Is HTC worried about fragmenting their Sense UI?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| August 25, 2011

Android’s always faced an uphill battle since its release, but the little green ‘droid has managed to do pretty well for itself since then. Android is everywhere, and it’s become a household name. There are many reasons as to why Android has become so popular since its debut, and depending on who you ask it may come down to one detail, or a whole slew of things. But, I think HTC has played a major role in Android’s dominance. And, while we can ask if HTC is still the king of the mobile platform, I’m actually asking a different question now: is HTC fragmenting their proprietary Sense UI?

Truthfully, I think HTC, and more specifically, their Sense UI, is one of the major points for Android’s success. Since the launch of the original HTC Hero, Sense has managed to get better and better, and it is certainly a selling point for some of the most popular devices on the market. Right now, the major release number for Sense is 3.0, and with the major milestone comes plenty of improvements from previous versions. The newest Sense UI is a great way to entertain your eyes, and the new lockscreen is a visual feast while also being plenty productive. But, Sense 3.0 looks to be on the way out, if these leaks of Sense 3.5 are to be believed.

Actually, that’s not necessarily true. Sense 3.0 isn’t being put to pasture by any means; after all, it’s availability on high-end devices like the HTC Sensation 4G and HTC EVO 3D makes it worthwhile and relevant to the current market. But obviously HTC needs to keep moving forward, so while 3.0 may not be getting put out to pasture, it does seem like its time in the lime light is already fading out. It may help that the HTC Bliss isn’t necessarily an official device quite yet, as Verizon hasn’t come forward and unveiled the device. But, we know how things work, and the phone will probably just become available one day, without any real warning for the consumer.

When the HTC ThunderBolt launched, Sense UI wasn’t one of the striking points. Sure, it had the latest version of Sense under the hood, making the stock Android experience look all dark and rounded, but it wasn’t full of brand new features like 3.0 would be. But, while that may be the case, the ThunderBolt was already upstaged by the release of the HTC DROID Incredible 2, which had the latest version of HTC Sense UI. The changes weren’t huge, but things like a redesigned app drawer, as well as some minor changes to the aesthetics, would make anyone notice right off the bat between the two devices.

And now, despite the ThunderBolt and DROID Incredible 2 still very much for sale on Verizon’s network, we’re now seeing that the HTC Bliss will launch, and with it will come Sense 3.5. What makes this even stranger is the fact that Verizon doesn’t even have a device that has Sense 3.0 on it at the moment. That’s quite a jump from what’s available now. But, hey, if you’re going to upgrade, you might as well make it the latest and greatest, right? Frankly, it seems to me that HTC’s making it harder and harder for already released devices to get update to the latest version of Sense UI, and that’s a big deal, especially for those who know they’ve got an older version.

No, this isn’t as big a deal as, say, Android’s fragmentation. Obviously you can still use applications and what not as long as your version of Android is supported. But, what it says to me is that HTC needs to try harder to support devices that are already released. There’s no denying that HTC does a great job with updating their devices with the latest version of Android, especially when we compare to some of the other major manufacturers out there. But how is it that their proprietary user interface gets left out of the updating process? Doesn’t make any sense. Hardware requirements aside, especially for devices like the HTC ThunderBolt and HTC DROID Incredible 2, it seems that HTC would want to promote the latest version of their UI, so people enjoy it and talk about it.