Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A New Sensation


Mary (check out this Dude's post for more pics)

So I’ve had the new HTC Sensation 4G for a few hours. It’s not the greatest thing since the discovery of fire, but it is hot. The hype surrounding this device has reached ridiculous levels around the geeky, techie world the past few weeks, partly because it finally gives T-Mobile’s long-suffering customers (me) a phone top flight Android phone that can compete with the big boys, partly because it is the debut of a new version of everyone’s favorite Android overlay, HTC Sense.

So what’s it like?

In a word… it’s pretty fucking cool. Again, it doesn’t live up to the hype (phones and porn are very similar in this respect), but as a regular Joe (or Chuck) who uses a smartphone for regular grown up shit, I’d say the Sensation kicks a bunch of ass. I would call it one of the top two or three phones currently on the market, and until someone releases another Android device (there will probably be another one along in about two minutes or so), the combination of hardware and software make it the best ‘droid ever constructed. Before T-Mo goes and sells its soul to AT&T, they finally got one thing right.

The following is BBWF’s quick review of this hot new toy, from the perspective of an average user. I don’t care about gigabytes and ROMs, I just want a phone that’s easy on the eyes and does what I need it to do, and though I was slightly (extremely slightly, mind you) underwhelmed, the newest Magenta powerhouse really delivers.

The Sensation is a BBW

HTC has emerged as a company that knows how to make an aesthetically pleasing device. The Taiwanese tech giant has designed some of the lovliest pieces of hardware for phones on multiple platforms. They suck at naming these devices (Sensation? Really?), but Apple may be the only company that outdoes HTC when it comes to design and build quality. The Sensation is Samantha 38G if her name was Gertrude. I have held this device in my hands since this morning, and I would say that it is the best looking phone HTC has ever made. They have truly outdone themselves.

The device is sleek and stylish yet heavy and durable. It is girthy and feels solid in the hand, but it is not overwhelmingly huge like some of your favorite smartphones out there. The Thunderbolt from Verizon, another HTC handset, feels like a brick by comparison. Design-wise, HTC has learned from past mistakes and has given us a phone that is large enough to turn on today’s media-addicted smartphone consumer, but is still light and pocketable. It probably makes no sense, but the Sensation is light and heavy at the same time. The phone doesn’t feel plasticy, but it doesn’t have the same heft as some of it’s HTC cousins like the aforementioned Thunderbolt or the G2. It feel solid in the handand has that sturdy metal feel that speaks quality.

The front of the phone features a large, beautiful 4.3 inch screen. It is gorgeous, though it may not be quite on par with the super AMOLED stuff from Samsung. Though thisis a large enough screen to rival the Droid X or the EVO, and it is perfect for watching movies (people really watch movies on their phone? For real?), or surfing the Web, it doesn’t seem excessively huge. The Sensation’s screen is longer and leaner that some of the other “slabs” and this makes it a but sleeker and, in the mind of some, a little cuter.

The usual Android capacitive buttons adorn the bottom of the screen. The back of the phone has a unique three tone look that I wasn’t too keen on when the first pics started to surface on the interwebs, but really looks artful in person. HTC tried something different this time, and it works. This device is the typical HTC slab without the kickstand and the hideous circles around the buttons like the EVO. The iPhone 4 is still the hottest chick in the room, but based on looks alone, the Sensation is a close second. I have conceded that Android is better than iOS (I will get to that), but Apple’s smartphone still looks and feels badass. The Sensation has closed the gap considerably, and for some, it surpasses it.

Sense

I am coming to the Sensation from the G2, and every Android device that I have used thus far has been stock Android. For the uninitiated, “stock Android” means the uncut version of the operating system, free of any manufacturer-installed interfaces. Sense is HTC’s user interface, and it adds a nice elegant skin for the Android platform. Though there are clear benefits to using a stock Android device, Sense proves that sometimes it’s good to give it a little help. My first experience with the Sensation is my first experience with Sense, and though I have mixed feelings about it, I’m am pretty impressed.

This newest version of Sense makes stock Android look ugly by comparison. The same sense of style that HTC brings to the design of their hardware is brought to the innards of the phone as well. Sense is probably more style than substance, but adds the elegance and intuitiveness that Sense-less Android phones lack in some ways. I wasn’t blown away, but I was impressed the second I turned on my phone. Everything is smoother in Sense, and there are certain improvements, such as the shortcuts on the lock screen (genius!) and the “quick settings” option in the notifications bar, that make the user experience so much more enjoyable. There are few things about Sense that actually ARE better, but the HTC interface gives Android more style, more polish. And the 3D carosel feature on the home screen is fucking insane.

As I mentioned, Sense is not perfect. HTC is far too concerned with the weather in my opinion, and though the weather updates and the beautiful animation will make some of you ooh and ahh, I see battery drainage. I have a Weather Channel app if I want to know the weather, thank you. And I don’t care if it’s partly sunny in Madrid right now. Also the big clock, which is kind of a Sense trademark, and also tells you if it’s raining outside, is a bit obtrusive for my tastes, though it does look cool in 3D. It’s cute, but I don’t need three clocks on my phone. I wear a watch.

The beauty of Sense (and the Android platform, for that matter) is the big clock, like everything else, is just a widget. Long touch it, it turns red, and you can remove it from the screen if you like. The widgets, the endless customization, the playing God with your home screen, are what sets Sense apart from every other all the other Android overlays. And this flexibility is why I will probably continue to choose a ‘droid over an iPhone despite my avid Appleism.

Random thoughts

The camera is much improved. I will resist another iPhone comparison and just say that it has become one of the better shooters available. The shutter speed enables you to take quality pictures in an instant.

The phone has a dual core processer (this means it is supposed to be really fast), but it doesn’t seem to be much faster than the ‘droids I’ve used in the past. This may be because the Sense stuff is slowing it down. Ms. Chuck has the G2x, and it seems noticeably faster.

According to most reports, the battery life is improved over past Android phones. My G2 was horrible in this regard. I haven’t had a chance to test the battery, but being that it is a giant Android phone, I will keep my car charger handy.

Overall I am a bit underwhelmed, but still very impressed with T-Mobile’s new darling. Magenta has finally gotten its shit together, and with this bad boy, along with the G2x and the upcoming Blackberry Bold Touch, the lame duck company will have the best smartphone lineup of any carrier. I am glad I bought this beauty, and it will be cool to know that wherever I am, I will probably have a more kickass phone than the person next to me… well, at least until the EVO 3D comes out later this month.

For a more in-depth look at this device go over to cnet and watch cute little Bonnie Cha's review.

Before we go, here's more Mary...

Later, kids.

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