HTC Sensation review: Front-page stuff

GSMArena team, 10 June 2011.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Sense-ible phonebook

The Sensation has HTC’s all-knowing phonebook with deep social networking integration. It manages to keep things neatly in order, even though it’s juggling everything from SMS to Facebook photo albums.

The entire People app (the phonebook) is tabbed and with more tabs than the stock Android. You have all contacts, groups (including favorite contacts there), as well as a call log. From a drop-down menu at the top, you can filter contacts based on where they came from - the phone's address book, Facebook, Twitter or your HTC Sense account.

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Phonebook • groups

Selecting a contact displays the basic details: name and photo, numbers, emails and such. That’s just the first tab – the other tabs hold further details and means of communication, including email and a call log.

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Viewing a contact

The second tab holds the text messages between you and the given contact in a conversation layout. The third tab is a list of emails you've exchanged with the contact.

The next two tabs are what turns the Sensation into a powerful networking tool. The first holds Facebook contact updates, and the other called "Albums" pulls the albums that contacts have created on Flickr and Facebook.

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Facebook updates • Facebook and Flickr albums

The final tab shows the call history for the contact.

When editing a contact, you start off with just one of the essential fields but you can easily add more.

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Editing a contact • Linking Dexter with his Facebook account

If you’re switching from another phone don’t worry – you don’t even need a computer to pull your contacts, messages and calendar items from the old phone into your new Sensation. The Transfer app supports many phones from major manufacturers and moves the data over Bluetooth.

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The Transfer app will easily copy your contacts from your old phone

It’s an old trick (Symbian-powered Nokias have been doing this for ever) and most people would probably go with syncing the contacts over the cloud, but still it’s a handy tool to have.

Telephony with smart dialing, reception issues

The on-screen dialer features a keypad, a shortcut to the call log and a list of contacts beneath (you can hide the keypad). The HTC Sensation has both Smart Dialing and Voice dialing.

We've already covered the death grip issues of the Sensation, but the reception is okay most of the time. You can experience issues in areas of poor signal though, especially if you’re touching the bottom of the phone.

The Sensation knows some accelerometer-based tricks – turning the phone over will mute the ringer of an incoming call while placing it down starts the loudspeaker automatically when you are in the middle of a call. The other feature is Quiet ring on pickup – once you move the phone, the ringer will quiet down (but not cancel the call).

Yet another option is pocket mode – the ringer volume will increase if the phone is in your pocket (the proximity sensor takes care of detecting that).

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The dialer has smart dialing • calling Dexter

Here's how the HTC Sensation fares in our traditional loudspeaker performance test. It scored a Good mark putting it somewhere in the middle among its competitors.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOverall score
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S66.6 65.966.6Below Average
LG Optimus 2X65.7 60.067.7Below Average
Google Nexus S68.166.3 69.3Average
HTC Sensation66.566.678.3Good
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc66.166.378.0Good
HTC Incredible S66.566.176.7Good
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II70.066.675.7Good
Nokia N875.866.282.7Very Good
HTC Gratia73.273.683.5Excellent

Refined messaging

Android and the HTC Sensation are capable of handling all sorts of text messaging – SMS, MMS, email. Social networking is covered by several apps and widgets, and there’s Gtalk, which can connect you to Google’s chat network and compatible networks too (like Ovi Chat).

The notification area will display a line of an incoming SMS or just the number of messages if there’s more than one. You can set the status LED to alert of unread messages too.

SMS and MMS messages are displayed in threads – you see a list of all conversations, each one is listed with the contact’s photo, name and the subject of the last message, as well as a part of the actual message. Tapping a conversation brings up the entire message history with that contact.

The whole thing looks almost the same as a chat client. When viewing a thread, the most recent message is placed at the bottom.

To add recipients, just start typing a name or number and choose from the contacts offered – the phone will find the contact you want even if you misspell it (e.g. “drx” matches Dexter).

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All threads • viewing a specific thread • Adding recipients works even if you misspell the contact’s name

The compose text box is bigger and covers nearly half of the screen in landscape mode. A tap-and-hold on the text box gives you access to functions such as cut, copy and paste. You are free to paste the copied text across applications like email, notes, chats, etc. and vice versa.

Gingerbread text selection is very user friendly. Upon a press and hold, a “magnifying glass” appears, enabling accurate cursor movements.

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Copy, cut and paste

Text input on the Sensation boils down to an on-screen custom-made HTC virtual QWERTY keyboard. While it’s still not as good as a hardware one, it’s the next best thing – the 4.3” screen has enough real estate for big, well-spaced keys, which are easy to hit.

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The on-screen QWERTY keyboard in portrait and landscape modes

Converting SMS into MMS is as simple as adding some multimedia content to the message. You can just add a photo or an audio file to go with the text, or you can get creative with several slides and photos.

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Attaching a multimedia file turns the SMS to MMS

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