HTC Incredible S review: Interface
The HTC Incredible S is bringing a similar experience to the others in its top end Android line - namely, using the now familiar Sense UI to make the Google experience much better thanks to some creative widget-ry.
It's not a new experience, but the new line up of phones from the HTC Desire HD onwards has had an updated version of the platform, offering connection to the cloud to seamlessly integrate into the phone.
For the uninitiated, Sense UI is a skin that sits on top of the basic Android experience, offering new widgets and a greater number of home screens to play with.
If you want to access these quickly, simply pinch the screen in, and you'll see all the different pages showcased in an exploded view - really handy if you're at one end of the phone screens and want to look at something six screens away.
One feature of HTC's Android handsets has always been a fluid experience under the finger, and once again that's on show here with the HTC Incredible S.
The HTC range has been one of the only brands that's managed to keep up with the flawless speed of the iPhone 4, and thankfully that 'snappiness' has been replicated on the Incredible S, with no hint of slowdown.
You can drag the notifications bar down from almost any application, and even if the phone is updating in the background you won't notice any juddering - the menu list (which flicks up and down with ease) will sometimes lack a spot of fluidity, but if that's the worst thing to worry about, we're in a pretty good situation.
The four inch screen is large enough to see all your widgets displayed with ease - as it's still got a WVGA (800 x 480) resolution display, there's no more space to chuck widgets, but it's very easy to see the information with a quick glance.
The Sense UI features a few cool tweaks to play with over the older versions, making the Android system so much more intuitive to use.
The first is the extra option at the bottom of the screen - rather than having to long press the display to edit it (although you still can) there's an icon of a palette to press, which achieves the same thing.
The editing screen has been overhauled too, with a load more options. Here you can do little things like alter your ringtone (or even the whole sound set, so all notifications will sound like fairy bells or cucumber parties or something) or change all the icons and set up of your home screen using the new 'Scenes' offering, with custom options on offer too.
We're still not happy with the decision to only offer Android 2.2 on the Incredible S though - sure, it gets the phone to market quicker, but the likes of the HTC Desire S and Wildfire S are going to be outgunning it pretty quickly in terms of functionality, and we may have to wade through network upgrade schedules, meaning quite a wait for some to get the update.
But enough of the future - let's focus on the happiness on offer here. You can scroll through all the new scenes on offer, which are preloaded with different arrangements of widgets and wallpapers, or you can hit a button to quickly download more (although you do have to have a dedicated HTCSense.com account.
Not only is it testament to the power of the HTC Incredible S (Adreno 205 GPU, 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon) that this process of scrolling through thumbnails suffers no slowdown, but the ease of which you can go online is as cool as it was on the Desire HD - if you've got data signal, this will be a breeze.
Other things you can edit include skins (to change the way the phone's notification bars and menus are shaped and coloured) and wallpaper too, making it very easy and cool to personalise your Incredible S.
We're a little peeved you can't do timed screen changeovers - making it so your phone can suddenly alter into work mode or leisure time at certain points (or even when you enter pre-defined locations) is a popular trick on a number of phones, and something we'd have expected from HTC.
Another option is the Edit button - usually with Google's OS when you long-press on an icon or widget, the Android interface would pop up with a 'remove' option that you could drop your selection into.
Now you also get an edit option (if applicable to the widget) which allows you to change certain elements - very cool and one of the things that show off the overall slick nature of the Incredible S.
The menu layout is the same as ever - a scrollable list of icons you can mess around with and re-arrange as you see fit through long-pressing and dragging, or pop into folders to make it easier to use.
The Incredible S features the same notifications bar as the Desire HD, which you open by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen from nearly any point in the phone.
Here you'll see your most recently-used icons, making it mega easy to swipe along and see what you've been up to - and opening up oft-love options too.
The interface on the HTC Incredible S is simply phenomenal - you can sync up loads of accounts and have a fair few background processes and yet things still tick along wonderfully in the foreground.
And another thing – the fast booting process is still present and pretty good. It only works if you've turned the phone off and not pulled out the battery (as you might do on the plane) but turning it back on yielded a start screen that we could play with in less than 8 seconds, which is amazing and we had to check it three times to believe it.
However, one major problem, and one that has plagued HTC handsets for a while (with some notable omissions): the screen is still just terrible in direct light.
Take the Incredible S outside with the screen set to the lowest brightness, and it's simply invisible. Even turning it up to maximum makes it only averagely legible, and that's a real battery sucker.
It's not a huge problem, but when you've left your screen on lower brightness to conserve power and you have to hide it in your jacket just to SEE the screen, it's a long way from a positive.