Over the past year I have become more and more fond of stock Android, the no frills version Google originally created. However, there was once a time that I was a huge fan of HTC’s vision of what Android should be, also known as Sense UI. When Android 1.5 and 1.6 was the norm for many devices, Sense made those device’s software more visually appealing, and while it could make the phones a little more quirky, that was already expected from Android.
Every device back then was sluggish, and adding Sense didn’t really make too much of a difference. Eventually we hit the age of phones like the HTC Incredible and EVO 4G. Again, while these phones sported newer versions of Android, Sense added more appeal to them. They were also incredibly fast for the time, sporting 1GHz processors. The only main flaw to Sense at that point was battery life, and it wasn’t alone. Android in general had been known for poor battery life, but Sense tended to drain phones just a little bit quicker.
Once this age of Android was over, we entered the era of dual-core processors. At this point, HTC made its biggest mistake yet: Sense 3.0. This version of Sense was the worst so far. It basically took what we call Android, changed the look, implemented HTC’s own features, and essentially pulled an Apple by determining what the user wanted, not letting them choose for themselves. On top of all this, it featured numerous bugs, even worse battery life, and an overall horrible user experience. The HTC Sensation was supposed to be the latest and greatest when it first launched, but many reviewers noted that while it featured a dual-core processor, it was actually slower than many other phones featuring single-core processors.
Finally, after many launches of phones featuring this horrid custom UI, HTC has admitted that it went the wrong way with Sense.
HTC’s Chief Product Officer Kouji Kodera had this to say about recent versions of Sense: “There where too many things in there. Even on the home screen we had four or five icons before consumers got a chance to add things themselves. For the HTC One range we have taken it down to Sense 2 again.”. And there you have it. HTC has admitted its faults, and will now be looking to tone things down in Sense 4. But here’s the question: can they really pull it off?
From what I’ve seen of Sense 4 on the One series of phones, it looks very fluid, although not that appealing in the visuals department. It almost looks like a step back from the progress stock Android itself has made. The point of a custom UI is to make Android look and feel better, right? Sense 4 doesn’t seem to do that. And while HTC states that performance will be better, us end consumers will have to see it before we believe it.
For HTC to succeed in what they’re trying to do with Sense, they will need to take a cue from Samsung. As anyone who has used TouchWiz 4 should know, it offers one of the most balanced custom UIs available. There are many optimizations throughout the UI, and mainly in the browser. This offers some of the best overall performance, and is one of the only to be able to compete with stock Android itself. On top of that, battery life is great on devices like the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II. While I’m almost positive that what HTC showed at Mobile World Congress will be the final build of Sense 4, it will be the long-term that will determine how the new UI version holds up. And it will need to compare with, if not outright beat Samsung’s current offering to even prove that HTC knows what the consumer wants.
HTC is trying to pull out of a financial slump, and the One series of phones could be just what they need. But the software will need to be top notch, and not just for a week, but for a full two years. If this can be accomplished, there may even be a chance that I could make a One X my personal device. Who thinks HTC can pull it off? Does Sense 4 excite you? Let us know what you think in the comments!