The QVGA resolution doesn’t do the Tattoo user interface justice. We don’t know if it’s the Android downsampling algorithm at fault or simply the overly large pixels but things don’t quite look the usual Android treat.
QVGA stretched over 2.8 inches seemed fine about a couple of years ago when we hardly knew any better. Then VGA and WVGA screens became the standard and the likes of HTC Tattoo simply don’t rate – at least not at the top end of the market. But since the HTC Tattoo is not setting its sights on the high end let’s stop this rant and move on to the actual user interface.
The arrow button at the bottom of the screen that pulls up the main menu in stock Android handsets, is now replaced with three virtual keys and an arched scrollbar. The left key launches the main menu (this time around, you simply tap - you can't drag the Main Menu out, though you can drag it back in). The middle key is a shortcut to the Phone app and the right key brings up the "Add to Home" menu. And there's plenty to add to the homescreen but more on that later.
The scrollbar at the bottom is just an indication of which homescreen is on - it can't be used for actual scrolling. HTC have extended the homescreen to seven panes instead of the usual three. Even if it sounds too much, with all those widgets (which are quite useful too) it may not even be enough.
One of the most important novelties is the addition of scenes – a set of custom desktop setups (Work, Travel, Social, etc). Each scene changes the wallpaper and the widgets on the homescreen - for instance, the Work scene has a stocks widget, while the Social offers a Twitter widget.
You can't modify the scenes but if you rearrange the current homescreen you are prompted to save changes as a new scene. The Clean slate scene in turn lets you start from scratch - it's just the default Android setup with a Clock and a few shortcuts underneath. Switching between scenes takes a couple of seconds but sure allows wide customization – the business and personal mode that other phones offer seem like quite a limited solution compared to scenes.
Changes to the UI that Sense brings go deeper than just the homescreen. For example, the main menu has the typical icon grid layout, but you can switch to a list view - similar to what you get in TouchFLO 3D (only available for WinMo at the time). With it, you can use kinetic scrolling or an alphabet scroll, which makes locating apps faster.
When adding a widget to the homescreen you are presented with two options - Android widgets (the stock widgets) and HTC widgets. HTC are obviously quite proud of what they've achieved and with good reason. Some of their widgets even have different versions on offer so you can pick the one that suits you best.
The different versions typically offer at least two sizes of the widget, different look (There are twelve different clocks. That's right, twelve!) and some even offer different functionality.
Take the Twitter widget for instance - one version shows updates for the people you follow, while the other version only lets you tweet from the homescreen. There's nothing stopping you from using both.
The HTC widgets offer a better level of interaction than the stock widgets - there's a Favorites widget that keeps a list of your favorite contacts you can scroll through, no need to get to the contacts list.
The way widgets are moved around on the homescreen has changed too. A green rectangle marks the area the widget will occupy while the rest of the background is faded. If the current section of the homescreen is full, a message urges you to move the widget to another section.
The UI is generally fast enough but not as good as on the X10 mini. There are lags every now and then but it’s not as bad as to ruin the whole deal.
Well, HTC have their own vision of what a good phonebook should look like and have tweaked the default Android app with some cool graphics and features of their own. The result is quite satisfactory indeed.
Opening a contact's details presents you with the basic info for the contact - name and photo, numbers, emails and such. What you'd notice though is that there are another five tabs at the bottom and you're just viewing the first tab.
The next tab holds the text messages received from the contact - it'd have been a lot more useful if it held the entire thread, but for that you have to go to the Messages app.
The third tab holds a list of emails you've exchanged with the contact. The next two tabs are quite interesting and can turn the Tattoo into a social networking power tool.
The first holds Facebook contact updates, while the second one called "Albums" pulls the picture albums that contacts have created on Flickr and Facebook.
The final tab shows the call history for the contact.
The entire People app (the phonebook) is tabbed too and with more tabs than the stock Android. You have all contacts and favorite contacts tabs, as well as a call log, groups and "Updates and events". The latter holds updates for all your Facebook contacts.
The contact editing screen has been nicely skinned. There's no plus key to add a new detail of a certain type, just a delete detail key. This saves some space (one line per each category) but you have to scroll down to the bottom every time you want to add a new detail.
There is a lot of information you can store per contact as usual, and searching the phonebook is very easy - just press the search button.