Product Type: HTC Smartphone
Newest Review: ... but the main ones that come with the phone make life so much easier. Thanks to HTC Sense built in, customising your home screen is as eas... more
Confessions of a Smartphone Virgin....
Member Name: loopy-lou33
Advantages: Does just about everything!
Disadvantages: Youtube is a bit hit and miss.
Would the opportunity to test the magnificent new HTC smartphone, the Sensation, for two weeks change my opinion? Or would I be grateful to return to the simple life after the testing period was over? Find out as you read on.....
*Opening the Box...*
I can't lie. I was bouncing around the room in avid anticipation when my phone arrived, and couldn't wait to get it out of the box and up and running. On lifting the lid, I got my first look at the phone and I must admit that even switched off, lying in the box, it looked very striking. The touchscreen was huge and dominated the glossy black phone, which also had a small speaker at the top and four discreet buttons at the bottom.
Picking up the phone, it seemed a lot bigger than my current phone, which fits neatly into my palm, but was not uncomfortable or awkward to hold. The phone had some weight to it and was a little heavier than I had imagined, which seemed to reflect the high quality of the item. Previous phones I have owned have been quite lightweight and made of cheap plastic, but the HTC has a reassuring weightiness to it and the contoured glass screen and smooth aluminium unibody casing gave me a favourable first impression.
Turning the phone over, I got a better look at the casing, which I expected to feel cold and metallic, but was actually very smooth and very slightly rubbery to the touch, which made it really comfortable in my hand. On the back of the phone I could see the camera lens as well as the two powerful tiny LED's that can be used as a flash in the camera function or as extra light when filming video in poorly lit locations.
Then it was a case of opening up the phone and inserting the battery and sim, which I must admit, I was slightly nervous about, as I always find this to be quite a hit and miss process, depending on the phone. Luckily, opening the HTC was surprisingly simple, as I just pushed my fingernail into the narrow gap at the bottom of the phone and slid it open with ease. The phone looked really complicated inside, a bit like a computer, but inserting the battery and sim was very easy. I also noticed that there was an 8GB micro SD card already inserted inside the phone, so I would have no worries about running out of memory.
The phone could be charged in one of two ways. The USB cable included with the phone could connect the phone straight to my PC and charge it from there. Alternatively, I could slot the USB cable into the adaptor supplied, which converted it into a regular charger which I could plug straight into the wall. There is a small light on the phone which glows when the phone is charging. It glows from amber to green as it charges, so you can see at a glance when the phone is ready for use.
*Time to Turn it on!*
Switching the phone on was another really exciting moment for me, as I really did not know what to expect and felt slightly intimidated! A light press on the silver button at the top of the phone caused it to whirr into life in a rainbow of colour. *Gasp*
The main menu screen has a rainbow background, which is a way of the HTC showing off its spectacular screen resolution. The colours are sharp and vivid and the whole experience immersive. The initial setup process of the phone was really straightforward, with each screen guiding me gently though each step of the process, such as importing my contacts, setting up my google account and personalising the phone to my personal taste. I was up and running in no time and keen to explore everything that the phone had to offer!
I soon discovered that the main menu screen was part of a "carousel" of seven screens, set up a bit like a revolving door. I could swipe my finger horizontally across the touchscreen to access the other screens, which included, in addition to the main menu, a contacts list, location information, a blank screen to fill with your most well used apps, a weather screen with 4 day forecast for your area, text message screen and "Friend Stream", which keeps you up to date with the latest activity on your social networks. As well as revolving through these screens, I can access them all at once my making a pinching motion on the touchscreen, which brings all of the screens up on one page. The phone offers a variety of ways to customise the main menu pages to your own style, including using your own photos as a background.
Also of note is the innovative lockscreen. When the phone has been idle for a while, the screen blacks out to save power and when you press the power button, you come to the lockscreen. The screen has four icons in place, which you can change to your preferred options. The default apps are phone, mail, camera and messages. You can then use your finger to drag your preferred app into the silver ring at the bottom of the screen, or alternatively, drag the ring upwards which causes it to expand and open the main menu screen. Again, this is a vast improvement on other phones I have used in the past, which either have a locking system like Fort Knox, or no locking system at all, which means I can hear my bag beeping a lot as I walk! No such problem with the HTC.
