Sense is the Launcher (apparently, its nickname is Rosie, for some reason). It has seven home screens, that like any other Android device you can fill with widgets to your heart's content.
HTC Sense includes a vast array of widgets to help you out (81 is pretty vast, right?); from social media via FriendStream to viewing your virtual bookshelf with the My Shelf widget, there are enough decent widgets to satisfy nearly everyone.
You can rotate between the screens with the quick swipe of a finger, and if you swipe fast enough it turns into a carousel animation. You might also notice that there is a 3D effect on most of the HTC Widgets - for example, the clock practically pops out of the screen when you rotate between home screens. The animations here are pretty smooth; probably due to the Dual Core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon roaring under the hood.
One of the most highly touted features in Sense 3.0 is the new lock screen:
You can select up to four application shortcuts, which you can easily open by dragging them into the silver circle. It's pretty slick and loads better than the stock android lock screen. It also goes together nicely with another great feature of the HTC Sensation: the Instant-on camera.
Basically, the idea is that you can easily switch to the camera from the lock screen and then push the shutter button, instantly capturing the image. At first, I thought this was just marketing speak; but the shutter speed is actually very fast and it does capture the image with no delay. After taking the image, you get to see a preview of what was taken for another three seconds (this can be changed as well) before being able to take another shot.
The Sensation can easily replace a normal 'point and shoot' camera. Its eight megapixel sensor defaults to a resolution of 3264 X 1840 at 16:9 aspect ratio. The only downside here is the lack of a physical shutter button.
Another one of the main attractions is the amazing weather widget and application, which I will demonstrate along with some smooth home screen scrolling in the video below. I have to say, the 4.3" qHD display on the Sensation is pretty great and everything looks a lot sharper than on the SGS.
One of the not-so-highly praised features of the Sense UI is how it handles incoming calls. It has a few intuitive features. These include:
. If your phone rings and you are otherwise occupied, just flip the phone over so that it's face down and it will immediately go silent.
. It rings louder when it's inside your bag so you can hear it better, but gets quieter when you pick it up.
You also get a slightly different incoming call screen depending on whether you have the phone locked or not. With both versions you get to see the latest social media updates and a profile photo for that person, which is quite a nice touch (assuming you sync with Facebook or Twitter). With the lock screen version it acts just like the normal lock screen where you drag the icon into the silver circle. In case you're worried I did blur the name/phone number, as my fiance probably wouldn't appreciate me publicly posting it. >.<
A lot of this stuff might seem like fluff, but it really does round out the sensational experience (oops, I did it again) and makes it feel that much more complete.
One of the things that I was afraid of losing when switching from the SGS was the ability to quickly change settings from the notification bar. Thankfully, Sense includes a Quick Settings window in the Notification bar that lets you turn on or off most of the functions that you might need.
The main notification bar is also pretty sweet as it has a sliding bar of your last used applications. This saves you from holding down the Home button for ages so you can switch apps (yes, three seconds in geek time is ages).
Don't forget to keep an eye out for my next post, where I'll be exploring the integration of Sense UI applications as well as all of the ways in which the UI can be customised.
About the author:
Nick Gough (Lokhor) is a Lower Hutt born and bred geek. He works at Environmental Science and Research and is on his way towards becoming a Business Analyst. He lives with his fiance who gracefully puts up with his geeky hobbies. He loves gadgets; playing with them, hacking them, breaking and fixing them - he loves it all. Ever since he was young he enjoyed building computers and over clocking them. His first real Smartphone was the i9000 Galaxy S which he has thoroughly enjoyed despite any apparent flaws. Nick also enjoys gaming on PC, console and Android device. You can follow Nick via his twitter account @lokhor or his blog: http://ndmgough.blogspot.com.
Other related posts:
HTC Watch on HTC Sensation in New Zealand
HTC Sensation: The Story So Far
Testing mobile data speeds with HTC Sensation
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