Gingerbread UI Improvements Won’t Necessarily Mean an End to HTC Sense



A chief complaint issued by many opponents to Android is what some might call a bland and uninspired user interface. While many (myself included) would live and die by the stock UI, Google has made it clear that they plan to revamp the existing look and feel of Android to make it a bit more friendly to the end user while maintaining all the killer features that have come to make the OS a huge success. In the mean time almost all of the big Android manufacturer’s have taken it upon themselves to develop their own UI skins for their devices. And while huge strides have been made in those custom interfaces, one hope of an improved stock implementation would be to eliminate the need for them, creating faster device update schedules as an effect.

But at least in the case of HTC Sense, one of the more popular UI customizations, the changes in Gingerbread won’t mean the end of the interface found on such devices as the EVO 4G and Droid Incredible, at least according to design team lead Drew Bamford. In a discussion with Forbes he had the following to say:

“Google may focus more on improving the user interface on the stock Android [software], but I don’t think they’ll preclude manufacturer customization.”

Love it or hate it, looks like Sense won’t be gone any time soon. That might not be such a bad thing provided HTC finds a way to more quickly update device software, but as it stands with their current model the devices they deemed worthy of Android 2.2 might not even be seeing it until after Android 3.0 is announced. That sort of lag just doesn’t cut it, and a truly great interface from Google will eliminate the need for such a delay as custom UIs are prepared around new code. Granted, we can’t say for sure which decision is the right one until we have a better idea of what the improvements in Android 3.0 will look like.

[via Droid-Life]

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  1. I like Sense and love the Vanilla UI. All I want is options, let me take disable Sense if I want. I mean REALLY disable it, not hide it so I end up with 2 heavy processes running.

  2. The most key thing the Android UI needs to bring it up to par is GPU acceleration. Once the UI and scrolling becomes smoother and hardware accelerated then the iphone wont have anything on Android.

  3. This is kinda a no-brainer to me. Even if Google does make a much better UI, I don’t see why that would put an end to custom UIs. The custom UIs allow each company to diversify themselves and focus on what they want…I don’t see them giving that up. This is one of the double edge swords of Android and Open Source

  4. i really never want a phone that has anything other than vanilla android. its one of the reasons i went nexus

  5. Just get rid of the customized UI’s. Offer them as options but don’t leave us with no options!

  6. Someone has to be out there with new ideas. What’s the point of an open source OS if there’s no innovation? HTC should innovate Sense because it is their passion but it shouldn’t be necessary for *every* OEM to come with a custom UI.

  7. I think when the stock version is out they should just right away release a vanilla 2.x or 3.x or whereever its at for the phone and then once they have sense tied into it all, release that. and if they want to make sure all their phones are the same then push the update out and make it mandatory for the phone to be able to connect to a network or something how with the PS3 if you arent gonna run the newest version of the OS, then you arent gonna get on the playstation network…

  8. M Incredible doesn’t look like that one….

  9. I’m with Bigmerf, Vanilla works fine for me. My only complaint about it is a small one, I would prefer a black notification bar instead of the white one.
    Other than that, are they serious about it being bland? The iPhone is bland on every level and I don’t hear complaints about it, other than from die hard Android users ribbing Apple.

  10. My*

  11. I don’t understand why these custom UIs can’t just be pre-installed home replacer apps like Launcher Pro that you can enable or disable as you please. It seems like that sort of development would make updating faster and easier anyways.

  12. I wish that HTC would just give you the choice to use sense or not, like on diamond that i used to have, im now an evo owner and would like the choice to choose between the two.

  13. Don’t mind all these UI’s, but I do wish they would give us the ability to turn off these UI’s. Choice is good.

  14. I was disappointed when i found out that i couldn’t turn off” motoblur” on my droid x.! Seriously the ugliest bloat i haveever seen! HTCs sense is nice and very functional. I sideloaded launcher pro plus, now my DX is sexy! Stock is great! It would be awesome if HTC would put sense on the market. Id pay ten or fifteen dollars to own the UI that was on my evo and be able to turn it off whenever i wanted.

  15. People will have to vote with their wallets. If Gingerbread is good, then Sense will appeal less to people, and they would then rather have faster OS update instead.

