After months of delays and broken promises, T-Mobile has finally made it official! The Android 4.0.3 update for the HTC Sensation 4G will be available on May 16 – just two days from now. This new information comes from the HTC Sensation 4G’s support page on T-Mobile’s website, following news from the first week of May which claimed the Android 4.0 update would be available “very soon.”
Once Wednesday rolls around, you can manually check for the Android 4.0.3 update on the HTC Sensation 4G. From your home screen, press Menu > Settings > About Phone > Software Updates > Check. T-Mobile is recommending that you have at least a 50% charge on your device to make sure your battery does not deplete during the update process.
To add to the good news, T-Mobile has updated the HTC Amaze 4G support page, stating its Android 4.0 update will be available in the “coming weeks.” We’re not sure how much longer Amaze 4G owners will actually have to wait for their Ice Cream Sandwich update, but we’re hoping T-Mobile makes it available before the end of the month.
Are any of you excited for the official Android 4.0.3 update for the HTC Sensation 4G? Did any of you give up and buy a new phone or flash an unofficial Ice Cream Sandwich ROM to your Sensation?
HTC Sensation and Amaze 4G update features
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
System bar enhancements to easily view recent apps.
Lock screen actions including pull down notifications and adjust volume while device is locked.
Data usage controls.
Home screen folders
Improved battery life
Note: HTC Sensation 4G will be required to add Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspot feature in order to use the service after completing this update.
Growing tired of HTC Sense 4.0 on your Tegra 3 powered HTC One X? Over the weekend, the Android development community managed to get CyanogenMod 9 and MIUI 4 up and running on HTC’s quad-core flagship phone. As always, the first versions of these ROMs are not perfect.
CyanogenMod 9 is slow to connect to 3G and currently does not feature any camera or WiFi hotspot capabilities. On the plus side, the developers have remapped the buttons on the HTC One X so that the multitasking button now acts as the menu button. This eliminated the black menu bar which would appear across the bottom of the screen on applications which were not optimized for Android 4.0.
While MIUI may not have as many fans as CyanogenMod, a leaked beta of MIUI 4 for the One X is fully functional. The developers managed to keep the stock HTC camera, gallery and music (including Beats Audio) applications in order to retain the unique media capabilities of the HTC One X.
If you’re the adventurous type, click on the source links below and install a custom ROM on your Tegra 3 powered HTC One X. Are any of you planning on running custom ROMs on your HTC One X or will you be sticking to the stock HTC Sense 4.0 experience?
The international version of the HTC One S has been available for a few weeks already and now customers in the U.S. can purchase the phone from T-Mobile for $199.99 (after $50 mail-in rebate) with a new two year contract. HTC was kind enough to send us a demo unit a few weeks early so that we could give you a detailed look at what to expect from the HTC One S. Early reviews of the international version of the HTC One S were favorable, but does T-Mobile’s software tweaks and HSPA+ network allow the One S to live up to its full potential?
1. Hardware design
Since the introduction of the HTC Magician, HTC has focused on delivering handsets which feature a unique personality and standing apart from the indistinguishable plastic slabs pushed out by the competition. The HTC One S takes HTC’s design language to the next level while bringing back many of the characteristics which give the phone that recognizable HTC look. To say that the design of the HTC One S is minimalistic would be a gross understatement.
The HTC One S is an astonishingly elegant phone made of a single piece of aluminum which wraps around the entire device. The front of the phone features 4.3-inch display, three capacitive buttons, a front-facing camera and micro-drilled speaker holes. The One S features an MHL enabled microUSB port long its left edge, volume rocker on its right edge and the phone’s power button and 3.5mm headphone jack can be found along the top. The back of the phone is accented by a blue ring around the camera lens which is paired with an LED flash, an HTC logo in the middle and a Beats Audio logo towards to bottom. The back of the phone features two plastic panels which house the antenna, speakerphone and microSIM card slot.
2. Build quality
With the exception of a few select devices, the majority of smartphones produced these days are made of cheap, glossy plastics. These phones may look nice in a display case, but once you get your hands on them, you can feel that very little thought was actually put into the production material and you find yourself constantly looking for ways to clean the phone from the smudges left behind by your greasy fingers.
Fortunately, the HTC One S is one of the few devices where the design of the phone is just as important as the materials used to make it. HTC has been milling aluminum casings for their phones since the HTC Legend was introduced in 2010, but HTC has taken things one step further this time by giving the aluminum a gradient finish on the HTC One S. The color of the phone fades from dark to light. The color fade is present on all sides of the device, but it is more noticeable when looking at the back.
The HTC One S measures 130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm, making is the thinnest phone ever produced by HTC. Though the handset only weighs 119.5 grams, its balance and aluminum shell give the device a solid feel.The attention to detail on the One is is pretty remarkable. Rather than cutting out a hole in the aluminum and fitting it with a cheap speaker grill, HTC used a micro drill to create 76 holes in the aluminum.
