HTC’s brand new dual-core Android phone has launched in the UK exclusively through Vodafone at the moment, with the HTC Sensation featuring Android 2.3.3 running on a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, a 4.3″ contoured display, the very latest 3.0 update of the company’s Sense user interface and an aluminium “unibody” construction.
It is very exciting and we were rather intimated and terrified at the prospect of reviewing such a new and important Android phone. However…
…the bottom line is the HTC Sensation feels extremely similar to the rest of the 2011 HTC Android range. It’s like a big Desire S with a few premium design touches. It’s black with chunky silver volume and power buttons, much heavier than the Galaxy S II, while the “contoured” display basically means there’s a bit of a curved edge around the sides. It’s a friendly, familiar HTC lump!
The back of the phone is grippy rubber at the top and bottom, with a swoosh of aluminium running through the middle and wrapping around the sides. It feels cold when you poke your hand out from under the duvet and pick it up first thing in the morning, also giving the Sensation a robust, high quality feel.
Then there’s your dual-LED flash and the reassuringly recessed and therefore slightly protected camera sensor. It certainly has a tougher, more rigid, curved feel to it than the bland exterior of the Galaxy S II. We prefer holding the Sensation, as we always felt like the slippery S II was constantly sliding out of our hands.
Taking the back cover off feels like you’re actually disassembling the entire handset, as the back cover also incorporates the sides and top edge of the phone – so what you’re doing is more like popping the screen out to access the internals.
There’s a little plastic catch along the bottom edge to release the casing. It’s a bit flimsy. It feels like you’re voiding your warranty by opening it up like this.
Despite featuring a whopping 4.3″ screen, the phone itself doesn’t feel overly bulky. It’s slimmer than the Desire HD, and slightly less than a centimetre or so longer than the famous HTC Desire (above). We have already got used to it, basically. It’s not too big.
That’s the curved edge of the glass. It’s hard to take a photograph of. It’s also quite hard to notice and serves no real purpose, aside making the edge where glass meets metal appear perhaps a little neater.
It’s a little annoying that the USB connector is now found on the left-hand side of the phone. Makes using it while plugged in a little more cumbersome than the old HTC Desire with its bottom-middle connector. But that’s maybe a personal thing. You might like it better this way.
HTC Sense has been upgraded to version 3.0, with the best addition by far being the new interactive lock screen. Press the power button when the phone’s screen is asleep and you’re greeted by your chosen lock screen background, along with four customisable app icons.
You can have HTC’s FriendStream social network widget on the lock screen, or photos from your gallery, or share prices, or more. The weather animations are fantastic, and it’s surprising how enjoyable it is to have such quick, one-swipe access to the camera, Twitter or the browser or anything else you decide you want one on of the four hotspots.
It really is a lovely lock screen system. Don’t worry about pressing things by accident, either. You have to press the stiff power button to bring it up, then steer an icon into the lower circle to access a feature. The chances of that chain of events happening in your pocket are pretty remote.
You can also ignore people with it if they make the mistake of phoning you instead of emailing you. It’s safe to say we’ve had more fun messing about with the lock screen than anything else.
But that really is about it for significant HTC Sense 3.0 innovations, sadly. The 3D Home screen animations are more of an annoyance than an improvement, to be honest, with the 2D icons spinning around on some imaginary 3D plane and looking a bit rough as they go. But look, HTC has added a metal hinge mechanism to the side of its iconic flip clock!
The app drawer is exactly the same as that found on the HTC Desire S. It scrolls one “page” at a time, plus you’re able to filter apps by frequent use or ones you’ve installed yourself – or just have it as a big list of text.
HTC Watch is one of the big new apps, and you’ll be needing to register a separate HTC Watch account, which, rather oddly, has nothing to do with the HTC Sense account you also need to use some other HTC features.
We have no idea who would “buy” a film for £9.99 on their mobile phone. But the picture quality on the trailers we watched was excellent, so it’ll all look nice if you do go mad and decide that’s a good idea.
There’s also “Dock Mode” for having a subtle selection of clocks and social updates on display for night time use, plus shortcuts to the DLNA options and a digital photo frame mode. It’s OK. It features pretty clouds in the background when the display is not dimmed.
That’s it for this session. We’ll be back soon with a look at the HTC Sensation’s 8megapixel camera…
…that’s one (low-light, indoors, no flash) photo sample to be getting on with. Plus we’ll cover HTC’s other apps and put together some sort of summary about the general performance of the HTC Sensation once we’ve spent a little more time with the phone.
COMPLETE HTC SENSATION REVIEW: