Apr 07 AT 12:18 PM Russell Holly 65 Comments

5 things HTC’s Sense UI needs to change NOW

Arguably the most popular of the “UI Improvements” offered by manufacturers is HTC’s SenseUI. While personally I am a fan of the Stock UI found on the Nexus S, the “Google Experience” devices are something of a minority nowadays. So, when I was given the opportunity to review the HTC Thunderbolt, I was once again confronted with the latest version of Sense. I gave it more than a fair shake, and am still using it as my primary device today. I can’t help but feel, however, that in HTC’s attempt to provide us with the “ideal user experience” they removed or altered some critical things that Google had right in the first place. So, here it is, the 5 things that HTC needs to fix right now.

Charging Percentage on the Lockscreen

This seems like a fairly trivial thing, unless you are used to it. Unfortunately, this is the first phone I have ever had without it, and I miss it dearly. You can see the percentage if you use the HTC desktop clock app, but you have to be in the app to see it. For whatever reason, HTC removed it. My suspicion is that it has something to do with their really nice theming system, which also themes the lockscreen. It’s possible that there’s a complication that makes that difficult, but here I sit desperately wishing it were there.

Put my Browser back in the Launcher

That personalize button on the far right of the launcher? Yeah, worse than useless when compared to what’s supposed to be there, the browser. What would be even better would be if you could ACTUALLY personalize it and put whatever app you wanted there, instead of a hotkey to themes and ringtones and wallpapers. The personalize button wouldn’t be quite so frustrating for me if it weren’t 1 of 3 different ways to get to the personalize screen from that same space. That’s right, you can tap the menu button, tap the launcher button, or just long press on the homescreen and the personalize button is right there for you. In my opinion it’s neither needed nor wanted, and should be replaced by something that’s not needlessly repeated across the OS, like the browser.

Stop isolating HTC Widgets

I don’t know if you know this, but before you install any apps, the Thunderbolt comes with nearly 75 widgets. Only it doesn’t REALLY come with nearly 75 widgets, it comes with a handfull of “Android Widgets” and 66 “HTC Widgets”. Are there really a whole lot less then that, but rather than making a single clock widget with a lot of color and style options they made a whole lot of individual widgets. Navigating them in obnoxious to say the least, and they are categorized away from the normal Android widgets. HTC should bundle the widgets together, add some customization options, and just call them Widgets. There’s no need to separate them and complicate things for the user.

Simplify the “connect to PC screen”

On my Nexus S, when I plug my phone in, it asks me if I want to mount the drive. I think that’s a little technical for the average consumer. I don’t think that the answer is to give the user more than half a dozen options when they plug in their phone. HTC provides their users with all of the possible options, including charging, syncing media, and even tethering in either direction. Unfortunately the explanations for each option is still very technical.  This screen is confusing, it’s unnecessary, and it still says “mount the drive” instead of “use as a flash drive” or “access internal memory through the computer”. If HTC really feels that Sense is an improvement over the stock experience, an effort should be made to create an easy to understand experience when connecting to a computer.

Homepage configuration

I am a little unusual with how my homescreens are setup. I typically only have a single panel, and nothing else. Sense’s huge widgets make that difficult, but the widgets are so useful that I don’t mind. What I do mind is when I am all the way to the left and have to swipe all the way to the right. It’s a pain, especially since you are forced to have 7 windows. I would love to be able to only have 5 screens, or 3 screens even, and it’s not a difficult thing to do. I do know, however, that this particular gripe is already being addressed in a way, with the new version of Sense for Android 2.3. In future versions of Sense, like what we’ve seen on the Evo 3D, the windows will wrap around, allowing you to slide a carousel of windows around, looping back when you reach the end. This isn’t a complete solution in my opinion, but it’s a great start.

Are any of these huge deals? No, not really. Are they things that will bring Sense much closer to being a complete thought instead of just a UI overlay? In my opinion, yes. A thousand times yes. HTC has made their position behind the “Google Experience” clear; it’s only going to happen if they work directly with Google again. Everything else will have Sense. So, since we’re stuck with it, we can either hide behind our Launcher replacement of choice, or we can encourage HTC to make these slight improvements to make the UI enhancements significantly more palatable.

I write things.

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  • http://Website Craig

    I’ll agree with the launcher. It sucks having to choose between something like ADW or LauncherPro and Sense. The others just seem nitpicky to me.