HTC has also stepped up things up when it comes to the glass which covers the display on the One S. While most phones have a glass panel which covers the front of the phone, the glass on the One S flows over the sides, accentuating the slight curve on the back of the phone. But HTC did not stop there. A closer look reveals that the glass panel features a raised edge which keeps the glass from making contact when the phone is placed face down on a surface.
The HTC One S is the first phone from HTC to feature a Samsung Super AMOLED display. HTC dabbled with AMOLED displays from Samsung a few years back, but made the switch to Sony’s Super LCD panels when supply issues caused production delays for the original HTC DROID Incredible. Since then, the technology has gotten a lot better and it seems as though Samsung has been able to boost production enough to keep up with demand.
The 4.3-inch qHD display on the HTC One S should be a familiar size for those’s who are familiar with the HTC Sensation or the EVO 3D from last year. The size of the display may not be as impressive as the 4.7-inches of the HTC One X, but it does allow single hand use of the phone without re-positioning your grip to reach the far edges of the display or pull down the notification bar.
The display on the One S is optically laminated to its Gorilla Glass covering, reducing the space between the glass, producing some pretty amazing viewing angles. Unfortunately, the optical lamination does not make up for the fact that the pentile matrix display looks inferior to the Super LCD displays HTC has used in the past. The traditional RGB subpixel layout is swapped for a RGBG configuration, causing noticeable discoloration in high contrast situations. The issue is easily noticeable in the application drawer where white application icons show a green hue on their left edge and a magenta hue along the right side.
Another down side to the Super AMOLED display on the one S is its outdoor performance. We wouldn’t suggest taking your phone out of your pocket to check your email in direct sunlight, but you will be able to use the phone on a cloudy day or if you’re in a shaded area.
Besides the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the HTC One S is the first new phone to be released by a U.S. carrier with Android 4.0 pre-installed. Unlike the Galaxy Nexus, the HTC One S does not come with stock Android. Like the overwhelming majority of Android phones, the One S comes with a custom skin – HTC Sense 4.0. In the past, HTC Sense offered some amazing advancements, but things got a little stale last year when HTC introduced Sense 3.0 on the HTC Sensation. The software build got a lot heavier that it needed to be with 3D animations and glossy buttons that didn’t add any real benefit to the end user.
Fortunately, HTC listened to consumer feedback and gave birth to Sense 4.0. The latest version of HTC’s UI is intended to allow users to customize the look and feel of their device while making interaction with the OS slightly easier. But HTC Sense is a lot more than just a skin. HTC has modified or replaced the majority of the stock Android applications on the phone is order to give users a consistent look and feel.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you turn on the HTC One S is the new lock screen. Users can choose between a variety of lockscreen styles which display the weather, calendar events, stock quotes, pictures or even social media updates from friends. But the customization doesn’t end there. While stock Android allow users to unlock the device or launch directly into the camera, the Sense 4.0 lock screen allows users to launch whichever application or folder is placed in the launcher dock on the home screen.
HTC has also taken the liberty of customizing the multitasking menu in Android 4.0. Rather than displaying a vertical list of applications with cropped images, Sense 4.0 features application cards (similar to those in webOS) which scroll horizontally and must be flicked up to be removed from the list.
There are many who think HTC and other OEMs should be forced to produce phones with stock Android. Unfortunately, we don’t see that happening any time soon. Sense 4.0 may not be as sharp as stock Android, but it’s the best custom skin we’ve used in quite some time.
The Android ecosystem is made up of some amazing devices, but when it comes to performance – the HTC One S takes the crown. Inside the HTC One S is a dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon S4 processor (paired with an Adreno 225 GPU) which runs laps around the competition.
Those who love to play games on their Android phone will certainly enjoy using the HTC One S. The phone was able to tear through games like Temple Run, Dead Space, Shadowgun and NBA Jam without missing a beat and we wouldn’t be surprised if the phone’s power is able to keep up with the newest titles for at least a year.
When it comes to regular use, the HTC One S is as smooth as silk. We didn’t experience any lag within the UI and launching applications is faster than ever.
To give you an idea how much power the HTC One S has under the hood, we run the phone through a few benchmarks. The HTC One S came out on top in most benchmark tests – even beating out the quad-core Tegra 3 powered HTC One X on several occasions. Naturally, you should always take benchmark score with a grain of salt since they don’t really tell you how a phone will perform in day-to-day situations, but we were blown away.
104.8 (single-thread) 221.4 (multi-thread)
The HTC One S may be the thinnest and most powerful phone ever made by HTC, but one of the main selling points is the handset’s advanced camera and ImageSense technology. HTC’s focus with the One series is to give users “the power of a true digital camera on your phone.” In order to pull that off, HTC has equipped the HTC One S with an 8 megapixel BSI (back side illuminated) imaging sensor, f2.0 lens and a dedicated imaging chip which work seamlessly and deliver some of the most stunning images we have ever seen from a camera phone.
