HTC Watch on HTC Sensation in New Zealand

, posted: 6-Sep-2011 13:00

It would be fair to say I've been savouring the HTC Sensation these past weeks. My previous blog posts reported the best things (many: fast network, fast reliable phone, great software) and the worst (a couple - like the volume rocker falling out of the phone and getting lost) from my point of view.   

Many more things haven't been mentioned (I think). Like the pocket mode that sees the phone ring louder if it's in a pocket or bag. Or the pick-up mode which sees the ring tone drop volume if you pick up the ringing phone. Or the fastboot mode that sees the phone go from dark to usable in barely 9 seconds. 

One of the most interesting features promoted on the release of the HTC Sensation is "HTC Watch". This is a service that lets the user rent or buy movies from a good selection of current films. It didn't appear to be available at first, but a week or so ago I was able login and actually buy and download a movie to my phone and watch it. It was fairly easy to do. I set up my account through the Watch app and stepped through a few screens...and then downloaded a movie.



You can watch a streaming trailer of any movie you're interested in before you commit to rent or buy. You can have up to five devices associated with your HTC Watch account to access/download your purchased content. You have the opportunity every 30 days to remove devices. Prices appear to range from $6.99 for a rental to $24.99 to buy, with the majority of movies being $12.99 or $19.99. 

 

The movies look great on the Sensation. The 1.3GB of "The Ugly Truth" downloaded in a reasonable amount of time over wifi. It won't download over 3G, so no worries about accidentally blowing your data cap....unless you've tethered yourself to someone else's phone, of course. 

Would I recommend the HTC Sensation to my best friend? Yes....if it met their needs. The great 8mp camera, fast processor, big screen, great 'feel' and rich Sense 3.0 user interface make it a very good chance this phone is a good fit for a lot of people. Right now it is one of a small, select group of phones at the top of the Android heap. 

One of the interesting outcomes for me in this experience has been my own decision to sign up for a Smartphone 100 plan with Telecom. I did that yesterday and they gave me a free Samsung Galaxy S II. I felt a bit awkward, having been a loyal Vodafone customer for about 15 years. But I found Vodafone's new smartphone plans somewhat underwhelming when they were announced last week and the data complements on each step remained more or less where they were two years ago. The Telecom XT plan gives me four times as much data for the same money. We'll see how that goes. 

About the author:

Steve Withers (LinuxLuver) has worked in IT in New Zealand (National Bank, Caltex, NZ Dairy Board, IBM, AT&T, Software of Excellence) for most of 30 years, moving from mainframes to mobile as technology has evolved and networks have become faster, cheaper and more accessible to everyone. An enthusiastic supporter of Open Source software and tools, in 2009 Steve embraced Linux-based Android as the way to go in personal tech for freedom loving peoples everywhere. Steve loves cool new stuff that makes him feel like he's living in the future.



HTC Sensation: The Story So Far

, posted: 5-Sep-2011 20:29

If you've been following the trial of the HTC Sensation operating on Telecom XTnetwork, as recounted by The Three Amigos of Geekzone, you'll have seen that we've delivered mixed reviews of the phone. Like any other tech gadget, the Sensation has strengths and weaknesses, and for anybody considering its purchase, the relative importance of those factors will weigh heavily in one's decision making. To paraphrase a much-loved beer commercial, it's a hard road to find the perfect smartphone. Actually, it's an impossibly hard road, since the perfect smartphone doesn't exist.

But you might find the perfect phone for you. And that's an entirely different thing.

There are things about the Sensation that are just downright tasty. Take for instance, the looks. Even given that aesthetics are very much in the eye of the beholder, it's rare to find somebody who doesn't find the device appealing. To my eye, in fact, it's the best looking smartphone available. Period. And its user interface, Sense 3.0, is quite the prettiest to be found anywhere. "Slick, Smooth and Snappy", it scrolls fluidly and its animations are velvety candy for your ocular accessories.