  • http://www.eternalkaos.net Derek

    Gotta agree with all of these sentiments. But i’ve also noticed the text messenger app is very buggy in Sense. Perhaps fix it or replace it completely with the stock Android messenger that can be found on the Droid.

    • http://cisnky.com cisnky

      I’ve had loads of problems with notifications on my Desire HD that I’ve started using Go Sms Pro.

  • http://www.androgamez.com android games

    Dont know about you guys but since i moved from desire to galaxy S i miss my sense like crazy…. I like it just the way it is!

    • http://Website Poodz

      Totally agree with the article and a lot of the comments. Would be cool if HTC took time to read all this. For those who love Sense UI (i.e. user “android games”) you have probably never tried stock for any major amount of time. You are comparing Sense UI (HTC) and Touchwiz UI (Samsung) which the article already said Sense UI is the most popular overlay. But when you look at what they changed, you wonder why they did some of the things they did.

      My biggest issue personally is the contacts app. In stock contacts, I see for each number the person has, a line with the number to call then on the side, a messaging button on each number. For some reason in sense, they separate everything so I have all the phone numbers for calling then again all the numbers for messaging. But under messaging it doesn’t show their labels (mobile, home etc.). Ridiculous.

      And I think in the spirit of openness, all these companies should have all their stuff as optional. So I would be able to turn sense on or off, and not just the home screen but ALL the apps they screw with.

      Just my 2 cents.

  • http://darkfox.dk/ DarkFox

    How about this: Have a sideways swipe instead of a downward swipe to unlock the phone.

    The first couple of days I had my HTC Desire, I kept ass dialing, because it had unlocked itself in my pocket. I had to enable the unlock pattern to prevent that from happening.

  • http://Website Richard Yarrell

    There’s no way that stock android is anything near of a challenge for htc sense. I was new to android in June 2010 and knew htc was the best way to enhance the android experience. The new htc sense ui on the Evo 3d is something truly special so much so that samsung, motorola, all are coming up with new version of there ui as well. Looks like htc is much better than you think.

    • MorphiusFaydal

      Except he’s not saying that Sense sucks and HTC should drop it. He’s saying that while Sense is good, there are a few ares that could be improved upon to make it even better.

    • Rob

      the number one complaint for me is that stupid personalization button. sense ui is NOT even close to perfect with that button. think about it, a personalization button that restricts personalization of the home screen?

  • http://raydowe.com raydowe

    I agree with everything except the “connect to PC Screen”. I find this a great addition when compared to stock android. When you plug in your phone, you get a short list of options representing every possible reason you might have plugged in our phone: how could you simplify it any more?

    • Russell Holly

      It’s not so much the pop up I take issue with as the descriptions. I think the average user would find them overly technical, or just plan non-explanatory.

      • http://Website jaamgans

        You are also ignoring the fact that you can also set your default to any of the available options, and I prefer the Sense descriptions as I think they are more generic to what the users would understand.

  • http://Website tiger4j

    I completely agree with you on the dock bar. I thought it was insane when I found out what they’re using one of their (only) 3 buttons for. If they want to keep the huge phone button, whatever, but they should keep the two outside buttons as user defined. That goes for the stock launcher as well Google…Please.

    • http://Website JaylanPHNX

      The dock vids the primary reason I believe T-Mobile’s MyTouch variation of Sense is better than standard Sense.

  • http://Website whap

    Ummmm…..if you are on the far left screen there are multiple ways to get to the home screen Russell. There is a thing called the home button, admittedly I have an incredible not a thunderbolt, however if you push the home button it takes you to the center screen. This way you do not need to swipe over to it. Another way is to pinch screen, select desired screen. I think your gripe on home screens is completely flawed.

    I personally like the isolated widgets as well. The HTC widgets tend to be superior to android widgets and it is useful to differentiating them as well.

    I agree with you on the browser button, I have always wished you could hotkey your favorite app in that location would be nice.

    • http://Website mik

      His gripe is less about how to get to a specific screen and more about the fact that Sense forces 7 screens on the users, and that clashes with the minimal habits of many Android users to prefer three or even one homescreen on their device.

    • frank

      Long press the home key to get an expose-style view of your pages and touch the mini version to go to that page.

      @Russ, agree with this dude. The only thing on your list worth incorporating is the liberation of the personalize button.

      Also hire a proofreader.

  • http://muddypa.ws/blog Nick Portelli

    I agree. Drop Sense. Make the HTC widgets work on vanilla Android, and with ADW and other launchers that allow scrolling widgets. Focus on the good HTC apps. Email, Contacts, etc.

