Along with the new flagship phone from HTC, the HTC One (M8), HTC also released a new version of their Android UI called Sense (Version 6.0). As with most manufacturers, HTC puts their own skin on top of Android to try and help differentiate their devices from others in the market. But, unlike the other manufacturers in the space (Samsung has TouchWiz UI and LG has Optimus UI), HTC’s latest version of their UI wasn’t necessarily about adding more to it, in fact, it seems as if version 6.0 of Sense, is less in your face than the previous version. With that said, let’s dive into this new version of the Sense UI and see what it’s all about.
I apologize in advance for how long this video is, I may have gotten a little carried away. To help, click on the YouTube button in the player below to watch it on YouTube and you can click on the timestamps in the description there to automatically just to specific sections if you want.
HTC Sense Features
- Double Tap to Wake – You can double tap the screen when it’s off to wake it and bring up the lockscreen.
- App Dock – The app dock available in the launcher is visible on the lockscreen. If you pull any of the app icons up while on the lockscreen, that particular app will automatically open once you get past the lockscreen.
- Lockscreen Widgets – You can add specific widgets to the lockscreen by swiping from off the screen right to left.
- Lockscreen Gestures – You can swipe from the left on the screen when it’s off to automatically open BlinkFeed after getting past the lockscreen, swipe from above to automatically open voice dialing, and swipe from the right to go straight to the homescreen (if no security screen is set, i.e. a pin/password).
- Lockscreen Camera – You can hold the device up in landscape mode and push the volume button to automatically launch the camera from the lockscreen.
Launcher / Homescreen
HTC kept the launcher/homescreen pretty similar to the stock Android one (maybe this is why it feels so much less intrusive). Some changes though are:
- Pinching – Pinching the homescreen gets you to a screen to manage all of your homescreens (unlike tapping and holding on KitKat).
- BlinkFeed – Biggest change over the stock Android homescreen/launcher is the addition of BlinkFeed. BlinkFeed allows you to add RSS feeds, social network accounts, and TV show updates, and have them displayed in a collage like format on the farthest left homescreen.
- Editable Quick Settings – Stock Android has similar quick settings, but HTC allows you to edit which are visible by tapping the pencil icon at the top.
- Tap vs Tap and Hold – Tapping on a quick setting works as expected and turns on and off the setting, but tapping and holding allows you to jump to that settings page in the normal settings app to further customize it. Clever.
- Calculator – HTC has added a white calculator instead of the stock black one. Ooh, ahh.
- Calendar – There are new calendar widgets that tie into HTC’s own Calendar app they have added to Android.
- Contacts – There is an adjustable contact widget for displaying contact images from a selected contact group. You can tap on them to contact them.
- FM Radio – Widget added to control the FM radio on the device.
- Music – Music control widgets for HTC’s Music app.
- Quick Settings – One new widget for each of the quick settings options. You can place these on the homescreen and tap them to turn on and off the setting in question.
- Clocks – HTC’s most recognizable addition to the Android widget world, the weather flip clock, is here along with a few other clocks (digital, analog, and world clock).
- Weather – Perhaps you want the weather without a clock. HTC added that.
Replaced Stock Android Apps
- Phone – Similar to the stock Android phone found in Kitkat. Adds the ability to swipe left and right to get to call history, dialer, favorites, all contacts, and groups.
- Messages – Since the latest version of Android has swapped out the messaging app for the Hangouts app with SMS support, there isn’t a real stock messaging app to replace. Google Hangouts is included with the device when you buy it and it will immediately ask you to use it for SMS, if you say yes then that’s your new messaging app and it will work the same as any KitKat Android device, if not then you’ll be using HTC’s version. HTC’s version has the ability to swipe between all messages, SMS/MMS, and visual voicemail. Also adds the ability to search through messages and backup/restore SMS messages.
- Mail – HTC has their own mail app, but if you use Gmail, you’ll most likely just use the Gmail app that is included for consistency’s sake. The Mail app does, however, have the ability to use Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo Mail, Outlook Mail, and any other POP/IMAP mail server. The HTC mail app has the ability to swipe between mail in all labels, labeled as favorite, unread mail, and mail with attachments.
- Calendar – HTC has also made a calendar app to fit in with the same look and feel of their messaging and email apps. Functionality-wise though, it’s very similar to the stock Android calendar, with the exception of the ability to see calendar invitations.
- Clock – Again, like the calendar app, not much functionality added to this, just matches the look and feel of the other replacement apps and has a world view to show what city you selected to show the time for.
- People – Great replacement of the people app in stock Android (and frankly no surprise considering how HTC’s people apps have always been just a couple of steps ahead in every version of Sense). Allows syncing of contacts with numerous social networks including Facebook (which is no longer supported natively in Android), Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Skype, etc. It will even automatically suggest linking contacts with similar names whenever you add a new social network and you can click update on a person’s image to just update their image (if you notice a discrepancy or want to choose what social network’s image you use for their contact).
Tapping on a contact allows you to see all the communications you’ve had with them through the messaging app, HTC’s email app (not Gmail), call history and also show you all of the updates that particular person posted on any social networks you have linked up for them.
- Camera – The camera has been replaced with a camera app that is specific to the HTC One M8. Reason that it’s specific to it? This is the first phone with dual rear facing cameras. Because of this, I’m doing an entire video on the camera itself. Stay tuned for that by subscribing to my YouTube, following me on Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Pinterest.
Additional HTC Apps
- Internet – Since Google has removed the stock internet browser from Android and replaced it with Chrome, that technically makes the Internet browser HTC has on the HTC One M8, an “additional” app instead of a replacement. Functionally, it’s very similar to Chrome though (besides the syncing across other devices since no other devices use the HTC browser, unlike Chrome) and is more of an aesthetic change than anything else.
- FM Radio – Very simple FM Radio app for tuning to different stations. Oh, sorry, FM Radio used to be listened to OUTSIDE of a car a long time ago.
- Music – Stock Android doesn’t have a music app, they have the Play Music app and since that is also included on the HTC One, it’s safe to call the music app here an additional app. Slick, flat design music app that allows you to play music you’ve save to your device or SD card. You can swipe through to get to playlists, songs, albums, artists, folders, genres, podcasts, and recently played. You can also connect to any media servers on your wifi network directly from the app. The app will also automatically download new album art and lyrics when wifi is available.
- Scribble – HTC’s note taking app. Complete with templates that include todo lists, graph paper, lined paper, chalkboard, budget calculators, greeting cards, etc.
- Stocks – A simple, flat design app for adding stocks to to monitor them. Powered by Yahoo! Finance and with looks that match all of the other apps we’ve mentioned.
- TV – App we saw introduced on the HTC One last year, this app allows you to use the device’s infrared sensor to control any TV. Think universal remote built in to your phone (for info on the TV remote feature and the havoc it can cause check out my video on just that).
It also has the ability to download your cable provider’s channel guide and, if you pick your favorite shows, will notify you of when new episodes are available.
- Voice Recorder – Simple voice recording app. Push button to record your voice. Boom.
- Weather – HTC’s weather app powered by AccuWeather complete with HTC’s iconic weather animations. Choose locations or select current location to see the current weather and forecast for that region.
- Zoe – Mysterious little app that when you tap on it tells you it’s coming soon… The camera does have the Zoe feature so safe to assume this is a way of just viewing those, editing them, sharing them, etc. Maybe they’re even trying to create a “social network” out of them…
I have to admit, of all the UI’s I’ve seen the manufacturers churn out, HTC Sense is my favorite (and that’s a lot coming from someone who usually immediately does everything in his power to get the device back to stock Android). Which is your favorite Android UI?