In Praise of the HTC Sense & Why the Nexus One Failed for Me

As many of you might have noticed, I have been largely absent from the blog over the past few weeks. Thanks to a flu gone wild, I was forced to take a break from the Interwebs, and frankly in the process missed a lot of good stuff on which to pontificate. Oh well! Such is the nature of the beast; there will be something new to riff on soon enough.

During my time off, I had another setback: My T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 (s rimm) died. It went into an endless loop of booting and re-booting, forcing me to use Google’s (s goog) Nexus One phone, the online store for which is being put to rest. When the device first launched, I was among those most impressed by it.

I especially liked its screen, its fast processor and the fact that it worked well with Google apps and after using it for just 10 days, I called it the best Android phone yet. What a fool I was to jump to that conclusion. Over past few weeks I had to use it as my primary phone, and let’s just say that topping my list of things to do now that I’m feeling better is to get a new BlackBerry.

On the Nexus One, some of the most basic tasks — such as sending instant messages or typing out email — feel tedious and not at all smooth. And imagine my angst when I missed an important call because the Google calendar pop-ups prevented me from switching to the phone feature. On a case-by-case basis, these are minor things but encounter them often enough, and it’s easy to get annoyed. In fact I got so annoyed that I dug up an old T-Mobile Motorola (s mot) RAZR and for the past couple of days have been using that to call folks. (How I wish and pray that Apple would sell the iPhone on a network not called AT&T.)

#alttext#At the same time, I also had a chance to use the HTC Incredible, also an Android-based phone. And compared to the Nexus One, using the HTC Incredible (despite it’s overtly grandiose name) is bliss.

First of all, as a phone it’s just a rock-solid device and thanks to a great network (Verizon), is able to perform web tasks admirably. It is fast, thin and light. It has a great camera. It has a wonderful screen and it works much more smoothly than the Nexus One. And did I mention it runs on a really good wireless network, from Verizon (s vz)? I wish they made one of these for T-Mobile — considering that I am a T-Mobile customer.

Nevertheless, the point of this post was to point out how much HTC has done for the Android ecosystem. With the HTC Sense, it has not only made the Android experience infinitely more appealing, it has shown the possibilities of where Google’s OS can go. (Related post: How HTC Because a Smartphone Hero.)

Although HTC’s Sense UI originated on Microsoft’s (s msft) Windows Mobile to help make the OS look pretty and be finger-friendly, Microsoft reportedly won’t allow alternative user interfaces on its next-generation Windows Phone 7 devices due out later this year. Which leaves HTC to focus on making the utilitarian Android interface more attractive to customers.

I, for one, enjoyed the messaging applications, the social integration efforts and most of all, how uncluttered HTC has left this Android device. In a recent post, Kevin highlighted some of the ways some of the ways he improved his Nexus One by layering the HTC Sense UI on top of it:


Android focuses more on utility while the iPhone OS is more polished and refined. Simply put: the Sense UI levels the playing field when it comes to “fit and finish.” Both the HTC apps and widgets are extremely well designed. I’m generally not a fan of most Android widgets, but HTC takes it to another level. Tapping the Home button from the main screen zooms out and shows all seven, making it quick and easy to navigate. I also love the fact that I can cut and paste text from the web far easier than the stock Android method.

Android by itself allows decent customization, but the Sense UI takes it to an entirely new level. There are six pre-loaded “scenes,” each of which is like a theme, complete with wallpaper, widgets and shortcuts relevant to the theme. Social, for example, adds more of the messaging, communications and social networking widgets like HTC’s own FriendStream for Facebook.

Kevin suggests that I should upgrade my Nexus One to HTC Sense UI, but frankly I don’t want to waste any more time on this device.

And regardless, it’s great to be back in the saddle again.