If you've allowed yourself to hold a Sensation, its fit and finish will have given you the kind of tactile feedback that's a reward in itself. There is likely nothing even remotely as rewarding out there. It's curvaceous, sturdy and quite simply jeans pocket friendly. And there's something about the mix of cold glass and aluminium alloy coupled with heavy duty rubberized polymer that makes holding and playing with the thing so darn enjoyable. If you have any kind of gadget empathy, you will experience a lust that you hadn't believed yourself capable of. Just by holding it. Really.

But it's not all beer. There have been things that haven't resonated well with Sensation testers and owners. One of The Three Amigos had the volume rocker fall out of his Sensation. And another had a wiggly screen. As yet (touch wood, rub lucky rabbit's foot, sacrifice small mammal etc), I have had no hardware issues. It has been perhaps a charmed run, and I don't think it wise to tempt fate by claiming I won't experience such woes at some future date. Nevertheless, it's a fact that in my experience, the handset is bulletproof, surviving even a drop from car boot height onto tarmac without so much as a nick or a scratch.

Then there's the performance gap between the Sensation and the class rocketship, the Galaxy S2. There's no doubt that tests confirm the Sensation isn't as optimized for out and out performance as its nemesis, tests giving SGS2 the edge in video playback, outright benchmark CPU speed and other stressful tasks that will be vitally important to the gadget lover who truly needs that performance advantage, or who is going to lead a sadder life without the bragging rights. And make no mistake, there are many who fit that description.

But if you're upgrading from an iPhone 3Gs, or a Galaxy S, or a Nokia E71 or any one of dozens of smart and not-so-smart phones, you will be delighted by the Sensation's performance. That's right - despite it failing to meet the outright performance of the acknowledged circuit racer of smartphones, if you're happy in the knowledge you've chosen instead the DB9 of the class, it's my honest opinion that you'll be very happy indeed.

In my first ever post on this blog, I predicted that there would be pluses and minuses, and some of what we wrote would likely raise eyebrows. And truthfully, I expected that some of our opinions would be contentious enough to get a fair amount of debate going in the comments. That, surprisingly, has failed to materialize. Why? I don't know, but I could make some guesses.

This blog isn't about guessing though. It's about our real world results based on our use of the Sensation - the opinions and the experiences of The Three Amigos to give the new handset some context. While we might have quoted anecdotal third party experience as part of this process, it simply wouldn't have been honest and thus of any real value for what we have agreed to do. That was to let you know, warts and all and at Telecom NZ's expense, what life is like with the Sensation on XT. And good on Telecom for taking the punt. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.

I called this post "The Story So Far" because that's what it is. There's more to come, a lot more. Nick and I have now rooted (in the nicest possible way) our phones and will be reporting on the experiences. With the pace of tech change and the progress being made since the unlocking of the bootloader, the Sensation will be ever more customizable, ever more pleasurable to own and use. Yet even without the recent freeing of the device from its prior restraints, this phone has proven itself to be fast, fluid, dependable, with great battery endurance, superb data speed, quick and accurate GPS, class-leading wifi range and a host of other benefits that pay off for the user who's prepared to see beyond the bragging rights competition that so dominates the webosphere.

The rewards are there if you choose to allow yourself the opportunity to grab them. At the start of this project, I was sceptical that I would be able to recommend the Sensation honestly to others, conscious as I was of its on-paper inferiority to its great rival, the SGS2. If you've read my previous posts, you'll have noted that I have tested and reported things as they are. Frankly, I wouldn't be able to show my avatar at Geekzone again if I did any less. So my opinions, that being what they surely are, are given with that understanding. If I wanted to, I could take the Sensation so kindly supplied by Telecom NZ and Mauricio and sell it on TradeMe, with the proceeds making a substantial deposit towards a Galaxy S2. There's no undertaking from me not to do so, and no requirement from Telecom NZ or Geekzone that I refrain from doing so.

It's with that in mind that I tell you that I'm keeping the HTC Sensation. I've grown to really appreciate what it does and how it does it, and even though I will be severing my long-term ties with Vodafone as a result, I believe it's worth it.

If that's not putting your money where your mouth is, I don't know what is.

See you on the next post.

