The HTC Sensation XL runs Android 2.3.5 with HTC Sense 3.5 running on top of this (it will also be updated to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in due course). The combination makes for a mostly attractive and easy to use interface. We do have a couple of gripes but they’re mostly balanced out by other positive aspects.
For instance the general homescreen layout is rather nice. There are seven homescreens that you can fill with as many or few apps, app folders and widgets as you like, while below sit the three permanent links to the main app list, the phone dialler and the personalisation menu (where you can tweak the look and feel of the interface). Drag your finger down from the top edge to reveal the notifications list and you’ve also got quick access to a few useful settings. When playing music or connected to a computer via USB a small music player and a connection wizard (respectively) also appear in this section.
Go to unlock the phone and rather than just having the option to simply unlock the phone and get to the homescreen you can also jump straight to one of four customisable apps – really useful for getting to the camera app in a hurry.
Tap the Phone button at the bottom of the homescreen and you’re greeted by another great feature; the dialler/contacts list. This is still the quickest and easiest way of finding a contact that we’ve used on a phone – either grab the list and start scrolling or tap out a few numbers or letters and the person you’re looking for will soon be weeded out.
Social networking is also well integrated, making this a really good phone for quickly and easily getting to all the information you want about your friends.
As for those annoyances, going back to the homescreen, swipe too quickly from one homescreen to another and a pointless animation will be activated where the view zooms out and all the screens spin round like a carousel. It’s visually impressive but gets in the way of quick navigation. The constant presence of the ‘personalisation’ button on the homescreen is also a waste of space, considering you can call up this infrequently-used option via the main settings menu.
We also find the main app menu rather tedious as it’s been broken up into pages that you scroll through vertically. This just seems to slow down navigation.
Another suggestion of how HTC hasn’t necessarily thought fully about this device is the lack of interface and app tweaks to take advantage of the extra screen space afforded by such a large screen. Only the classic HTC weather/clock widget makes the most of things, with all other interface elements simply stretched large to fill the screen (again, those with poor eyesight may actually see this as an advantage though)
Ironically, considering the branding, we’re also not fans of the music player that has a rather cumbersome layout for navigating your library of music.
Otherwise, as we said, the interface is mostly intuitive and nice to use. Android may still be a bit more geeky and less integrated than iOS or Windows Phone but not to the point of being difficult to use. All the basics, from email to web browsing, are easy to use and powerful, and you get a huge amount of versatility thanks to the customisability of the software and the wealth of apps in the app store. The quantity of quality apps and games isn’t quite as high as iOS but more and more apps are becoming cross platform so the line is blurring.