But HTC didn’t just add amazing hardware components and call it a day. HTC completely redesigned the camera application on the HTC one S, giving users quicker access to more settings. The most noticeable difference in the camera application is the camera shutter and video capture button which are shown at the same time. This simple change allows you to launch the camera application and record a video or snap a shot without having to dig through the menu switch between video or camera mode.
What’s even more interesting is that you can capture images while recording video in 1080p HD. While recording, you can press the camera shutter button and the One S will extract the frame from the video and gave it to your gallery. The system isn’t perfect since pressing the button while shooting video can cause the phone to move slightly, but we doubt most people will notice since most people have a hard time holding their phone still while recording video as it is. If you forget to snap a picture while recording a video, you can always go back and extract the image you want after the fact. Images extracted from video will match the size of the video resolution, producing 2 megapixel images while recording in 1080p.
Capturing a picture at the right time has gotten a lot easier with the HTC One S. Rather than going into setting and selecting Bust Mode, simply press and hold the camera shutter button and the One S will capture four pictures every second (up to 99). Once you are done shooting, the interface shows you all the images you captured and you can choose to save as many as you want or just the one shot which captured the moment just right.
The flash has also been improved with an LED Smart Flash with 5 power levels which automatically adjust based on lighting levels. The new flash settings do a better job than most LED flashes we have used in the past, but the BSI sensor on the One S allows you to snap pictures in very low lit situations.
The front-facing camera on the HTC One S is capable of capturing video and pictures in VGA (640 x 480), a dramatic reduction from what the main camera is capable of. The resolution may sound like a drawback since there are devices on the market with feature 1.3 megapixel front-facing cameras capable of recording video in 720p, but we’ve found that the only thing we really use the front-facing camera for is the new face-unlock feature in Android 4.0.
The HTC One S features a an average sized 1650 mAh battery which is built into the phone. Those who are used to carrying around an extra battery or two to make sure they can make it through the full day have voiced their concern with HTC’s decision, but we really don’t see too much of an issue. In the few days we have spent with the HTC One S, we observed better than average battery life which is most likely due to the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip used to power the device and the Super AMOLED display.
The longest the battery has been able to keep the HTC One S up and running has been a little over nine and a half hours. In that time period, I used the One S to stay on top of multiple email accounts, browse the web, listen to Pandora for a good hour, tweet, run benchmark and network speed tests several times, capture 100+ pictures and record 10 minutes of video. If that’s not considered heavy use, I don’t know what is.
Under regular use, I expect the HTC One S will easily make it through an entire work day (12-14 hours) without needing to be recharged. I’ll be updating details about the battery performance in about a week so that I have a better representation of how long the 1650 mAh battery inside the HTC One S will last.
8. Call quality and sound
Even though the HTC One S can do some amazing things, at its roots, it’s still a phone. Call quality on the HTC One S isn’t as remarkable as the new HD Voice feature which will be available on the HTC EVO 4G LTE, but it is on par with other Android phones currently on the market. Call quality does improve when using T-Mobile’s WiFi calling application which routes voice calls over WiFi.
Like most other HTC phones these days, the HTC One S features Beats Audio integration for an “authentic sound experience.” Unlike previous iterations of Beats on HTC’s phones, HTC Sense 4.0 integration with Beats Audio brings the audio enhancement to all audio and video applications on the device. Beats Audio doesn’t make a dramatic difference if you have a good pair of headphones, but I did conduct a “blind test” with several people and 6 out of 8 people claimed they enjoyed the audio tones better with the Beats Audio equalizer turned on.
When it comes to 4G speeds, LTE reigns supreme. T-Mobile’s has outlined its 4G LTE rollout plans, but the first LTE markets are not expected to go live for at least another year. Consequently, the HTC One S is equipped with a radio which is capable of taking advantage of T-Mobile’s 42 Mbps HSPA+ 4G network.
While I typically don’t have any issues with T-Mobile’s 4G network, the HTC One S has presented some curious issues. Speed tests on the device have been very inconsistent, ranging from 14.3 Mbps down and 2.1 Mbps up to 350 kbps down and 105 kbps up. I’ve also encountered issues with web pages not loading and application download errors in Google Play. I may have a faulty unit, but the issue most likely stems from a faulty radio which will probably be fixed through an update from HTC and T-Mobile.
The times when the HTC One S had a good connection, data speeds were impressive. At one point I was able to download and install a 24 megabyte game from Google Play in less than 15 seconds. While all the major networks are caught up in the 4G game, most consumers still don’t know the difference between HSPA+, LTE or WiMax. T-Mobile’s network may not technically be 4G, but it usually delivery consistent data speeds which are faster than most people’s home internet connections.
10. Multimedia and accessories
When buying a new phone, you always want to make sure there are accessories which can be used to enhance the phones functionality or protect it from your clumsiness. HTC has pledged full accessory support for the HTC One S with screen protectors, cases (some with built-in kickstands to prop up the device) and even desktop and car docks. But HTC didn’t stop there. The HTC One S comes with support for the new HTC Media Link HD and Car Clip so that you can enjoy your phone while in the car of just sitting at home on the couch.