*Playing With My Apps*
I was like a kid in a candy store, and faced with a huge pile of apps to choose from, I didn't know what to look at first. There seemed to be so many options: Have a browse at what was new in the android market? Listen to some music? Watch a video? Use the internet? There seemed to me too much choice! So I tried out the internet first, to see how it compared with the broadband on my PC.
The internet was really easy to use and it was just a case of getting used to the touchscreen as opposed to having a keyboard, like I am used to. By touching a box, I could input text by means of a small keyboard that appeared at the bottom of the screen. At first, I found the buttons a little fiddly, but then realised that if I turned the phone onto its side to "landscape" mode, the keyboard became slightly larger and I could type better. Webpages were quite quick to load, but this did vary depending on the webpage. I really liked the way that the phone adapted the text on the page to fit the screen so that I did not need to keep scrolling across to read. It was easy to make text smaller or larger by pinching the screen, or expanding by fingers. One thing that took some getting used to was the lack of the red cross in the corner of the screen that I see in windows. This meant that I couldn't close internet pages like I am used to, but needed to go into the task manager option in the phone menu and manually close the internet. This was one of the areas, along with a few others, where I felt that maybe not enough information was provided with the phone and that users need a bit of basic technical knowledge to work out how things work. Luckily, HTC do have a comprehensive "how to" website, which answers a lot of basic questions about how to use the phone. The only website I had trouble with was youtube, which seemed to alternate between working really well or freezing up and taking ages to load. I wasn't sure whether this was a fault with the phone or the network.
Using the internet on PAYG, I soon noticed that my credit was going down very quickly indeed! I managed to contact my network and convert to a plan which included free data, which meant that I could browse without worrying about cost. You can also hook the phone up to your PC and access internet directly via the PC through the phone for free if you have no data plan.
It was simple to access my email on the phone, which allowed me to view all of my email accounts in one place via the icon on the main screen. It also told me when I had a new email.
The next thing I looked at was the Android market, which had a link on the main menu screen. I had heard a lot about apps, and was very keen to try a few out, particularly Angry Birds, which I had read a lot of reviews about and was free on Android. Downloading apps was very easy, and just involved touching a button to allow permission to download. The app was then included in the main phone menu once installed and by holding my finger on the icon, I could transfer it to one of the startup screens for easy access. And yes. I was soon addicted to Angry Birds! I was soon downloading apps like a pro, and managed to get quite a few free games installed, as well as a barcode scanner and a voice app for the Satnav, which I will mention shortly.
Camera and Video was an option that I just HAD to have a play with. The phone has an amazing 8 mega pixel camera, which is the same as my digital camera at home. There were lots of photo options, including fun filters and other ways to tinker with your pictures to make them look really professional. The video, likewise, was very easy to setup and use, with a variety of editing options during and after the filming process, and ability to film in HD. The pictures and video were sharp and very high quality, with endless options post production, including uploading your creation straight to Youtube.
The phone has top quality sound, with further options, such as an equaliser to tailor the sound to your exact specifications. The phone has several songs included, which sound great through the speakers, but even better through the headphones supplied, with fantastic clarity, which immerses the listener in the music. I was a bit disappointed that the inbuilt radio did not work properly, but managed to install a free radio app from android market which allowed me to listen to all the major radio stations through the phone speakers. I do love my music. The phone also has an installed app called Soundhound, which allows you to sing or hum a song, or hold it by the radio and the phone will identify the song, call up the lyrics and allow you to buy the song on Amazon, worth it just for the fun of singing into the phone and seeing if it can identify the song!
The Satnav, was a big bonus for me, as we have never used a Satnav before, preferring to rely on old fashioned paper maps! We had a wedding to go to in a small village in Stoke on Trent, so I decided to put the Satnav through its paces and get us there. The application was easy to use, though the voice option could not understand my voice and I had to resort to typing in the destination. The app gave clear instructions, as well as excellent birds eye and street view maps and an estimate of how long it will take to get there. We got to the wedding in one piece, I'm happy to say, although my only criticism was that with three noisy kids in the car, the phone sound could have been a bit louder.
