It was just over year ago that HTC unveiled its HTC One flagship smartphone. All at once the smartphone became the device to beat and one of the most disappointing devices to debut all year. Now, a year later HTC seems poised to solve two of the core problems that plagued the HTC One with the HTC One Sense 6 update.
To understand how important the HTC One Sense 6 Update is you have to understand the issues that made the original HTC One a hard device to adjust to. For all of the work that HTC put into designing the aluminum-clad outer shell of the HTC One, Sense 5, the software that ran on the original HTC One, was a pig. Some days the software seemed bloated and heavy. Transitions and animations while going from app to app sometimes stuttered. That’s something that shouldn’t have been happening since the HTC One came with plenty of horsepower to load apps and play games.
Then there was the very real problem that Sense 5 burdened HTC One users with outside of that slight performance degradation. Sense 5 was the first version of the Sense software to include BlinkFeed and the TV app that the HTC One used to turn itself into a remote control. With Sense 5, HTC tried a lot of different things and changed a lot of what made Android familiar to most people. In hindsight, every bit of it felt rushed. BlinkFeed could turn into a mess and users couldn’t even add more content to it outside of the core stuff that HTC provided. The different interfaces in each app made the situation even worse, there was no consistency in how you navigated each app.
HTC One Sense 6 Installation
Installing the HTC One Sense 6 update on the T-Mobile HTC One is a breeze. Users go into their device’s Settings app, tap on About and then tap Check for Updates. The installation is a bit long and the took about twenty minutes to wrap up. The HTC One did reboot a few times as well.
The first thing users will notice after the update has finished is that turning on the HTC One now includes the HTC One logo and a second “Powered by Android” logo just below it. Today, the HTC One Sense 6 update is only available on the T-Mobile HTC One in the United States. That being said, the update is sure to come to the HTC One variants for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint at some point. For its part, HTC has pledged to make the update process faster for users.
It’s also worth noting that HTC has moved to an app-centric update model for the HTC One with Sense 6. In short, the company will now push out updates for core apps like BlinkFeed through the Google Play Store. This will allow HTC to add updates to their apps while circumventing the mobile carrier update approval process.
HTC One Sense 6 Apps & Interface
If Sense 5 on the HTC One made anything clear it was that HTC liked embracing the ideas of others, and incorporating them into their own software. After picking up the HTC One last year, it wasn’t hard to pick up on the similarities between what Microsoft is trying to do with the Windows Phone Start Screen and what HTC is trying to do with BlinkFeed.
For a news reader and social network reader that took over user’s Home Screen, BlinkFeed always felt constrained. Other than adding a few new news outlets and some social media accounts, there was very little users could do to make BlinkFeed more personal. HTC addresses this issue in two very different ways with the Sense 6 update. First, HTC has added a giant menu that floats out from the left side of BlinkFeed in the Sense 5.5 update. That menu now includes the ability for users to add even more content to it. Headlines, apps and services can all be chosen and customized and browsed from here, negating the deep dive menu that use to plague BlinkFeed.
Users will immediately notice that all of Sense 6 including BlinkFeed is a bit lighter on the eyes. The Sense 6 update for the HTC One introduces new customization options that HTC One users could only dream of before. Users can choose one of four different themes to make the BlinkFeed and the rest of the new flat interface. Users can also specify a font they want the device to use as well, though the default looks just fine. Sadly, users can’t set specific element colors.
A key thing users will notice is that HTC has gone to great lengths to clean up some of the UI clutter from Sense 5. For example, the app drawer in Sense 5 on the HTC One was littered with arrows and confusing UI elements. That’s all been axed and the options for customizing the drawer now sit inside an options bar that matches the options bar of other HTC apps. Users can search, shop for and hide installed apps from the app drawer in Sense 6. HTC has improved the workflow here considerably.
Beyond resurfacing the Settings app with some flat textures and new customization options, HTC has made some key additions to Sense 6 . There’s a new extreme power saver mode that allows users to save even more battery power than the original power saver mode that was included with Sense 5. Using it will improve battery life between charges, but effectively kill background apps and services. As such, things link BlinkFeed will need to be manually refreshed if the option is turned on.
As far as apps are concerned, the HTC One Sense 6 update is worth downloading just so users get the refreshed applications.
Music has been refreshed and now includes a Now Playing screen that pulls down lyrics automatically. Connecting to media servers is now also integrated into the Music app. Options now include the ability to immediately set an MP3 as a Ringtone without ever diving into the settings. To be fair, lyrics support was there in Sense 5, it just wasn’t as easy to discover.
The Camera app has also seen some upgrades, and it’s a lot less confusing because of it. Instead of diving into the settings, users can tap one button and change between capturing pictures, video, Zoe highlight clips and selfies or self-portraits. Tapping the menu button now reveals more camera settings that users can preview in real-time. That’s where users will find filters, white balance, and ISO options.
By far, the Gallery, where the phone tracks and stores pictures and video, has seen the most useful update. This new version is clean, easy to browse and puts the options for creating different albums right in user’s faces. Tapping on Album automatically plays really cool slide shows that automatically play.
Users will find that the TV app included on the HTC One is miles above what they got before the update as well. HTC has tweaked the design of the app and shunted off navigation into a menu that matches the one used to browse different streams in BlinkFeed. Sports scores, recommendations and some social network sharing have all been thrown into the TV app for good measure.
Mail, Messages, Notes, Weather and Tasks have also received updates so that they match the look of the other HTC-made apps. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much there beyond a new coat of paint and none of them are as dramatic an improvement as the Music, Gallery and Camera apps. Users should note that this update also adds support for automated alerts for their wireless carrier in case of bad weather or natural disaster.
HTC One Sense 6 Performance & Bugs
All software has bugs, but if there are any lurking in the HTC One Sense 6 update than they are incredibly hard to find. The update did take a long time to install, but it’s performed flawless since. There isn’t any jitteriness in the user interface and everything just worked.
One interesting thing the needs repeating is how the HTC One Sense 6 lock screen still doesn’t automatically let users in when they enter their four digit PIN code like on the iPhone or Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. It’s an interesting issue, one that will continue to plague those who aren’t using a pattern as a pass code.
A single issue that prevented me from connecting the HTC One with Sense 6 to my stereo was quickly fixed by a restart and hasn’t surfaced again.
Similarly, there weren’t any connectivity issues to be found either. Connecting to a mobile network to place phone calls or receive text messages is a seamless as it’s always been, and placing Wi-Fi calls on T-Mobile’s network seems to have actually improved. Whether that’s due to improvements T-Mobile has made inside their app or in the latest version of Android, Android 4.4.2, is unclear.
Should You Install the HTC One Sense 6 Update?
So should users be excited about the HTC One Sense 6 Update for their devices? Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes. The original HTC One was a triumph in terms of hardware, it was a beautiful device that finally delivered the promise of Apple-like quality in the Android ecosystem. Unfortunately, the complexity and relatively shabbiness of Sense 5 made it hard to compare the HTC One with the iPhone 5 or any device running Apple’s iOS. iOS was simply designed better. That’s not the case following the HTC One Sense 6 Update.
Download it, and fall in love with last year’s Android flagship all over again.