HTC Media Link HD is a DLNA dongle which connects to a display via HDMI and allows dual-screen and mirroring capabilities from the HTC one S over Wi-FI. As you might expect, the device allows you to use any application on your big screen TV, browse the web, play games and a lot more, but the real magic starts when you start up a movie. Rather than being forced to put down your phone so that everyone can enjoy a full length film, the HTC Media Link HD allows you to press the home button and continue using your phone and even make a call or two while the movie continues to play on the big screen.
HTC Car Clip allows users to integrate the HTC One S into their car via the stereo’s 3.5mm auxiliary input. A new intuitive interface on the phone surfaces your music, maps, contacts, messages and more so that users can easily access all their information on the HTC One S without the typical distractions of the traditional Android UI. There’s always the option to just buy a $5 3.5mm audio cable to connect the phone to your car stereo, but where’s the fun in that?
HTC One S8.5 / 10
Every phone we have reviewed has had its own set of issues. Some have buggy software builds while others simply don’t have enough horse power to accomplish simple tasks or play a few levels on Angry Birds. Fortunately for T-Mobile and HTC, the One S is beautifully designed, bug free (from what we can tell), features the best camera phone we have ever come across and has enough processing power to muscle through anything you can throw at it.
That being said, some people will shy away from the HTC One S due to minor issues with the display or the fact that it runs a custom skin on top of Android 4.0. Others will choose to wait things out to see what the competition has in store. There will never be a perfect phone which appeases every single consumer, but if you’re looking for the best T-Mobile phone that money can buy, the HTC One S is the phone for you.
AT&T has finally announced that the HTC One X will launch on May 6th with pre-orders kicking off on April 22nd. The price of the HTC One X is set at $199.99 with a two-year contract, matching Sprint’s asking price for the slightly better equipped HTC EVO 4G LTE. The press release does not mention what color options the HTC One X will be available in, but images on AT&T’s site show both the white and black versions of the device.
While AT&T is calling their phone the HTC One X, it is in fact the HTC One XL which features a dual-core Qualcomm S4 processor instead of the quad-core Tegra 3 chip used to power the international version of the One X. HTC has chosen to use the Qualcomm chip on HTC’s version of the One X since it features integrated LTE support, boosting battery efficiency.
Will you be pre-ordering the HTC One X on April 22nd or will you take your chances and head to an AT&T store on launch day to pick the phone up in person?
HTC One X Available Exclusively From AT&T Beginning May 6 For $199.99
4G LTE Entertainment Superphone features Amazing Camera and Beats Audio Experience, Runs on Android 4.0 and HTC Sense 4
DALLAS and BELLEVUE, Wash., April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –
The first smartphone from AT&T* to launch with the latest version of the Android operating system (4.0), the HTC One X, will be available from AT&T beginning May 6 for $199.99.
HTC One X is AT&T’s first smartphone with Beats by Dr. Dre™ Audio built-in to the hardware and software.
HTC One X is the first smartphone from AT&T to offer HTC Sense™4 to deliver an amazing camera with improvements to the lens, sensor and software, an authentic sound experience with Beats by Dr. Dre Audio, and long-lasting battery performance to accommodate heavy mobile use.
Pre-orders for HTC One X will begin April 22. Customers can visit any company-owned retail store orhttp://www.att.com/onex for more information.
An all-around workhorse with unique customer benefits, the HTC One X is the flagship of HTC’s One line of smartphones. Combined with the nation’s largest 4G network, with 4G LTE backed by AT&T’s HSPA+ network, the One X becomes the complete package for Android users.
AT&T customers have access to the nation’s largest 4G network, covering nearly 250 million people. As 4G LTE expands, AT&T customers are able to enjoy a widespread, ultra-fast and consistent 4G experience on their compatible device as they move in and out of LTE areas. AT&T has two 4G networks that work together for customers, LTE and HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul. With other carriers, when you travel outside of their LTE coverage area, you’re on a much slower 3G network.
Sound at its Finest
HTC One X is the first device from AT&T with HTC’s authentic sound experience featuring Beats by Dr. Dre Audio integration, offering rich, full sounds with professional-grade sound engineering to play the music how the artist intended. Beats Audio provides a distortion-free sound at higher volume and rich bass at all levels whether you are watching movies, playing games or streaming music. HTC One X is custom tuned for the best audio performance when used with Beats by Dr. Dre accessories,** including the Beatbox (AT&T exclusive), Wireless HD Stereo Bluetooth Headphones, Beats™ Solo™ HD Headphones, and UR Beats™ In-ear Headphones.
With built-in software on the HTC One X, customers can connect it to a computer and HTC’s Sync Manager software automatically installs to your computer and once connected, makes it easy to move music and playlists to your phone from your music library.