About the author:

Andy (ArtooDetoo) may be a relative noob in comparison to his fellow HTC Sensation testers, being merely an "Ultimate Geek" in Geekzone, but it hasn't prevented him from commenting at length on numerous topics and forums, with a prolific presence in the Geekzone 'Android' area.

An advertising creative in his day job, he also possesses a passion for tech stuff - software and hardware - and besides having a number of gadgets to keep him interested, he also has a background in software development.

These attributes should at least give him the kind of analytical slant to temper opinion with reason. He and his fellow Telecom Ambassadors have already been hard at work testing and benchmarking so you'll get all the info without the effort. At least, that's the theory. Judge for yourselves.



Testing mobile data speeds with HTC Sensation

, posted: 17-Aug-2011 13:31

I've had my HTC Sensationfor over month now and it's proven itself over and over in every way. Video playback is flawless. I can stream TV shows over the Internet to my phone via the JetFlicks (subscription) TV app. "Mad Men" and "Dollhouse" look great in qHD on the Sensation's big 4.3" screen. The brightness is fine and the resolution excellent. I've had a couple of AMOLED phones (Nexus One and Samsung Galaxy S) and their screens are very good, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the S-LCD screen on the Sensation. If anything, the qHD 940x560 resolution makes it even better. 

I play my music via my SONY stereo Bluetooth headset and it sounds great. I usually use Winamp as it's simple to use, streams Shoutcast Internet radio perfectly, supports playlists and shuffle and endless repeat and automatically downloads album covers for music it finds. The 8mp camera, as noted previously, is a joy to use. 

The HTC Sensation and Android and the many apps that add more functions than I can name in a week all come together to make the whole experience an great one. You could say I'm pretty happy. Yep. I am. 

But what underlies it all is the network that lets me access everything wherever I might be. This is where it gets interesting. I've already noted that where I live and work the Telecom XTnetwork delivers data all the way with no black spots. But what I may not have mentioned is the speed. 

The speed is good. Very good. 

I did some tests at home on the Telecom XT network and on the Vodafone New Zealand network. I took ten samples on each network using the "Speedtest.net" app for Android on my HTC Sensation. I was sitting in the same place, facing the same way, holding the phone the same way. 

Both networks have cell towers within 200 metres of my house and more or less in line of sight in both cases, so reception is not an issue. 



The usual caveats apply. This was a small sample at an arbitrary time (evening on a week night) in a single location. The results here can't be applied everywhere. At best they may indicate a trend that you may wish to test the validity of in your own location. You may discover the reverse. These tests also apply only to mobile data. For voice or text the two networks behave no differently in my experience.

That said, at my house on the evening concerned, the Telecom XT network was significantly (over 400%) and consistently faster for download speeds than the Vodafone NZ network. Vodafone, however, was the faster network for average upload speeds. I'll note that both networks are faster uploading than my DSL connection. 

I'll also note that in anecdotal testing and daily use the results reported above have been consistent (subjectively) at home and at work near Mairangi Bay. At work, the Telecom XT  3G network reception is much more reliable than the Vodafone New Zealand 3G reception, which doesn't work at all on the north side of our building.  

When I combine the trend observed above with the previously mentioned better coverage where I work and live I can say the Telecom XT network represents excellent value for performance for me.  Their data prices are roughly comparable with Vodafone's if you use the Mobile Broadband plans. The Smartphone plans could use more data and fewer minutes (for me), so aren't as attractive, but the performance I've seen on the Telecom XT is fairly dramatically faster. That has to have some value. It's up to you whether this is true for you where you live and work and whether you're prepared to pay a little extra to get it. 

About the author:

Steve Withers (LinuxLuver) has worked in IT in New Zealand (National Bank, Caltex, NZ Dairy Board, IBM, AT&T, Software of Excellence) for most of 30 years, moving from mainframes to mobile as technology has evolved and networks have become faster, cheaper and more accessible to everyone. An enthusiastic supporter of Open Source software and tools, in 2009 Steve embraced Linux-based Android as the way to go in personal tech for freedom loving peoples everywhere. Steve loves cool new stuff that makes him feel like he's living in the future.



