Messaging, App Store, Browser
Typing messages and emails on the HTC Sensation's on-screen QWERTY keyboard was mostly very quick and easy, thanks to the large display. However, I still had plenty of instances where I hit the wrong letter, and plenty of other instances where the text prediction system turned a correct word into an incorrect one. Overall, text entry wasn't a hassle on the Sensation and didn't cause me much grief. If a larger keyboard is required the handset can be turned to landscape mode for an even larger QWERTY keyboard, or users can opt to use the T9 trace system, which is switched off by default.
SMS and MMS are taken care of in a single application and are shown in a conversation view, inside little speech boxes. Where the whole SMS thread used to show both yours and the recipient's contact images, instead only the recipient's image is now shown, and only once at the top of the screen. Twitter and Google Talk come pre-loaded and work well, though there is no built-in video chat client, despite the forward facing camera. Weirdly, HTC's "Peep" app seemed to be absent from the main apps list, though was somewhat available from the FriendStream app instead. This is probably to eliminate duplication, as the official Twitter app came pre-loaded.
The email client on the HTC Sensation works well and caters for IMAP, POP, Microsoft Exchange, and Gmail accounts, including synchronization of contacts and calendar entries. The Mail application can also draw multiple email accounts together, so you can view all your mail in once place, or you can view all mail from a given person by looking in their contact entry. Unfortunately, there's no email widget for the Gmail app like there is for other email accounts, which is a shame as it's darn handy.
Apps / App Store
With any Android handset you're in good hands when it comes to the range and availability of applications, thanks to the ever increasing size of the Android Market. Whilst there's still not quite as much content as the Apple app store, there is at least more free content, which is good news. There are plenty of productivity apps, games, and utilities, as well as various other fun apps such as cartoon readers and alternative web browsers.
The Android Market has also had an overhaul recently, and now looks a bit more glamorous than before, with a scrolling carousel of app icons and a distinct green Android theme. Users can either browse the featured apps, sort the apps by category, search for something specific within the app store, or see what HTC likes with the "HTC Recommends" section of the store.
The Sensation also comes with a fairly standard suite of pre-loaded apps, including a calendar, calculator, voice recorder, and alarm. The usual Teeter game is still present and new additions include the SoundHound music recognition app, a flashlight, a book reader, a copy of Polaris Office file viewer, a mirror that uses the forward facing camera to produce a reflection of the user on-screen, plus HTC's Car Panel mode and their new Dock Mode. Dock mode puts the Sensation into a bedside clock type mode, which shows a full screen weather animation, a clock, the most recent FriendStream update, and shortcuts to the calendar, connected media app, and photo frame mode. There's even a button to dim the display for night time use.
Of course, you also get various mapping software for finding your way, with both HTC's "Locations" offline mapping app and the Google Maps Navigation app, with the latter offering free turn-by-turn navigation (you have to pay for this with HTC's offering). To round out HTC's offerings there are things like HTCSense.com support, which is HTC's free remote phone access/backup/tracking service, and HTC Watch - a service for purchasing/renting movies and TV shows directly on the handset. HTC Watch is still in its infancy at the moment, and can only be used on HTC devices (limiting the use of any purchased media), but it does offer the ability to stream movie trailers over 3G, although full downloads require a Wi-Fi connection. Content in the UK starts at just £1.49 for TV Show purchases, and goes up to £7.99 - £9.99 for top movie purchases, with prices for renting movies around the £2.49 - £3.49 mark.
The HTC Sensation's WebKit browser is standard Android fare, but with the dual core 1.2GHz processor it runs even more smoothly than usual and makes page load times uber-speedy. Flash content can take a little while longer to load, but still appears fine. The only problem we had was with an embedded video on our site, which also threw up an error with the HTC Flyer that we recently reviewed.
It's possible to have up to four windows open at once, and both pinch and double tap zooming are featured. When zooming into a page, text is re-flowed automatically and quickly. Pages can be viewed in either portrait or landscape orientation, and the display automatically rotates when the phone is turned one way or the other. In the fully zoomed out view, text is just about readable, thanks to the new higher resolution qHD display. However, most folks will still prefer to zoom in a little, as the text is pretty small, even on a 4.3-inch screen.