  • http://cellphonpix.me Biff

    I agree 110%. Sense is like breakfast sausage…. i’m all excited about it at first and then by the time i’m done I want to puke.

  • http://www.exactservers.com R1Lover

    You’re being nit picky….. sense is awesome and the bet UI of all manufacturers…. :) I love it!

  • http://Website tito!

    I hate Sense UI! I don’t see how people can prefer it over BLUR.
    I’ve probably never had another HTC device since more of HTC started coming out on more devices (my last HTC: MyTouch)
    It’s Horrible! It realy childlike when you use it. Seriously.
    I remember testing it out & it gave me all these silly pety instructions. It alters the use of Android. Aesthetic wise. :[

    • http://Website panic

      MOTO blur has the worst ui of them all

    • http://Website tito!

      I hate Sense UI!! I don’t see how people can prefer it over BLUR.
      I’ve probably never had another HTC device since more of HTC started coming out on more devices (my last HTC: MyTouch)
      It’s Horrible! It realy childlike when you use it. Seriously.
      I remember testing it out & it gave me all these silly pety instructions. It alters the use of Android. Aesthetic wise. :[

  • http://Website panic

    I completely agree with that stupid personalize button concept its irritating.

  • http://Website DaveC

    My first three Android phones were: G1, Nexus One, & Nexus S. So when I first got the EVO, I immediately put on Launcher Pro and configured my phone to look as stock as possible. But after while I started launching in Sense and I’ve actually come to like it.

  • mattcoz

    I dropped Sense a long time ago, now using CM7 and LauncherPro and I have no regrets.

    • http://Website Poodz

      AMEN! LOL!

  • http://Website UniqueNate

    Some of those are fixed in the latest version of sense in the Evo 3D. So I understand the complaint but in a way it’s fixed. Just have to wait and see if the major sense phones out now will get the upgrade.

  • http://gaasedal.com Gaasedal

    I have tried LauncherPro, Go Launcher and more, but I always go back to Sense :)

  • http://Website Mike

    Also I don’t like the fact that any alarm that is set is not shown on the lockscreen like stock Android. Probably similar to the battery percentage not showing either.

  • http://Website Rock

    The only thing i agree with is the personalization button besides that. sense flows pretty good with me if its too technical maybe they dont need it.

  • http://Website Jack

    You could just choose to use three of the screens, and then you only have to use two swipes to go to the right.

    I switched to LauncherPro, though. I really like the Sense homescreen, but a couple of things bugged me.. mostly the same stuff as you.

    Don’t like the personalize button there, and no way to hide all the bloatware in the applications menu without rooting. LauncherPro at least allows me to hide it.

  • http://Website teleknEsis

    Other than the nice widgets, I really despise Sense UI. OEM’s are wasting a ton of their own $$ and a ton of other people’s time when they really ought to be focusing on the hardware and getting updated device drivers deployed when new version of Android drop in AOSP.

    If u want an OS that is going to “hold your hand” and try to makes things easier, then just get a flippin iPhone. Android is for people who know what they are doing. Give me Vanilla Android or give me death!

    • http://Website Poodz

      BAM! HTC really should read this!

    • http://Website spookie

      I suspect HTC will continue to spend it’s money to do what they feel will sell more HTC devices. They don’t WANT only geeks to be able to use their devices–they want everyone!

  • http://Website snowbdr89

    @ dick yarell have you tried out the evo 3d to know how sense works on it?

    • http://Website panic

      Thats a very ignorant thing to say I don’t think he has to actually use the new Evo 3D to state how much better sense has got since its all over YouTube and nearly all Android sites.

  • http://Website watbetch

    Sense is old and tired. It’s beyond bloated.. it’s the most heavily skinned overlay and it adds too much crap. The huge phone button is very annoying as well, I don’t use my phone nearly enough to need more than half of the dock to be just one big huge dialer button.

    TouchWiz is much ligher.. the menus all mostly look the same, has the most convenient features and besides the launcher looks the most like Stock Android.

    • http://Website TGeezy86

      Are you serious or is this sarcasm? As far as I can tell, Sense is the only UI besides stock Android that doesn’t bog the phone down in terms of performance. Sure it takes up a crapload of space and RAM but they’ve also started to put extra RAM in their phones (~768 MB) to accomodate it. Have you actually used Touchwiz and/or Blur? Those two turn 1Ghz powerhouses into laggy, pitiful affairs. Oh, and Samsung heavily emulated iOS when designing Touchwiz e.g. the App “drawer”

  • http://Website brandon

    The thing they really need to fix is the bluetooth stack, due to sensui it is not the same as stock andriod.

