The HTC Desire 816 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, dressed in the version of HTC Sense UI, matching the One (M8) and One mini 2. HTC Sense 6 brings new features on board and improves the existing functionality of the user interface.
Here goes a quick video of HTC Desire 816 with Sense 6 in action.
The lockscreen features a clock with weather info plus four shortcut slots. Missed calls and incoming messages are duly displayed too of course. Widgets are optional and disabled by default.
Swiping up the unlock button gives you three different options. Swiping up takes you to the last app you used, while swiping to the left or to the right will take you to the homescreen or BlinkFeed respectively.
Unlike the HTC One (M8) the Desire 816 phablet cannot be unlocked with a swipe or double tap, meaning you have to reach for the power/lock key.
This generation of HTC products features on-screen buttons with the classic arrangement of Back, Home and App switcher. HTC's custom scheme of Back and Home only has been dropped (and we don't miss it).
The leftmost homescreen pane of the Desire 816 is once again reserved for HTC BlinkFeed. It aggregates content from your social networks, as well as from over a thousand news sources. You can pick what topics you're interested in and BlinkFeed will automatically pull relevant content. You can also search for specific content.
You're not stuck with BlinkFeed if you don't like it - the rest of the homescreen panes are the standard affair with shortcuts and widgets. You can also fully remove the BlinkFeed panel if you wish.
The notification area features toggles similar to those of vanilla Android. They can be accessed via the dedicated button or with a two-finger swipe. The toggles can't be reordered or hidden, but a long press brings out the relevant Settings page. Some (like the Brightness toggle) are multi stage so you tap them several times until you reach the desired mode.
Note that the status bar on top of the screen is normally semi-transparent or black, but select HTC apps change its color to match their own highlight color, similar to iOS. This doesn't seem to work with third-party apps though.
The default layout of the app drawer is a 4 x 5 grid of app icons. A 3 x 4 mode is also available but that's a waste of a 5.5" screen. You can sort app icons alphabetically, chronologically or manually and you can hide the ones you don't need but can't uninstall (bloatware).
HTC has remodeled the task switching interface - recent apps are displayed in a 3 x 3 grid of thumbnails. This allows more apps to fit on the screen but since there's no scrolling 9 is all the recent apps you'll see.
HTC Sense has a dedicated Car mode screen, which can launch automatically when the phablet connects to your car's Bluetooth.
HTC Desire 816 also has a built-in restricted access Kid mode. It is an app that lets you set up a profile for each of your kids, with a photo and birthdate and pick which apps they can have access to.