    The cliche fact of the matter is that the average consumer won’t know or care about any of this. They will go out and buy the Incredible 2 and the EVO 2 and won’t know that they won’t be seeing quick updates to Android due to Sense.

    But the more knowledgeable folks will take a look at Gingerbread and if they feel it’s flashy enough for them, they will only go for phones with stock Android.

  16. Lots of people will go for the custom UI over specs. Look at xperia by SonyEricsson. Android 1.6, no multitouch and it is selling very nicely.

  17. I personally love HTC Sense, and it was actually the final nail in the coffin to move to Sprint with the EVO instead of getting the Droid X. I don’t care for the stock Android UI all too much, and like Blur even less.

  18. I’m with Aeires, I want a black notification bar too that’s why I’m using ADW launcher to hide it. other than that I prefer vanilla Android on my Nexus One.

  19. Yea. What’s up with that all black dinc?

  20. With the Nexus gone, is the original droid (and hopefully it’s successor) the only phone left running straight, plain vanilla android? You’d think the success of the OG Droid would send a signal about people’s feelings toward the supposedly lack-luster plain-vanilla, and yet I can’t think of a single phone (other than the possible aforementioned Droid 2) packing plain vanilla. It’s a little disappointing.

  21. I have an Incredible and moved to it from the MyTouch. I like elements of both but hands down stock is better for me. I am waiting for the day when CM6 works fully on my phone.

  22. Manufacturer customization has more to do with them trying to differentiate their offerings rather than them trying to “fix” shortcomings of the stock ui.

    Nothing gingerbread brings to the table will obviate the need for that.

  23. @Alex I’m with you. I do not understand why these customizations run so deep. They should all be apps as the API’s allow you to go so deep with them. What Google really needs to do is actually take a page from Gnome (just using them because of the great number of themes that can be found) and allow customization of widget sets and what not in a way thats isolated from the OS. That way the manufacturers and third parties can produce themes right down to the widgets that people can use. It would also allow the customized widgets to work across the entire OS and all third party apps unless they define their own styling. So you could write an app and on Sense it looks like Sense…on Blur 2 or whatever it looks like Blur etc. All you do is define the same buttons and other widgets and leave off any styling. But from the sounds of it this won’t be happening in Gingerbread.

  24. Personally I find Sense the kind of interface that you can get really tired of, and I have. Before Sense there was HTCs Touch 3D interface, which was pretty much the same clock, weather, and colouring. It was necessary in the WinMo environment to make WinMo 6.0 and 6.5 a lot more finger friendly. Thats a moot point with modern android.

    It would be nice if manufacturers allowed you to use their widgets in vanilla home screens.


  25. Since the Nexus One is no longer sold, which phone is going to have stock UI? No phone?

  26. Release the phone with Stock Android and put the customization UI in Google Market for Free!

  27. Seriously – there is an app need for you. For those of us who don’t want to root our phones, maybe an app can be created that would disable a skin like “sense” or “motoblur” and just leave the vanilla Android?

  28. “In fact, Bamford is full of ideas on how to improve Sense by adding new experiences and evolving others. The current version of the software is people-centric, emphasizing the aggregation of social feeds and photos of people deemed important to users. In the future, Sense will also make discovering and sharing media–music, video, mobile applications and books–easier, says Bamford.”

    Sort of like the Flock browser but applied to the UI

  29. I only heard one smart comment here by @NoShftShck16 “I like Sense and love the Vanilla UI. All I want is options, let me take disable Sense if I want. I mean REALLY disable it, not hide it so I end up with 2 heavy processes running”–Some on here even stated if Apple only has one UI, why cant Android -?- People want choice thats why Android is excelling they want UI’s or they wouldn’t be selling like cupcakes, but the ability to disable the manufacturers UI would be great!!!

  30. If it is built into the Android UI source code, it would be impossible to disable it.

  31. Why don’t they make Sense a home alternative like the various others available on the market? Then it wouldn’t get in the way.

  32. eye candy is always a plus

  33. – no red earpiece
    – different VZW logo
    – bigger area below the screen
    …are you sure that’s an Incredible?

    also: I really enjoyed the stock UI…until the first time I stumbled across a screen shot of LauncherPro.