  • http://Website jkh

    all the manufacturers launchers suck… some just suck more than others.
    first thing i do when I get a new android device is root it and remove all the manufacturers bloat etc.
    I wish they would all just focus on hardware, and leave software to the pros.

  • http://Website snowbdr89

    The performance between stock android compared to crap like sense is night an day so really there is only one thing they need to change with sense GET RID OF IT

  • http://Website katkatkat

    I have the original Moto Droid. My husband has the Incredible. PERSONALLY, I hate sense. What I hate the most is calling someone. There are too many buttons everywhere, no words, just icons that to me, make no effing “sense”. The whole UI is a mess. I think it’s confusing and I loathe it. A more vanilla like version of Android is much better.
    And before you go and say it’s confusing because I’m a woman- I wear the tech pants in this house. All of our phones and my friends phones are rooted because of me.

    • http://Website @neidlinger

      Why are you rooting phones when you could be in the kitchen making me sammices….

      lol in all seriousness.

      i’m glad to see we have the same feelings towards Sense. but MotoBlur is just as bad.

      • http://Website katkatkat

        Actually, I root phones AND I can make sammichs at the same time. Sammich anyone?
        Motoblur doesn’t bother me. In fact, I like it.

  • http://Website Pip

    Have switched through the launchers on the market, but keep coming back to Sense – mostly for the widgets. I’m in the UK, with a Desire, and it seems to be a little different from the descriptions above. Widgets are integrated, and you can pinch to zoom to quickly swap homescreens. The things that bug me are the personalize button on the launcher, and the lack of options on the look of the lockscreen. Also be good to see a whole postal address under contacts – or make text scroll, but I don’t know if this is Sense or Google. Would be nice to be able to do more of the tweaks like ADW or LP, but it does all seem to work.

  • http://Website Kenneth Kristofferson

    I dont agree at all, love the way they have done it.

  • http://Website Jason

    While I agree with the launcher comment, the homescreen configuration really isn’t that bad. If you only want 3 or 5 screens, how about just using the 3 or 5 screens from the center – i.e. center screen with one or two on each side. Boom. Done.

    As for getting from the far left to the far right, pinch to zoom out to the full 7 screen view (or tap the home button then tap again once you arrive) and then select the screen you want from there, or tap the home button and then swipe. 3 taps (max) rather than 6 swipes to get from one side to the other. Easy enough.

  • shadowxof

    The only real argument is can see is the launcher and widgets. The rest seems kinda over the top. Battery level isn’t terrible especially since you can get a battery widget to check levels. The home page issue make me think nobody realized you can pinch the screen and jump to any page.

  • http://Website MDB

    Sense is such garbage. The first thing I did was root my incredible to get stock android because I despise sense so much. I can’t believe I seem to be the only one that thinks that weather widget on the home screen you always see is the most hideous looking thing ever, they give android a bad name and make it look ugly flaunting that piece of crap everywhere.

  • http://Website JOKERz

    Depend on user style.
    I agree with percentage, and personalize button. Its really annoying.
    But for connect to PC screen, its really helpful for me, i can choose whatever method i’d like to use.
    But once again, its all back to user style.

  • http://Website Mikevo

    Not a fan of sence. I use ADW EX for my launcher. Coming from a Palm Treo to the Evo it bugged the hell out of me not knowing how much battery life I had left. This was one of the main reasons I wound up rooting it after looking at custom roms.

  • http://Website young3g

    Dont know what u guys are bitching about i mean seems really minor anyways i love my htc sense tried them all and not even honeycomb comes close although i do give Google props for pulling their head out their ass thanks to some inspiration from sense ui.

  • http://Website Anonymous

    I love Sense UI, and honestly (and I know I will get voted down for this) I despise Vanilla Android. It just doesn’t look professional enough at all. Sense has an appealing look & it looks very professional.

    I root every Android phone I ever get, and they are always HTC so I can put a custom Sense ROM on it. Right now, I have the G2 with GingerSense flashed, and it looks absolutely awesome.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  • http://Website Hans

    All manufacturers should just put their UI on the Market. That way, we all get stock and those who want a different UI will just buy it.

