HTC Sensation XE review: The eXtended Edition
The Sensation XE 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.
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.
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 XE 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.
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.
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 XE. The Transfer app supports many phones from major manufacturers and moves the data over Bluetooth.
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.
Smart dialing and death grips
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 XE has both Smart Dialing and Voice dialing.
We've already covered the death grip issues of the Sensation XE, 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 XE 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).
Here's how the HTC Sensation XE fares in our traditional loudspeaker performance test. It scored a Good mark putting it somewhere in the middle among its competitors.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Ringing ||Overall score|
|Samsung I9000 Galaxy S||66.6||65.9||66.6|
|LG Optimus 2X||65.7||60.0||67.7|
|HTC Sensation XE||65.8||65.4||76.9||Good|
|Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II||70.0||66.6||75.7||Good|
|Nokia N8||75.8||66.2||82.7||Very Good|
Very good messaging
Android and the HTC Sensation XE 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).
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.
Text input on the Sensation XE 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.
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.
The HTC Sensation XE comes with two email apps – the traditional Gmail app and the generic HTC Mail app, which merges all your email accounts into a single inbox.
The Gmail app has the trademark conversation style view and can manage multiple (Gmail) accounts. Batch operations are supported too, in case you need to handle email messages in bulk.
The standard HTC Mail app features several tabs that let you filter the inbox: you can opt to display conversations, emails with attachments only, unread mail only or invitations. You can mark emails too – they will show up in the marked mail tab.
The conversation view tries to mimic the original Gmail client threaded view, which is otherwise missing in the generic inbox.
The HTC email app can handle several accounts and not just from Gmail. When you add multiple accounts, you can view each inbox individually or go into the All accounts section.
Each account is color coded, so you can quickly associate each message with its relevant account.
Email sorting is enabled (in either ascending or descending order) by date, subject, sender, priority and size. The currently applied filter is displayed in the top right corner of the display.
There's hardly anything the HTC Sensation XE lacks in terms of email capabilities. The settings for popular email services are automatically configured. POP/IMAP accounts and Active Sync accounts are supported.