It’s telling that HTC doesn’t refer to Sense as a user interface or a layer atop its Android phones, but rather as a “holistic experience filled with moments of delight.”
That’s pure marketing jargon, but it also shows how HTC wants to strike its own path with Sense, and to be less reliant on the core Android experience. The proof is in a batch of new Sense features, which will initially appear in HTC’s Desire HD and Desire Z handsets. I’m guessing they will eventually come to HTC smartphones in the United States, as well.
Here’s the list of new features, as reported by Boy Genius Report:
- Shorter boot time, down to 10 seconds
- Cached map data for faster rendering
- Digital compass for orienting the map in your direction
- DLNA support for streaming video to networked televisions and computers
- Revised incoming call prompt that slides up instead of occupying the whole screen
- HTCSense.com, a MobileMe-like web service for text message and e-mail backups, remote wipe, call forwarding, find your phone and sending maps and trip information
Those are some serious features. For comparison, the last Sense update only added a social networking widget, a dictionary and translation feature and a faster way to jump between home screens. A previous update simply made Sense less sluggish. This time, HTC is improving on Google’s own maps and navigation, and jumping ahead of Google with its own cloud services.
Of course, any smartphone user would be happy to have the features HTC is introducing, but they come with an unfortunate side-effect: When phone manufacturers meddle with the stock Android experience, they make Google’s own updates harder to implement, potentially delaying major improvements. I won’t call for the death of baked-in interfaces, especially when they result in useful features. Instead, I implore existing and prospective Android users to keep an eye on HTC phones whenever Google updates its OS. As Sense starts to look more like its own platform, it will be interesting to see whether Android updates for HTC phones take longer to push out.