HTC Incredible S review: Smart and curvy
Sense UI on Android 2.2, again
The HTC incredible S runs Android 2.2 Froyo with Sense UI on top. It will get updated to Gingerbread eventually but HTC prefers to keep their users at the cutting edge through their own modifications rather than the latest UI change that Google came up with.
HTC however promised that it will be delivering a 2.3 Gingerbread update soon after launch and we have no reason not to believe them, though “soon” tends to be a rather loose term.
Still, HTC rehashed the hardware so it shouldn’t surprise you when we tell you they rehashed the software too. The latest iteration of Sense UI is pretty solid (as it should be after years of refinement) and since Android is open and flexible, you can always pick another launcher from the Android Market to replace it.
Here’s what you have to look forward if you decide to stick with Sense. On the outside, it is very familiar to the previous iterations though there are some refinements under the hood.
At the bottom of the screen there are three virtual keys and a scrollbar. The default looks of this panel are more rectangular now but it works the same way as before.
The left key launches the main menu. The middle key is a shortcut to the Phone app and the right key brings up the "Personalize" menu.
The scrollbar at the bottom is just an indication of which homescreen you’re on – it can't be used for actual scrolling. You can use the Leap view for that - tap the home key (while on the center homescreen) or do a pinch gesture to zoom out to display the thumbnails of all seven homescreen panes at once. With a press and hold you can rearrange the homescreens as well.
Seven homescreens is all you get though – there’s no add or delete option. With all those widgets (which are quite useful too) you’ll want to keep all of them anyway.
The HTC Sense UI however offers the so-called Scenes too – those are essentially six custom homescreen setups (Work, Travel, Social, etc). Each scene changes the wallpaper and the widgets on the homescreens. For instance, the Work scene has a stocks widget, while the Social offers a Twitter widget. Those can be customized, of course.
Scenes are selected from a fancy-looking 3D card interface but other than that, their functionality is mostly unchanged. You can modify existing scenes (older Sense versions prompted you to save modifications as a new scene) and you can get more scenes from the HTC Hub.
Switching between scenes takes a couple of seconds but sure allows wide customization – the business and personal modes that some competing phones offer seem quite limited compared to the HTC Scenes.
The main menu has the typical icon grid layout, but you can switch to a list. In the list layout, there’s an alphabet scroll, which makes locating apps faster. It’s similar to what you used to see in TouchFLO on older HTC WinMo phones.
Tapping the Personalize button brings out a whole screen of things to choose from – for the display (scenes, wallpapers and skin), for the homescreen (widgets, shortcuts, folders, etc.) and even sounds (ringtones, alarms, notifications and Sound set, which is a sound theme of sorts).
In the widget section, both types of widgets (HTC and Android) are placed on the same page. There are so many of them you may find the seven homescreens short. You can download new widgets off the Market or the HTC Hub.
When you select a widget you are prompted to choose between several versions – most widgets have at least two styles. The different versions typically offer at least two sizes of the widget and different skins. For example, there are twelve different clocks. That's right, twelve!
Some widget styles even offer different functionality. The Twitter widget, for instance – one version shows updates for the people you follow and lets you tweet, while the other version is more compact but is for tweeting only. There's nothing stopping you from using both, of course.
The notification area features a list of recent apps, just like a task switcher. A press and hold on the Home button works too. Maybe some people will use the notification area as the easier way to switch apps, but we would have preferred some quick switches for Wi-Fi, GPS, etc. rather than duplicated functionality.
Time for a quick performance test with the HTC Incredible S. It performed really well, beating single core competitors like the Google Nexus S and Samsung Galaxy S on most tests (it lagged slightly behind in Quadrant compared to the Nexus S but that’s without the Gingerbread optimizations including a new file system).
The Tegra 2 powered LG Optimus 2X came out on top with its dual-core CPU and powerful GPU, but the Incredible S results are still pretty impressive.
The fast boot feature is present in the HTC Incredible S and will really come in handy if you have to switch your phone on and off quite often. It won’t work if you remove the battery though – it will do a regular slow boot.
It’s annoying that when you press down the power key, the phone won’t start booting until you’ve released the key, which is quite confusing the first few times.
Our guess is, HTC has used some sort of Suspend or Hibernate logic as we know them from regular computers to implement the fast boot.