Consumers’ ability to incorporate their smartphones into every aspect of their lives continues with the HTC One X. Watching TV shows or movies will be even more enjoyable on its 4.7-inch 720p HD screen with sharp images that appear detailed and visible from every angle – even angled up to 80 degrees. HTC Watch gives you access to thousands of Hollywood blockbusters and offers companion content to find out more about the film. You can begin watching the movie moments after it starts downloading and wirelessly share the content on any HD TV using HTC’s wireless HDMI Media Link HD adapter.**
The laminated cover glass and touch layer significantly reduce light reflection for superior sharpness and clarity, and is protected with Corning® Gorilla® Glass. HTC One X is made with a beautifully crafted polycarbonate unibody design that showcases its clean lines and seamless construction.
For many consumers, their smartphone doubles as their camera. HTC One X’s 8MP HD camera features ImageSense and rivals traditional digital cameras with improvements to every part of the camera including the lens, sensor and software, while integrating HTC’s new ImageChip to make quality picture taking a breeze.
Fumbling with the menu and settings on your smartphone is frustrating when the perfect shot is right in front of you. Within seconds, you can launch the camera from the lock screen and the camera quickly autofocuses and zeros in on your subject. Zero shutter lag also lets you take continuous shots simply by holding the shutter button. HTC One X takes beautiful photos under low-light, no-light, and back-light conditions. The Video Pic feature allows the capture of still pictures while recording video in HD as well as the ability to capture a still image from previously recorded video.
The HTC One X’s next-generation 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 dual-core processor allows customers to run heavy duty tasks such as creating and editing homemade videos smoothly without any lag, while the 1,800 mAh embedded battery, and software enhancements that improve battery performance by 50-100 percent over previous HTC phones, offers hours of uninterrupted entertainment time.
HTC Sense 4
HTC One X will be one of the first devices in the U.S. with the simple and intuitive HTC Sense 4 user experience. It helps make the Beats Audio experience possible while listening to any audio component and features camera enhancements including a quick launch feature for the camera on the HTC One X – dramatically cutting down the time needed to move from the lock screen to snapping a picture.
*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. **Accessories sold separately.
Limited 4G LTE availability in select markets. 4G speeds delivered by LTE, or HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul, where available. Deployment ongoing. Compatible device and data plan required. LTE is a trademark of ETSI. Learn more at att.com/network.
Limited-time offer. HTC One X requires a new 2-yr wireless agreement with voice (min $39.99/mo) and min monthly data plan ($20/mo). Subject to Wireless Customer Agrmt. Credit approval req’d. Activ fee $36/line. Geographic, usage and other terms, conditions and restrictions apply, and may result in svc termination. Coverage and svcs not avail everywhere. Taxes and other charges apply. Data (att.com/dataplans): If usage exceeds your monthly data allowance, you will automatically be charged overage for additional data provided. Early Termination Fee (att.com/equipmentETF):After 30 days, ETF up to $325. Restocking fee up to $35. Other Monthly Charges/line may include a Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge (up to $1.25), a gross receipts surcharge, federal and state universal svc charges, fees and charges for other gov’t assessments. These are not taxes or gov’t req’d charges. Visit a store or att.com/wireless to learn more about wireless devices and services from AT&T.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile broadband and emerging 4G capabilities, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T | DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising.
Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com. This AT&T news release and other announcements are available at http://www.att.com/newsroom and as part of an RSS feed at www.att.com/rss. Or follow our news on Twitter at @ATT.
Founded in 1997, HTC Corporation (HTC) is the creator of many award-winning mobile devices and industry firsts. By putting people at the center of everything it does, HTC pushes the boundaries of design and technology to create innovative and personal experiences for consumers around the globe. HTC’s portfolio includes smartphones and tablets powered by HTC Sense™, a multilayered graphical user interface that vastly improves user experience. HTC is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange (TWSE: 2498). For more information, please visit www.htc.com.
While most of us were focused on all the new phones released this week at Mobile World Congress, the HTCdev team took the opportunity to release four new APIs that tie into the OpenSense SDK. Application developers can now tap into new features on HTC phones and take advantage of some of the advanced functionality available in HTC Sense.
Beats Audio API: allows applications to take advantage of the Beats Audio sound enhancements on HTC phones that feature Beats Audio integration.
Lockscreen API: allows applications to interact with the advanced HTC Sense lock screen, which enables application interaction without the need for unlocking the device.
Mobile Device Management API
HTC MediaLink HD API: allows applications freedom to wirelessly interact with the Media Link HD accessory for display on a second screen.
We’re really excited to see what developers can create with these new APIs. We hope most streaming music and video services add Beats Audio integration to their apps as quickly as possible. It would be nice to see how various apps try to integrate notifications or app controls into the HTC lockscreen.
We don’t know what the limitations are with the HTC Media Link HD API, but we’re hoping developers will be able to take advantage of the same features HTC was showing off this week. These features allow users to interact with the device while content is being streamed to a second display. If we let our imagination run wild, we could see game developers adding a custom control interface on the device while the game streams on the second screen.
