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In a post on HTC's Blog, Assistant Vice President of User Experience Drew Bamford elaborated on a few topics centered around the experience of HTC Sense. In its fifth official version, Sense 5 takes on the company's most "radical shift in user experience design since introducing Sense in 2009." Among the obvious changes including BlinkFeed, BoomSound and Zoe, it's also apparent that HTC is pushing their marketing, too. In the process, the entire mentality behind the inner workings of Sense has changed for the greater good and the average consumer. But at what sacrifice?

Bamford claims he and his team took a step back and a "fresh look at the overall customer experience" which is very nice to hear. To say HTC's Sense was becoming less about the user and more about the evolution of their Android skin was widely accepted, even admitted by Bamford in this blog post.

Sense was one of the first Android overlays which unanimously improved the user experience. The HTC Hero of 2009 was their first Android-powered smartphone to wear the HTC's sensible suit.

Fast forward four years and HTC has conducted some research to "dramatically reinvent HTC Sense." Among the research, there were three consistent patterns which HTC claims mimic the vast majority of consumers using their products.

The first trend was the fact that "most people don't' differentiate between apps and widgets" despite having the option. Android's latest version has the option to resize widgets, but we have not always had this luxury. Back in the first iterations of Sense, the ability to have different size widgets on our homescreens was a major selling point of HTC's Sense. These days, the vast majority of Google widgets and most third-party applications offer the ability to resize them on-the-fly. This is no doubt a catalyst in Bamford's findings.

The second pattern which emerged during Bamford's observation was that "widgets aren't widely used" according to his research. Before you whip out your new HTC DROID DNA, or HTC One - Hey, where'd you get that from? - you have to take a step back and think about the functionality of certain widgets as compared to the rest of them. I'm inclined to believe HTC when they claim that the weather, clock and music widgets are the most widely used, and that fewer than 10% of customers use anything else.

One of the main strong suits of Android has always been the ability to customize any home screen with a widget. It has always been an option…an option. Essentially, Google has found value by empowering the user to customize their experience with an array of different widgets. And this has not changed in any version of Android, nor has it changed with HTC Sense. We still have the option. HTC is simply acknowledging user patterns and trends to improve their UI for the masses.

The last trend observed by HTC under the direction of Bamford was that most consumers don't even modify their home screens. They claim that after just one month of use, approximately 80% of us don't change the layout of home screens.

Is this true? Personally, that's a defiant "no" from me! However, I'm an editor for a  prestigious website in the realm of smartphone news and opinion articles, and I know I'm not the majority. What HTC has essentially done to act upon their research is implement BlinkFeed. BlinkFeed takes up just one screen of your smartphone, and you're never more than a swipe away from the traditional Android home screen. In practice, Sense 5 aims to compile user-tailored news and social media into one Flipboard-esque vertical windowpane. It looks to be a valuable addition to Sense for anyone who enjoys following any news, or social media outlets.

Reading through the rest of Drew Bamford's HTC Blog post, I noticed his primary areas of improving Sense center around social media and the way the latest generation of HTC's customers "consume information." Though it is practically an undeniable truth that smartphones are used to consume rather than produce, an idea harbored by Apple's iPad, I'm beginning to feel locked-down by the direction Sense is heading.

Even if HTC offers HTCDev.com to unlock bootloaders, it seems HTC is trying to direct Sense at a specific set of customers. We've seen manufacturers address the needs of consumers in one space or another for the better part of Android's entire existence. And where Android in its early years has not fulfilled the utility we required of our devices, manufacturers have thrown countless amounts of capital into research and development for software improvements.

In 2013, I believe we are beginning to see the result of this research. It's clear that Android is a highly customizable platform, whilst remaining as open-source as Google allows it without completely fragmenting device markets. Yet, manufacturers are trending towards pleasing the average consumer as opposed to those interested in using HTC's devices as platforms for development.

It's no secret that HTC has had one of the strongest developer communities ever to stroke the Android arena. But where we have seen an evolution of Sense, HTC has also veered away from the priorities of their developer community.

It's important to understand where HTC is coming from. Their user-base is tailored. HTC devices are sold with locked bootloaders, and S-On (security on) preventing anyone from gaining complete root access to the inner workings of Android's kernel and system settings. It's been more of a reaction to the average consumer's priorities, rather than a precaution against modifying HTC's smartphones.

The vocal minority has blown the implications of a locked bootloader and S-On out of proportion and I believe HTC's method of "locking down" Sense does indeed reflect a desire to please the greater good.

Is it for the greater good? Yes, but Sense is only what you make of it, and while I believe HTC has a hit with the One and Sense 5, I'm starting to feel cornered. Like a fruit in the fridge. Like something red. Like an afterthought and a number in HTC's vast collection of research.

