Review: HTC Sensation superphone

4 Jun 2011

John Kennedy gets to try out the HTC Sensation phone. Do not call it a smartphone, it likes to be called a superphone. If there is one thing that stands out about the Sensation, it is the cinematic experience enabled by its wide screen and nifty dual-core processor.

The HTC Sensation lives up to its name. Before I got my hands on the Sensation I was happily working away with the Desire S. I’m a big fan of what HTC has done with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and it really comes down to the HTC Sense experience which makes other manufacturers, quite frankly, seem lazy.

You see, while some manufacturers just plonk the Google Android operating system on their devices, HTC creates a rounded experience from the actual design, materials and technology on the hardware to a superb job on integrating the operating system so it’s a fun experience for the user. The result is a HTC phone. Not a phone running Android, but a phone that is uniquely HTC.

The ‘cinematic’ superphone

You can tell HTC is chuffed with this creation: it calls the Sensation a ‘superphone’. That’s right, not a smartphone, a superphone. Vodafone, which will have the device exclusively until the end of June, is also chuffed and will use the new HTC Watch movie service as the lynchpin of a whole new mobile payments platform that allows users to pay for content like rented movies via their phone bills.

The most obvious thing you’ll notice about the Sensation is the size of its screen. The screen is a 4.3-inch qHD display that delivers high-resolution widescreen viewing. This is ideal for the simultaneous arrival of HTC Watch, a new movie download service that allows you to buy movies and play them back on the 4.3-inch screen in HD, or better still, connect via HDMI cable to your large-screen HD in the living room.

HTC has an HDMI accessory coming to the market that allows users to connect their phones to their TVs and play HD videos.

The next thing you’ll notice is the speed. It is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that is blisteringly fast.

New feature

One of the nifty new features is a lockscreen mode that acts as a gateway to your Twitter and Facebook streams – new tweets will float onto the screen, while others drift by in the background. The effect is a little like looking at an aquarium with shoals of fish moving about. When you see the message you want to reach you just launch it with a single motion and can reply directly onto Twitter.

The device comes with an 8-megapixel camera that also shoots full HD video in 1080p resolution at up to 30 frames per second. What I love about the camera and the camcorder on Android devices is the social media sharing capability – very well thought out. You can in an instant opt to share your photo or video on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Gmail, YouTube or by Bluetooth.

The HTC Sensation is probably the first Android-based phone that, in my opinion, really competes with the Apple iPhone 4 in terms of size and smooth user experience. The screen in Android shines brightly on this phone. The experience is quality.

Design-wise, the look and feel of the device is typically HTC – luxuriant materials, a powerful stereo speaker and a smooth, rounded finish.

There is some really clever thought going into these devices. For example, normally when I try out a new phone, I have to go through a convoluted process of trying to install software on my PC before synching up my contacts and calendar information.

My experience of the latest Android device is a smooth and seamless ability to instantly merge my Gmail contacts and email when starting the phone up for the first time. But HTC goes a step further with the Sensation – it enables you to synchronise all your contacts from your old phone wirelessly via Bluetooth on activation. Brilliant!

Overall, the HTC Sensation will be a catalyst for digital entertainment services via the Android platform and the feisty company has proven this in a way its rivals can only dream about.

The HTC Sensation will be available exclusively from Vodafone until the end of June and is available online immediately and in-store from 1 June.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years