Another great discovery that I made on the phone, was the e-reader app that was included, as well as the good selection of pre installed e-books, which included Alice in Wonderland, Dracula and Jane Eyre, to mention but a few. I had never used an e-reader before, but really enjoyed the experience, and even took it to bed with me! The e-reader had various text sizes and a book mark included.
HTC really know how to show off the capabilities of their technology, and the two pre installed game apps, Dice and Teeter did just that. The games were very simple, but demonstrated very well just how sophisticated the phone is. In the dice game, you can throw different dice on varying surfaces. The feedback that you get from the phone is really incredible, as it feels as though there are real dice inside the phone. You can roll them around the screen and pick them up. It is really weird. Equally odd is the Teeter game, which requires you to roll a metal ball around a screen without dropping it into a hole. Again, the feedback is astounding-you can actually feel the weight of the virtual ball, as if there is a real ball inside the phone. It is SO realistic and just illustrated what this phone is potentially capable of when it comes to gaming.
Other "goodies" include turning the phone into a portable Wi-Fi spot, a handy memo function a flashlight and a calculator. The "Watch" function allows you to download and view pay-per-view movies on your phone, which can be viewed on a compatible TV or computer if you have the relevant technology. The fun weather app allows you to "hold" the weather in the palm of your hand, with realistic rain effects on screen as well as great sound effects.
The phone also has links to a bespoke website, which allows you a variety of ways to backup your phone and keep it safe. Registering the phone with the HTC website allows you to forward calls and messages to another number, or ring your phone to find it if is lost in the house, even if you have disabled the ringtone. The phone can be locked or wiped remotely and in the case of a lost phone, your PC can use the GPS signal to locate the phone, saving you a journey if you think the phone is in a restaurant on the other side of town, but it is in fact, just down the back of your setee!
*Oh Yes...It Is a Phone Too...*
I got so carried away with all the apps that I forgot that the HTC was a phone too. Yes. You can use it to call people and receive calls and texts.
Making calls is easy, as the main menu screen has a prominent phone icon at the bottom, which you touch to access a large buttoned keypad. If you have contacts saved, you can speak directly into the phone to call someone, or you can just be old fashioned and dial instead!
One thing I really liked about the phone function was that the sound was loud and clear. You can adjust the volume levels via a button at the side of the phone. Even in a crowded place, you would have no problem hearing the person on the other end of the phone.
Another big plus about the phone function, was the fact that I could use it outdoors in bright sunlight. My current cheap phone is awful on a sunny day, as I cannot see what is on the screen, whereas the HTC is so bright that you can always see the screen clearly, whatever the weather.
Receiving calls is also easy, as the phone will ring loader and louder in your bag until you hear it and pick up. Again, this is a big bonus for me, as I never hear my phone when I am out.
The last 2 weeks with the HTC Sensation have certainly opened my eyes as to the options and possibilities available in the world of smartphones. This former smartphone virgin has been really impressed with the apps available on the phone, as well as the really high quality sound and viewing experience. In fact, other smartphones I have looked at since seem to have quite a grainy screen in comparison to the bright colours and high resolution of the Sensation.
During the two weeks, I have had a couple of glitches with the phone. One day, I lost all my sound, which I think was due to an app I had downloaded. After resetting the phone, pulling the battery and removing the app, the problem was gone and did not come back. Some people have complained about the battery life of the phone. Yes, it does use the battery up a lot quicker than your average phone, but if you charge the phone every night, it is not really an issue. I just had to change my routine from charging a phone once a week, to charging the HTC whenever it is not in use.
The plus points of the phone completely eclipse any downsides and this phone is incredibly fun to use. In fact, the phone is many things in one: A mini PC, a camera, camcorder, Satnav, calculator and TV, to mention but a few. I can summarise it best in the words of my brother, who sent me this email on my phone:
"Welcome to the Smartphone Revolution".
Summary: A phone that has changed my opinion...