How do you feel about HTC's belief that consumers don't modify their home screens, use widgets, or differentiate between apps and widgets? Is Sense finally starting to appease to the average consumer without sacrificing fluidity in Sense 5? Are you interested in this focused and trending reaction to the average consumer's needs? Let me know what sense you make of it all in the comments below! Thanks for reading, Mr. and Mrs. Reader!

Image via Droid-Life and Engadgetandroid.


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Comments & discussions  

44 Reactions to this post

"Are you a fan of HTC's Android overlay, Sense 5?"


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Kristoff Lewandowski
Kristoff Lewandowski I prefer live tiles!
Jakob Novak
Jakob Novak yes :)
Michael A. Lococo
Michael A. Lococo Niope!
Jeff Seaver
Jeff Seaver Yes
Lee Jack
Lee Jack Nick guerrero g : u still can have widgets as usual android
Nick Guerrero G
Nick Guerrero G I have the one x but not a fan of the new m7 one. If I wanted a windows/iPhone I would go and buy. The widgets is the reason I like android. Dont see myself with HTC much longer.
Ernest Marvin Esteban
Ernest Marvin Esteban I really like it. I love the cleanliness and the blinkfeed feature
Aries Bautista
Aries Bautista I have to wait for the S4 first.
Matt Pankey
Matt Pankey I'll know when I actually use it. SMH
Kenneth Maneeley
Kenneth Maneeley I think it is new and very innovative! Can't wait to try it one day!
Ken Rowe
Ken Rowe Sounds a lot like HTC is heading down the road of Windows Phone. Widgets are unnecessary.
Mark Belkowski
Mark Belkowski I use maybe 3 widgets with apex. Any htc I owned was rooted and I debloated it including removing sense. Apex launcher all the way.
Vladimir Conrado
Vladimir Conrado Don't like it.
Angel Hernandez
Angel Hernandez Always have loved sense since 2.1 on the og evo. Gonna love sense 5!
Márk Domoszlai
Márk Domoszlai no
Flako Ramirez
Flako Ramirez Nah
Bo Abe Vorachack
Bo Abe Vorachack I dont even bother with widgets on my note 2 or one x plus.
Veanguithya Bay Phou
Veanguithya Bay Phou Coming from a HTC user when the g1 first came out n introduced android to now sense 5.0, it looks very good. They made everything simple and clean while being fresh. Thumbs up HTC!!!!!!
Tyler Hell
Tyler Hell I would have to use it to know.
Mark Carruthers
Mark Carruthers No
Jason Ramos
Jason Ramos Nope
Ivan Osuna
Ivan Osuna touchwiz or stock fan here
Mark Kornak
Mark Kornak No, like the Google Nexus phones. You could grow and die waiting for updates from HTC and Smsung.
BG Michael
BG Michael lg is the best!
Alexander Rojas
Alexander Rojas I love their UI, only reason I own a nexus is for updates, but I'm thinking of buying the HTC one.
Warren Saunders
Warren Saunders Sense is the best overlay of any manufacturer!
Enes Nadir Çomoglu
Enes Nadir Çomoglu Nothing beats Vanilla Android. You here me? Nothing!
Ray Sital
Ray Sital Nice article. I think this is a good direction for HTC, most people don't care if bootloaders are locked down.
Mark Belkowski
Mark Belkowski No, sense is a resource hog. I'll never buy another htc.
Lucas Crutchfield
Lucas Crutchfield I'd like to say... that i use the hell out of the widgets on my phone
Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis I've already pre registered for that HTC 1 that's coming out soon as it hits the streets I got mine I'm stoked about this awesome piece of technology I'll be upgrading from HTC 1 + to the HTC One :-).
Ernesto Moreno
Ernesto Moreno I like the version before 5. I think it was 4.5. I also like the new touchwiz. I dislike motoblur though. I love widgets though
Kevin Joel
Kevin Joel I just prefer live tiles on Windows Phone...
Eric Dodds
Eric Dodds Yep
Alex Miller
Alex Miller Never liked Sense. Vanilla Android <3
Felipe Gonzalez
Felipe Gonzalez Don't care for sense. When I saw the new HTC one I just wanted to load nova launcher on it asap.
John Begay
John Begay No
Steve Bachman
Steve Bachman Why are most hating on this when they haven't even tried it yet. I think it looks like it could have possibilities
Malissa Allison
Malissa Allison One of the reason I have an android phone, I like widgets and use them!
Zanzi Ok
Zanzi Ok No
George Millhouse
George Millhouse Don't tell me what i do and don't do with my phone. I hate sense
Steve Hartsock
Steve Hartsock No.
Elijah F. Acevedo
Elijah F. Acevedo Is this a pun?
Jesse Ling
Jesse Ling Pffft.Yeah right.We DO use widgets but everybody uses their own in their own layout.




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