No other smartphone company has managed to customize Android like HTC. Sure, Samsung’s TouchWiz is a good attempt but it looks heavily inspired by you-know-what. It is no surprise then that Samsung emphasizes on core specs – Super AMOLED Plus display, dual-core processors and the works – while HTC’s campaigns revolve around its Sense UI matched with top-class hardware. The Sensation introduces a new version of Sense UI (version 3.0 for scorekeepers) that not only looks polished but also adds many new features that adds to the overall experience. HTC will launch the Sensation in India on June 16 and is expected to price it under Rs 32,000. It will compete with Samsung’s Galaxy S2 (read our first impressions here) not just on the price-point but also on the fact that both smartphones run on dual-core processors. Can HTC pull off a ‘sensation-al’ upset? Hit the jump to find out… Also Read - YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps stops working on these phones from today: Check if your phone is in the list
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Any phone with a 4.3-inch display is supposed to be a beastly device to hold, right? Wrong! The Sensation (like the Galaxy S II) defies that logic and is in fact, for lack of better words, not a brick. Measuring 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm, it is almost the size of the Incredible S (just a bit taller), which has a smaller 4-inch display. The back cover, wraps around the sides and the top part of its face, which makes the whole unit feel sturdy and feels good to hold too. I do not dig the tri-color back pattern but there is no denying it makes the phone stand out in the crowd.
A unique thing about the Sensation is its display. Not only is it packs in more pixels than the Galaxy S II (540×960 pixels Vs 480×800 pixels) but is slightly raised around the edges. This, hopefully, ensures that you don’t end up scratching the display when it is placed face down on an abrasive surface. A bit of an overkill, I think, considering it has Gorilla Glass protection. Overall, it is typical HTC design we have seen with its latest products like the Incredible S and the Desire S with large volume rocker keys on the side and the four capacitive touch keys below the display.
The Sensation almost matches the Galaxy S II spec-for-spec and is also powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, albeit the Qualcomm Snapdragon variety. On board is a gig of storage (with a microSD card slot, of course) and 768MB of RAM, which is lower than what’s available on the Galaxy S II (8 GB of internal storage and 1 GB of RAM). However, things do move at a fast clip and I have not encountered a moment when it feels the system is gasping for breath. The 8.0 megapixel camera shoots videos at full 1080p HD resolution and the phone is DLNA enabled, which means you can watch it on a larger DLNA-enabled HDTV without having to physically connect the device to it.
On the sensors side of things, you have virtually everything – right from a gyroscope and accelerometer to a proximity sensor and compass. The qHD display (540×960 pixels) is in 16:9 aspect ratio, which makes watching movies fun on it as one gets rid of those black strips from top and bottom and use the entire real estate for, er, the real thing. More pixels also means it packs more lines of text while reading anything – messages, mails or web pages. Though it ain’t no Super AMOLED Plus, it worked perfectly for me under every lighting condition.
What will really differentiate the Sensation from the Galaxy S II is the new Sense UI (Sense 3.0), which in my opinion is the best out of the box customized UI experience on any Android smartphone. The main element of Sense 3.0 is a ring that makes it easy to access key functions even when the screen is locked. HTC calls it active lock screen and it enables users to place any four frequently used functions or apps on the lock screen. Now rather than first unlocking the screen and then searching for your app, you simply drag the icon of the corresponding app to the ring on the bottom part of the display and off you go! This is quite similar to what Apple is doing in iOS 5. In true HTC tradition, you can also have the weather, stocks or one of the many HTC widgets on the lock screen. The rest has not changed much, barring the new 3-D transitions when you swipe from one home page to another, which simply put, is pretty cool.
One service to look out for is HTC Watch, which in my opinion could establish HTC as not just a brilliant hardware maker but a well-rounded smart experience company. Watch will be a service that will enable users to stream movies on to their HTC smartphones. Currently, the Indian version shows only trailers of some movies but we hear the real service will be launched in India too sometime later.
PERFORMANCE AND CONCLUSION
The Sensation will be HTC’s hero device for the coming few months and I won’t be surprised if it still remains the benchmark for Android smartphones till the end of this year, which says a lot considering smartphones running on Android are dethroned in a matter of weeks. I was impressed with the Sensation’s battery, which easily lasted me an entire day with constant use of Wi-Fi and clicking a dozen pics.
Having said that, there is still room for improvement, specifically in the camera department. While pictures taken in daylight are brilliant, those taken in low-light with the flash on get bathed in a golden hue. Also, I noticed at times my review unit dropped Wi-Fi at spots with low signal strength but where an iPhone 4 was getting non-stop coverage.
UPDATE: This changes everything. It seems that the Sensation suffers from a ‘deathgrip’ condition when it comes to Wi-Fi connectivity. Here’s the deal – the Wi-Fi antenna is located on the back cover and covering the top part of the back of the phone with your hand is good enough to lose connectivity. Alas, that’s exactly where you are likely to hold the phone from in case you are holding the phone in landscape mode while streaming a video or simply browsing the web. So when I thought I was in a low Wi-Fi signal area, I was actually actually holding the device in a deathgrip. We will ask HTC about this issue when the phone is officially introduced in India on June 16 and update this review accordingly.
Apart from the speakers, I think the rest of the issues can be rectified with a software update. And irrespective of the minor bugs, I still believe that the Sensation is just about a neck ahead of the Galaxy S II.