Though the HTC Sensation XL does come with the Android Market on there, HTC seems to be doing its best to make sure you never use it. There are 59 app loaded onto the device out of the box. 59! Social networking, media playback, organisation, location, office, weather… the list goes on.
The usual smartphone suspects of the Calculator and Calendar are here, of course. The Calendar app will bring through your Google calendars, as you'd expect, and even your Facebook calendar. There's a month view, a day view and an agenda view, but no week view, slightly oddly. However, it's easy to read and to add new events to any of your Google calendars.
The Notes app is one of the best new additions to HTC Sense. It's an adaptation of the app that launched with the HTC Flyer tablet, though it's not as integrated into the operating system as it was there.
It's basically an incredibly well-formed attempt at a catch-all notes-taking app. Want to record audio notes? That's fine. Want to type some notes? That's OK, too. Maybe you want to sketch something quickly – you can! And you can mix it all into one note, with association of when written notes are made to a corresponding part of an audio recording, so you can skip to the right part of the audio.
It's even context-sensitive; if your calendar says you're in a meeting, when you create a new note it'll ask if it should be attached to that meeting. It also syncs with Evernote with all of the cloud note service's features, including searchable text.
It's a superb app, though we're not sure this media-focused phone is the best debut for it on smaller devices. We hope to see it appear on more of HTC's range soon.
There are Facebook and Twitter apps, of course, but they're a disjointed experience on the device. There are the standalone official apps, which are very good. There is also the FriendStream app, which isn't. Or, wait, is HTC Peep? Sense doesn't seem sure when it comes to notifications.
There are some nice touches to how FriendStream works as a Twitter app, such as being able to quickly see who's retweeted something, but it's really weak overall. The official apps are much better, even if they are separate.
They run quickly, and there's plenty of space and nice big text on the 4.7-inch screen. There's also the Fb Chat app for, well, Facebook Chat. It's also quick to load up and find your friends.
Dropbox has been integrated into HTC Sense now, and HTC users get 5GB of storage instead of the usual 2GB for free users. It's pretty simple: sign in and you're taken straight to your Dropbox folder. You can open anything that can be opened, and lots of apps can upload straight to it.
You can upload manually from the app, though if you want to upload a file type that isn't a photo, video or audio file, you'll get an error initially – HTC hasn't installed a file manager, so there's no way to go browing out of the box.
The usual raft of Google tools are here, including YouTube, a Google Search app, Google's News & Weather app and more. HTC has added the HTC Hub, which lets you access the Phone Finder feature of HTCSense.com, and offers a quick way to find more wallpapers, ringtones, Scenes, apps and more. HTC Likes is another addition, offering some curation of the Android Market.
Polaris Office is included for any word processing/spreadsheeting needs you may have. It's an app that works great on tablets, such as the Asus Eee Pad Slider, for creating content, but not quite as well on a phone. It makes for a great reader app, though.
SoundHound is on board for identifying songs, and HTC's Reader ereader app. It's quite a good app, with a store powered by Kobo, but we don't think it'll tempt anyone away from Kindle.
The only really notably missing app from the Sensation XL is a music-purchasing app, such as 7Digital or Amazon's MP3 store. We thought one would be included, but it's not hard to remedy this in the Android Market.
Google's Maps app is included with the HTC Sensation XL, as you'd expect, but there's also HTC's own Locations app. Both offer turn-by-turn directions, but the difference is that Locations downloads maps to your device the first time you use it, and you have to pay for the sat-nav service after 30 days.
Locations is designed more to be sat-nav than the directions function of Google Maps – it's got a separate interface for when driving, with big icons for each buttons that are easier to press. It's also got a clear points-of-interest list, making it easier to find things nearby that on Google's offering.
Maps has its own fancy features, though. This latest version has the fancy 3D buildings, and can even show you what junctions look like in navigation mode using Street View.
We found both apps fairly responsive to touch controls, though adding the 3D buildings in Maps did slow it down slightly.
Both got our location quickly and accurately, though, and had no trouble following us.