  • http://Website tommy chooi

    things that i really love about sense is the calendar widget ! and the smart dial it is so good ! And we the option we can manually select the facebook sync to contact which is awesome compare to facebook sync.

    the launcher part yes i do agree , improvement or at least customizable short cut will be nice :)
    locking showing charging information just like in stock will be great ! :D

  • http://Website mario

    Used to have HTC desire and now have the nexus,I stiill prefer the Google experience, its cleaner, easier and not so many ways to get to one thing. The only thing I miss from HTC sense is the contacts app.

  • http://Website Giorgio

    You all love HTC sense ui even my wife Ho love iphone4 and my Cannelloni after just 2 weeks with her using my HTC Evo and me using her iphone4 as it end like that I missed my Evo too much that I stopped cooking for her and she wanted my HTC Evo to stay with her even if I don’t make the Cannelloni for her any more so she ask me to sell the iPhone and get me get her a white HTC Evo and I did past 3 month and I asked her would you won’t the iphone5 when come out she said no only if they made the iphone5 an HTC Evo. End of the story ciao fratelli del mondo

    • http://Website ACR

      Sounds like a story Richard would make up

  • masterpfa

    My introduction to Android was via the HTC Hero and Sense. As most wanted a change and for a period enjoyed the Vanilla flavouring. Since then having got myself a Nexus 1 I believed my choice had been justified with the stock experience, but that has been changed for me at least with the acquisition of my Desire HD and sense 2.0, which IMHO has most of the feature’s, that have since been introduced with Gingerbread.

    I agree with the OP Sense is not perfect but with sense 2.0 it’s D**N well near it.

  • Omer

    I totally agree with you on this. The other day I was using my aunt’s Htc desire HD and was totally irked by the PC connection prompt and browser short cut. Also I looked around for the battery charge percentage and gave up without finding it.

    HTC you need to listen to this please.

    For the record I use a Nexus One with Gingerbread on it and I love it to pieces.


  • http://Website Charlie

    I think you’re being a little bit nitpicky AND you haven’t checked out the phone too well.

    1. The percentage? I don’t think this REALLY that important. “There’s an app for that”. If Stock Android is so fantastic because it’s “minimalistic”, you should love this “feature”.

    2. I agree, they should ust make it a shortcut button or something. Even so, never really bothered me. I use it to just go through the apps. And I like the big phone button, I mean, it’s the ONE thing that should be huge on the PHONE. The phone button.

    3. HTC takes time to personally make the widgets, 66 of them apparently. And lots of widgets that are made by third parties, look very ugly compared to HTC’s version. How about Google not providing a music app with both a forward and a back button. Mind you I haven’t checked if they do have one now, but HTC was the first to do this. Something so logical, but hey “minimalistic” approach I guess.

    4. I hate that on Stock Android as soon as you want to do something else than mount the diskdrive, you have to dive into menus and start messing around with stuff. Just give me the options, I hate menus.

    5. The homepage configuration? This makes no sense whatsoever. Who is FORCING you to use the 7 screens?! If you want to use ONE, just use ONE. If you want to use THREE, if you want to use THREE. If you want to use FIVE, just use FIVE! I think you get the point? If you want to use 6 and 1/4, use 6 and 1/4. Further more you can pressthe home button which takes you to the center screen, there’s the helicopter view, by pinching. And I thought that when you press the home button two times it also gave you the helicopter view?

    I think sure there are things that could be improved. Some widgets are very big, I would like to see 1 row widgets too. And the choice of using Stock Android or Sense.

    PS. I don’t think you HAVE to view Phone Contacts seperate from the Messaging Contacts, theres a way to view both at the same time.

  • doochebag

    I hate the all white and black text message and email screens on htc sense android devices. Also the contacts list is black text on white background. Way too bright and a battery hog! How bout a little color or some contrast thats easier on the eyes. Like samsungs version… i have handcent on my htc and i have it set to black background with colored bubbles…good contrast and a battery saver, especially if you text alot.

  • Moosa Mahsoom

    i heard that htc sense 4.0 is coming to phones. it is said to be a revolutionary update. they say its even compatible with low-end phones such as HTC Wildfire S. I think it will probably be made for ICS. so, then htc phones get ICS. they should get Sense 4.0. HTC has already announced ICS for some of their phones. They said first wave. probably, the low-end phones should recieve ICS.

  • Franz

    I would like to see the YEAR in the HTC Clock widget. This widget does not respect the date format!!