Is there anything you’re hoping developers will whip up with these new HTC APIs?
While most consumers are still trying to figure out the differences between Froyo, Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich, Android enthusiasts are praising the latest iteration of Android. Android 4.0 delivered a myriad of new functionalities to Android, including a shiny new user interface (UI). The Android development team at Google spent countless hours making Android’s new UI “enchanting, beautiful and seductive.” With such a dramatically improved UI, manufacturers would certainly ditch their custom skins and bring back some unity to Android’s user experience – or would they?
There was certainly hope from many Android enthusiasts that the stock Android UI would be embraced by all. Unfortunately, early leaks and previews from Sony, Samsung and HTC have disappointed many since Android manufacturers seem to be chugging along on the same course as before, spending the majority of their time working on custom skins for Android rather than focusing solely on updating older phones to the latest version of Android. But is this really a bad thing?
If you read through the comments on this site you will notice a recurring theme: our readers are very outspoken about the virtues of the stock Android UI, claiming that “Google finally got it right” and asking “why would manufacturers mess around with perfection” while bullying (down voting) commenters who showed support for HTC Sense, TouchWiz or MotoBLUR (or whatever Motorola is calling it these days).
Personally, I’m a big fan of stock Android and will agree that Google has finally delivered a UI that’s better than most custom skins produced by OEMs. The problem is that Google’s new UI improvements for Android are merely a composite refinement of all the features Motorola, HTC and Samsung have had for quite some time. If you pick apart the new UI piece by piece you will notice that there’s really nothing new. Looking back over the past three years, you’ll see that Google’s UI improvements with every new version of Android include borrowed ideas that were introduced by others.
Below are a few examples of some of the features included in Android 4.0 which were originally pioneered in one or more custom skins produced by Android manufacturers.
Social Media Integration
Facebook and Twitter integration into the contacts application was first introduced by HTC and was adopted a few months later by Motorola in 2009. Both Motorola and HTC served up your contact’s latest status update or a notification of an impending birthday when you called or received a call from one of your contacts. Google introduced a more limited Facebook integration with Android 2.1.
When Android first launched, Google only had three widgets and developers had to wait until Android 1.5 before they were able to create their own. Fortunately, HTC jumped into the deep end with HTC Sense and delivered several dozen widgets which also featured animations. The HTC flip clock is probably the most recognizable and mimicked Android widget. Motorola, Samsung, LG and even Huawei introduced animated widgets to their custom versions of Android before Google got around to it with Honeycomb.
While HTC kept adding more and more widgets to its Sense library (most of which were simply different sizes of the same widget), Motorola chose to take a different route with the introduction of the DROID X by introducing re-sizable widgets. Users could now choose how large or small they wanted a widget to be. The best part about Motorola’s widget resizing feature is that the widget layout changes depending on which size you choose. As with animated widgets, Google introduced re-sizable widgets in Honeycomb, but the functionality was not nearly as advanced as Motorola’s.
With Sense, HTC has always been on the forefront of the customizable lock screen. Early iterations included music controls and details of missed phone calls and text messages. With HTC Sense 3.0, HTC took the customizable lock-screen to a whole new level by giving users a variety of different skins which displayed stock quotes, animated weather, pictures and social media updates from friends. Users were also given the option to choose four different applications which could be launched directly from the lock-screen. The Android team added new features to the lock-screen in Android 4.0 which allow users to launch the dialer or camera applications, but there is still no option to add any user customization.
When it comes to features, many of the custom Android skins produced by OEMs clearly have the Android team beat. But this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Motorola and Samsung have been in the mobile phone business for decades and one of HTC’s biggest accomplishments before Android came along was adding a custom UI on top of Windows Mobile which finally made the OS usable for everyday consumers.
My assumption is that there is fear among Android enthusiasts that manufacturers will simply take Android 4.0 and all its new features and cover it up with their own UI without adding any new functionality on top of it. While I can’t guarantee that every custom skin will look nicer than what the Android team has whipped up, the majority of new phones running Android 4.0 with a custom skin will have all the base features with additional features which give users more control and an enhanced experience.
The reason Android is successful isn’t because Google is doing all the work. The leading manufacturers take Google’s base code and add their own tweaks to differentiate their products from the competition while adding features which Google has not yet dreamed up. If everyone simply took Android 4.0 and loaded it onto their phones, the rapid pace of Android’s innovations would slow to a crawl which might lead to the platform’s demise.
I know there will always be a lot of supporters of stock Android, but I hope those of you who prefer your vanilla UI treatment can learn to appreciate custom skins a little more. Google has done an incredible job with the Android 4.0 UI, but lets not forget to give credit to the manufacturers who pioneered many of those same features months or even years before Google wrapped them into the Android fold.