  34. I understand that there has been a lot hope Gingerbread would end the need for service provider GUI “enhancements.” Clearly this is wishful thinking.

    I don’t like the enhancements either, but why would the prociders stop? They want their devices to stand out from all the other devices and modifying the GUI is the clearest way to do it.

  35. I only ran my evo with a non sense rom for a few days with ADW. the rest of the time I had sense, so not much experience with vanilla, but doesnt sense change almost EVERYthing about the phone? contacts, messaging, dialer, app tray, etc…?

    so its alot more than just a home replacement like ADW or launcher pro.

  36. If Android comes out with a super cool UI then why would anyone take the risk that they might crap it up? The problem is that stock Android UI currently doesn’t look so great so everyone thinks they can do a better job.

  37. Windows Mobile lets you switch between the 6.5 Base look and HTC Sense…Google should do the same

  38. windows mobile is a closed source OS but apparently HTC went much deeper with Android.

  39. But could the providers release a phone here and there that just has the stock UI. Can we request a Stock UI phone?? I love the hardware the manufacturers create, but it is annoying that we don’t have a choice in the bloatware that goes on it. A plus to the Motorola Droid sold so well is most likely the Stock UI.

  40. It wouldn’t be so bad if these custom manufacturer UI’s were just home replacements but no, they have to build it INTO Android, so when Android gets updated, they have to rebuild itiIy NTO Android, which they cant seem to do in a timely fashion. Makes me wonder how devs on XDA can do it so much faster (despite the fact that they leave bugs due to missing drivers, which really begs the question when they companies have them).

  41. Sense sucks ass big time…Android is fine all by itself, nobody asked for that crap!

  42. I have to say Motorola did it right with Droid “X” and the “it’s not really Motoblur” UI. For every missing feature or gap in Android 2.1, Motorola seemed to fill it. All without being overbearing or in your face. I can’t say the same for Sense UI. I’ve used other HTC phones under Android including the EVO 4G and it’s way too overbearing and overpowering. I don’t want HTC to change the experience that much.

  43. Launcher pro or ADW.Launcher are much better than Sense, IMO.

  44. ADW FTW

  45. I was helping a friend set some stuff up on his Droid X & stuff didn’t work like my DInc & I wasn’t a fan. Then I realized that it wad Sense I’d become accustomed to. I dunno, I kinda like it. I think it’s pretty.

  46. Google should make it mandatory for manufacturers to offer the stock UI as an option along with the custom UI.

  47. I think they should do it how they did with the evo. Allow a choice between stock android and custom UIs I enjoyed stock android for the little time i had it on the evo. But now switch between sense and ADW launcher.

  48. if google stops other OEMs from adding/improving/modifying they become no different from WP7.

  49. but I also some OEMs release vanilla android phone.

  50. @Lactose_The_Intolerant The phone in the post isn’t an Incredible…is it? I also notice four little directional arrows on the optical trackpad. I don’t get it…why would phandroid put that up?

  51. Is there any way they could put their UI’s as a download in the Google market place?

  52. Why can’t they just make those UI as a home replacement apps?
    I mean, made SENSE available on the market ONLY FOR HTC DEVICES. I know they can do it (and all other manufacturers, too).

    Been wondering ’bout this for a while :P

  53. Custom ui’s suck. Gingerbread should focus on gpu acceleration and blackberry style email and basically blackberry level customization. Screw the iPhone crowd, froyo is already a good enough competitor to iPhone, time to focus on the business crowd.

  54. I’m fine with the manufacturers having custom UIs. That’s another part of what makes their phones stand out from everyone elses. I like sence.

    HOWEVER, stop removing Launcher from the roms. Leave it alone and allow us to choose which we would like as default launcher.

    It’s really that simple.

  55. Sense*

  56. If there weren’t so many fragmentation issues, we’d have less people wanting to root their phones.

  57. it would be perfect if Google could buy the Sense licence from HTC and use it massively(!) in Android OS, so that’s -more or less- already what Google trying to do..

  58. I like Sense and like the stock feel of Android as well. It would be really nice if the themes were inherent to the OS to change and turn off, so you could run custom themes or stock themes and change them from a menu. This is one thing blackberry does well at.

