Other tweaks to the interface include the notifications drop down that in one clear view shows your running apps and notifications, and with the tap of a tab, brings up a quick settings menu for turning on/off Wi-Fi, GPS and such like.
Pinch your two fingers together on the homescreen, or press the home button, and the interface zooms out to reveal a set of thumbnails representing all the homescreens. Called Leap this interface is quite a nicely executed concept, though again we don’t actually find it all that useful.
One change we’re not sure we’re keen on is the app launcher, which has been broken up into vertical pages, with each one requiring a quick flick to move past. We can see the logic but it doesn’t seem any easier to use than the default of one long alphabetical list. The same sort of applies for the tabs along the bottom for accessing favourites and downloaded apps. We can see how they’d be useful but surely the whole point of a customisable homescreen is that you can put your favourites where you want?
The changes continue as we look at some of the core apps like the gallery and music player. The former includes tabs for Facebook, Flickr and media server photos while the rest of the interface is a fairly typical arrangement of lists and thumbnails, which is quite nice to use. The music player meanwhile defaults to a now playing view with a CoverFlow-esque interface for flipping through tracks. You then have to tap an icon to get to the Artist/Album navigation. Again, it’s fairly superficial stuff that neither particularly enhances or degrades the experience, though.
When it comes to playing back videos, there’s nothing too clever here though DivX and Xvid are supported along with mp4 and avi. We tried a variety of clips and found that most 640 x 480 avi files were fine but move into HD territory or more obscure formats like mkv and you’re out of luck, with the player either not coping or not even recognising the files. You can of course download alternative players but regardless of what software you use we’re not quite at the stage where you can play Blu-ray quality files on your phone.
Looking at the messaging services, you get an entirely typical SMS interface that arranges your messages neatly into conversations. There’s also GoogleTalk on hand for instant messaging while you get the standard Gmail interface as well as a customised email inbox for any other accounts. This provides quick access to email conversations, favourites, unread emails, and attachments by using the tabs along the bottom. It’s nothing revolutionary but is a simple and effective way to keep on top of your messages.
Typing on the onscreen keyboard is also a breeze. HTC has again customised things slightly, and again we’re not entirely convinced all the tweaks are needed but it’s still very nice to use. We particularly like the text editing feature. Simply hold down your finger on some text and like the iPhone a little magnifying glass pops up to help you place the cursor, then cut, paste and copy the text.
While most reasonably high-end Androids are able to play Flash content in the web browser once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s nice to see HTC has gone to the trouble of installing Flash for you so you can get straight down to watching embedded videos and interacting with other flash elements on your favourite websites. Multi-touch is also supported so you can pinch to zoom, or you can double tap to zoom in and out. We also like how, when you zoom in, text is re-wrapped so that it fits to the width of your screen, along you to read a large block of text without need to scroll left and right. As with the rest of the interface, it feels really snappy, though flash content can slow it down somewhat.