Over the past two months, HTC has been rolling out Android 3.2 updates to the various HTC Flyer models across the globe. The Honeycomb update gives the Flyer a new UI and access to tablet specific apps on the Android Market. Most Android enthusiasts have been ecstatic about the update, but there has been some public outcry from the general public since the update completely changes the UI, removes all home screen customizations that have been made by the users and forces them to live the an HTC Sense which does not really work that well within Honeycomb.
Advanced users who are not pleased with the changes made in the new update can always downgrade to Gingerbread, but what are the options for run-of-the-mill consumers who want to use their devices as the manufacturer intended? According to an HTC customer service rep, those not satisfied with Android 3.2 on the HTC Flyer can send their device in to have HTC revert it back to its out of the box experience or they can simply wait for the Android 4.0 update (Ice Cream Sandwich) which should be avaialble within the next few months.
HTC: or wait for the update to ice cream sandwich.
Bruno: When is the update expected?
HTC: the first quarter of this year.
Since we’re already nearly a full month into Q1, HTC Flyer users should expect to see an Android 4.0 update in less than nine weeks. But I wouldn’t get too excited. A passing reference from an HTC customer service rep is nice, but we’re still waiting for an official annoucnement from HTC. Let’s also not forget that HTC promised a quick update to Honeycomb when the Flyer was originally announced and we all know how that played out.
Based on the tablet’s hardware, we’re expecting to see an official Android 4.0 software upgrade for the HTC Flyer in the first half of the year. Will it come in Q1? You tell us.
The first two Android phones released into the wild were the T-Mobile (HTC) G1 and the HTC MyTouch 3G. For many, these phones represented a new and open way of thinking about smartphones, combining powerful (at the time) hardware with open source software. The G1 and MyTouch 3G were widely acclaimed as pure Google devices, as they ran the stock version of the Android operating system.
When HTC launched the HTC Hero in October 2009, it marked the beginning of what would become a significant trend in the Android world. The HTC Hero was the third Android device launched in the United States and was the first to feature HTC Sense, HTC’s custom overlay that sits atop Android.
Since the HTC Hero was released in 2009, handset makers have felt the need to customize Android as a means of differentiating their products from those released by the competition. Today, a significant majority of Android devices released feature custom skins. With the exception of the LG G2x, the only high-end devices released without a custom skin are Google’s Nexus line of smartphones, whose releases are few and far between.
Handsets with custom UI overlays arose because, in the beginning, Android wasn’t exactly much to look at. Sure, it functioned well, but handset makers believed that they could offer an enhanced experience that the stock version of Android simply couldn’t match. In theory, I agreed with them, though in practice they almost always managed to fall short (case in point: MOTOBLUR).
With Android 4.0, it is very clear that Google has gotten it right, providing an operating system that is the perfect mixture of both form and function. Android no longer needs to have handset makers add their own custom features in order to provide an optimal user experience, yet we’re sure this trend isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Android 4.0: The Coming Together that Wasn’t
When Google announced the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich back in October 2011, many believed it would mark the beginning of the end for custom UI skins. Supporters lauded the notion that Google had managed to finally release a version of the Android operating system that was both feature-rich and visually appealing.
Many folks in the mobile community, myself included, believe that Ice Cream Sandwich is the most complete and best looking operating system they have ever used in a smartphone, a notion phone reviewers tend to agree with. From a hardware perspective, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is on par with the specs found in almost all other high-end smartphone released of late, yet it continues to perform extremely well in reviews due in large part to Android 4.0.
There have been some promising moves of late, however, that suggest a remedy may be closer than we might think. In a post on the Android developer’s blog yesterday, Android framework engineer Adam Powell stated that an unmodified version of Google’s Holo theme will be required if a device is to be granted access to Google apps, including the Android Market. In essence, this will allow users to choose between the device’s default theme (such as HTC Sense or Samsung Touchwiz) and Google Holo when it comes to highlight colors, padding and margins, font color and size, background color, etc.
You won’t be able to change the launcher or homescreen, but we hope that forcing manufacturers to allow users to opt out of manufacturer themes paves the way for this option to be all-inclusive, and that consumers will soon be able to choose the stock vanilla Android platform in its entirety. Sadly, we don’t believe that will become a reality anytime soon.
Custom Skins are Here to Stay
CES 2012 is right around the corner, and we expect that devices running stock Android will be few and far between at the show. Frankly, we feel that custom skins are going to be with us at least through the next few versions of Android, if not indefinitely. There are (at least) three additive reasons why manufacturers won’t be so quick to ditch the custom skins they’re keen on putting atop Android devices.
First, handset makers genuinely believe that they are addingvalue to the Android platform, and that their customizations provide users with an enhanced experience not provided by stock Android. HTC believes that Sense UI provides a better user experience than both stock Android and the custom UIs other handset makers have come up with. Samsung and Motorola feel the same way about their Touchwiz and Don’tcallmeBLUR UIs (respectively). If they didn’t believe this, they would have stopped working on it by now.