  59. So the guy at HTC in charge of Sense thinks he won’t be fired in 6 months… what a scoop!

  60. Hope Google inspires of HTC Sense while developing a native UI for their/our beloved Android OS. As a HTC Desire owner I am very happy with the Sense and cannot imagine without its lovely flip clock widget with weather & fullscreen animations as well as 4×1 calendar widget (using both of them on my center homescreen). Have seen Samsung’s new touch-wizz 3.0 on Galaxy S, did not like it at all. Just the apps drawer on it seems better but sounds like it’s been copied from iPhone.

  61. Custom UI sucks. It just add another excuse to delay OS update for device; and then tell customers to just buy new device because they don’t want to bother giving updates that doesn’t generate new sales.

  62. I am really enjoying Froyo on my Nexus One. It is fast, flexible, and looks good. I’m saddened by 2 things:
    (1) many of you have never used/seen Froyo; and
    (2) the chance that, after this phone becomes obsolete, there wont be a replacement for me that has “only” the stock you without doing a root.
    Please, Google, give us a Nexus 2!
    For me it would be like a Samsung Galaxy (Hummingbird & 4″ AMOLED) but with higher build quality, front cam, flash on back, and better speaker; make it two :)

  63. Good point whoever brought up the point, once the Droid 1 is gone, it will be the last vanilla Android.

    I don’t really know what Google can do, the bottom line is these manufacturers are looking for an identity, that’s why HTC goes after the flip clock clones, they want that to be established with their brand. They want it so the next device the customer might lean to getting Sense.

    I also think these manufacturers obviously don’t think that advertising as Android is mainstream enough, so they can get away with this, the average user hasn’t ever used Android. As Android as a brand grows, the general population might dislike skins. Think of it has if Sony decided to go ahead and skin up Windows, people would not go for it. On the other side it would be ok to put a utility, maybe some widgets, exclusive apps.

    If the vanilla in 3.0 is better, will the general consumer even know about it if there aren’t more phones that are going to ship vanilla? Hell the only phone that seems to be sure it’s going to get a 3.0 upgrade is likely the Nexus One, wouldn’t shock me to not see the Droid get it.

  64. You know, its funny. I absolutely hate the custom UIs that manufacturers slap on android. They’re sluggish, unnecessary, and more often than not, hideously ugly to the point where one might actually consider not buying the device at all because of it (moto blur).

    That said, I love sense and could not imagine android without it. It’s beautiful, smooth, and it’s widgets are iconic enough to constantly get mimicked by other developers (flip clock).

    I would love nothing more than dell, motorola, and samsung’s misguided attempts at “fixing” android to be locked away in a chest and tossed to the bottom of the sea, but if sense were discontinued, the mobile world would have lost something.

  65. i think a nexus 2 on all carriers would be a big seller sort of how samsung is having the galaxy s on all carriers. I know i wanted a nexus one but was unable to because they cancelled it for verizon.

  66. Well, this article along with all these legitimate concerns about custom roms and vanilla Android is the reason I will not hop out of my Nexus One any time soon. Just think everyone here has made the case (unintentionally) that Nexus arguably still is the best Android phone on the market. The validation of this claim by me is simply broken down in two– PROMPT UPDATES AND VANILLA UI.

  67. I think Google should focus more on the “Multimedia” department like the stock Music Player, rather than the UI which looks FINE imo (meaning Vanilla UI froyo v2.2)!

  68. Sense makes android useable… Sense helps sell Android. I know a lot of people who would not have bought a Android phone if it only had the “Vanilla UI”. They saw the Sense UI on other phones, on commercials and in the store that is what drew them to Android. Google will not and cannot fix the UI enough to make it as useable as Sense is, they have no imagination. Just look at everything they make, it is boring and devoid of any style whatsoever.

  69. U can turn off the sense on the HTC Evo just go to settings, then applications, then running applications, go down to HTC sense the force stop it. Bam no more sense. Happy now.

  70. Damnit I ment manage applications not running applications sorry.

  71. that only causes sense ui to restart. as soon as you go back to the home screen, sense restarts.

  72. HTC Sense is simply an Awesome UI, but I hope they improve the look of it even more on Gingerbread to be on par with the new android stock UI.

  73. Sense can DIAF. It’s worse that stock at every turn. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time working around the annoyances that Sense adds to Android.


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