Travelling with the HTC Sensation

, posted: 9-Aug-2011 10:30

No, sadly I did not have the opportunity to travel overseas with the HTC Sensation. I did however, travel across the North Island of this beautiful country we call New Zealand. An engagement party with future in-laws required my presence in Hamilton. This gave me the wonderful opportunity to test out the Telecom XTnetwork in places other than Wellington.

Once I was out of Wellington my SGS on 2Degrees switched to roaming and I could no longer use my 1GB data pack. Conversely my HTC Sensation on Telecom XT network had no issues and I was able to geekify my life at every step of the trip.

You might be surprised at how many places Telecom has 3G connectivity, in fact the entire desert road appears to have quite strong signal and I was able to Facebook photos on the go. Huka Fallslooks pretty amazing, even in the winter:



I even managed to film a short clip of the Huka Falls in action.



While in Hamilton the Sensation was my main internet device, I was able to email, chat, and browse the web - pretty much all the activities I usually do on my PC when at home.

Unfortunately just before travelling home, a cold front hit most of New Zealand and the morning of the trip back the car was frosted up. Nothing a bucket of water couldn't fix though.



Fortunately the weather fined up as we began to drive and I managed to get this amazing shot of the lake in Rotorua.



I think the only bad thing about travelling across the country is that you can't play on your phone while driving. Fortunately you can stop and take photos of the desert road after it's been snowing (see below for proof)





While the trip was enjoyable and the HTC Sensation made it even more so, I was definitely glad to get home (sorry, not posting pics of my home).

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.



Is the HTC Sensation dull enough?

, posted: 3-Aug-2011 14:18

A comment in response to my post on the merits of the HTC Sensation's display raised an interesting point. Although the HTC Sensation excels in brightness, and although the Galaxy S excels in blackness, there's a need for a lack of overall brightness sometimes.

As Geekzone's Jon writes...

"Another situation that arises is when using the phones in the dark at night, ie how low are their minimum brightnesses. For example, my iPhone 3GS is much much easier to use at night then my partners Galaxy S, which even at minimum brightness still lights up the room. We've had to revert to a widget that actually reduces the brightness of the individual pixels to try and make the phone less offensive".

It's a point that may matter to some potential buyers, and I'd promised to have a look at the question. Today's their lucky day.

The Prince of Darkness revealed!
Accepting the point Jon made about the availability of an Android app or two that will readily dim the screen when required, it seemed like an interesting technical exercise to attempt to test the phones brightness control without third party enhancement. Like the proverbial dog with a bone, I had a chew on it and the results follow. Not majorly exciting perhaps, but certainly illuminating, if you'll pardon the pun.



It's true. Incontrovertibly. Totally. Without question. Indisputably. No reservations.

The iPhone 3Gs has a dimmer display than the Samsung Galaxy S, and the HTC Sensation. If required, obviously. And also, out of the box. Although dimming the display of its Android competitors is available via various apps as mentioned previously, making the comparison a little meaningless, perhaps. But it is a fact, all the same.

However, the iPhone 3Gs also has a dimmer display at maximumbrightness than the Galaxy S and the Sensation. But unfortunately, there's no app on the iOS app store that makes the 3Gs brighter than its Android competition when required.

So a win to the Androids maybe? (Not that we Android folk are competitive, you understand)...

And in case you couldn't tell from the admittedly average image above, the HTC Sensation's lowest brightness setting was the runner up, with the Galaxy S a distant third.

So, that's settled then...

About the author:

Andy (ArtooDetoo) may be a relative noob in comparison to his fellow HTC Sensation testers, being merely an "Ultimate Geek" in Geekzone, but it hasn't prevented him from commenting at length on numerous topics and forums, with a prolific presence in the Geekzone 'Android' area.

An advertising creative in his day job, he also possesses a passion for tech stuff - software and hardware - and besides having a number of gadgets to keep him interested, he also has a background in software development.

These attributes should at least give him the kind of analytical slant to temper opinion with reason. He and his fellow Telecom Ambassadors have already been hard at work testing and benchmarking so you'll get all the info without the effort. At least, that's the theory. Judge for yourselves.



TelecomTech's profile

Telecom New Zealand
Auckland
New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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