Second, based on the belief that their custom UI skin is superior and offers a better experience, handset makers have dumped significant monetary and personnel resources into the development of their UI overlays, costs they believe provide them a competitive advantage in the mobile market.
Finally, their handsets are selling. A ton. Android now makes up close to 50% of US smartphone sales, and HTC, Samsung and Motorola continue to lead the way with Android device sales.
Add it all up and you can see why handset makers are so reluctant to change the way they do things. Why mess with a formula that has proven successful time and time again, especially when sales of Google’s Nexus line have yet to prove stellar? (Though we may see that trend change once Galaxy Nexus sales numbers come out in the next few months).
The current state of the mobile market suggests that custom skins are here to stay, at least until high-end stock Android devices start to match and surpass the sales of the skinned handsets that have a stranglehold on the Android smartphone market today.
Should we care?
Knowing that the market isn’t going to change anytime soon, should we really care that handset makers are still hard at work developing custom Android skins? Google’s lead user interface designer Matias Duarte doesn’t. In fact, he believes that handset makers genuinely come up with cool new ideas that end up making their way into later versions of Android.
With Android sales continuing to grow at an exponential pace, it’s clear the general public doesn’t either. So who does care? Generally, the Android modding community and tech journalists/bloggers are the only people who care that their device runs stock Android. Hell, most Android owners don’t even know which version of Android their device is running, let alone whether or not it’s running a custom skin. And as much as it pains us to say it, the modding community and tech bloggers are a very small drop in a very large bucket.
Still, as I argued in my article on Matias Duarte being okay with custom Android skins, I believe we should care which version of Android our devices are running, and users who don’t like a UI overlay should be allowed to revert to stock Android if they so wish. The solution is fairly simple to implement (at least in theory), and Google is already taking steps towards forcing handset makers to provide users the choice between manufacturer skinned themes and Google’s Holo UI.
If Google simply takes this notion one step further, we could soon see the day where phones will carry both the stock version of Android as well as manufacturer-skinned Android if they are to be granted access to Google applications most Android users have come to know and depend on. Manufacturers can leave their skins on by default and provide the option somewhere within the settings menu to revert back to stock for those who wish to do so. After all, our phones are now more than capable to handle the extra storage required.
I’ve long felt that the solution to the custom skin “problem” has been to provide users a choice as to which version of Android they’d like to use in their smartphones. It is only recently that devices have become capable enough to make this a viable option, and I for one hope the likes of HTC and Samsung choose to implement this strategy in the near future. As most individuals don’t likely know that their phone’s OS is skinned, handset makers will still have a significant number of people using their skin, and those who like the hardware but not the software will be more likely to purchase the device since they’ll be able to put stock Android back in.
As usual, we want to know what you guys think. Go ahead and generate a discussion in the comment section below. We’ll be sure to chime in as well.
Samsung has delivered a devastating blow, announcing that the original Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab will not be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich. Since the Galaxy S features the same hardware configuration as the Nexus S (which is currently receiving an OTA update to ICS), Samsung claims that the phone’s limited ROM and RAM are insufficient since they would not be able to fit TouchWiz, video calling software, and other various carrier services.
With more than 10 million units sold, the Samsung Galaxy S was the very first successful Android phone in Samsung’s lineup. We’re curious to see how consumers react to the news. A short while ago, HTC faced a similar situation with the HTC Desire since the handset did not feature enough internal memory to run Gingerbread with HTC Sense. Public outcry forced HTC to eventually release a Gingerbread update with a lighter version of HTC Sense.
We know that stripping out features from TouchWiz in order to make Android 4.0 fit on the Samsung Galaxy S may not sound like an ideal solution for all consumers, but we’re guessing that most would like to at least have the option of upgrading to ICS even if it’s not the full experience that Samsung wants its customers to have.
HTC has announced that a software update for the HTC Desire S and HTC Desire HD is currently being rolled out to phones in the UK. No, the phones are not being updated to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but they are getting a new version of HTC Sense. The software update will bring Sense 3.0 to the two Android devices which will allow users to enjoy the new 3D carosel, enhanced unlock screen, new widgets and settings controls directly from the notification bar – features which were first introduced with the HTC Sensation.
The HTC Desire HD and HTC Incredible S just learned some great new tricks. Share what's on your mind and take that great shot even faster with Sense 3.0's lock screen shortcuts. Rolling out to handsets across the UK starting today. HTC
For now, only unlocked HTC phones in the UK will be receiving the update, but we suspect HTC is working to push out HTC Sense 3.0 to carrier branded phones in the rest of Europe and their U.S. cousins (AT&T’s HTC Inspire 4G and the Verizon DORID Incredible2) as well.
How many of you enjoy would gladly trade your HTC Sense 2.x experience for Sense 3.0?
UPDATE: We’re hearing that this is the same update that hit the HTC Desire S a little over a month ago which also updates the phone to Android 2.3.5. This means we should see this update hit other HTC phones within the next month or two.