An HTC One without Sense is not an HTC One

An HTC One without Sense is not an HTC One

Summary: Some people think they want a plain vanilla Google version of the HTC One. For those of us who have a One and use it daily, this makes very little sense and after you see all that may be missing you may change your opinion too.

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An HTC One without Sense is not an HTC One
Image: HTC

The rumors and speculation makes it sound like a Google Edition HTC One is a sure thing, but I have to agree with ZDNet colleague Ben Woods when he writes it is a Sense-less plan and don't think people really understand what they will be missing. Let's take a deeper look at what you won't likely get on an HTC One without Sense 5.

Looking at the HTC One and features we find related directly to Sense, here is what you may lose with a Google Edition HTC One:

  • Video Highlights: I am still impressed by the way my HTC One creates dynamic 30-second video highlights from images, video, and Zoes that I capture. My family and friends enjoy these videos and this feature is one of the main reasons I keep using the HTC One.
  • Zoe: A Zoe is a 3-second video with 20 still images also captured that lets you capture more of the moment than just a single still image. They work well in Video Highlights and are fun to share with people.
  • BlinkFeed: I honestly thought I would go to the standard Android home screen and bypass using BlinkFeed on my own HTC One. However, I find it extremely useful and my experiences validate HTC's studies that showed people do like to snack on bits of information.
  • BoomSound: I have yet to find a smartphone with such great integrated speakers and if you are a heavy sleeper you will always wake to a BoomSound alarm. Thankfully, HTC gives you separate controls for the volume levels on ringtones & notifications, alarms, and music.
  • HTC Car: I received a free HTC One Car Kit with my One purchased on T-Mobile and it works with the HTC Car utility that is provided as part of the HTC experience.
  • Mail and Notes: As an Exchange user, I always preferred HTC Sense devices for a better email experience and the HTC One with Sense provides this compared to the limited vanilla Google client. Notes integrates with Evernote and lets you record audio in sync with text notes.
  • Sense TV and IR remote: HTC includes their Sense TV utility that works with the top IR port to control devices and provide you with the ability to see your favorites and upcoming shows right in your BlinkFeed.
  • Phone dialer: I previously wrote about some features on the HTC One that remind me of Windows Phone and the phone dialer is one that goes beyond what Google provides in Android. You can easily contact your favorite people, view recent communications, view their recent photo galleries, and view their latest status updates for a pretty amazing people-centric experience.
  • Sense Voice: There are advanced dual microphones in the HTC One that work to manage in-call voice and I can confirm that my voice calls over th past month have been excellent.

Now, with the loss of most, if not all, of those features what makes the device compelling? The hardware is fantastic and every review I have read has stated that, but is the hardware alone sufficient to justify the device? For some, yes, but I still argue that the One is a much better device loaded with Sense. I would personally like to see HTC focused on an HTC One Sense update that includes more Highlight Video themes, Zoe storage management update, and other fixes related to the One we already purchased.

I have had many pure Google Nexus devices and in the past I preferred that experience for the speed, updates, and interface. Over the last year though, I have been very satisfied with stock devices and haven't hacked my Galaxy Note II or HTC One. Google vastly improved the operating system with Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean and folks like Samsung, LG, and HTC have added value to Android devices.

You can always buy a Nexus or even hack up your device to get an Android experience. Samsung will be rolling out a TouchWiz-free S4, again losing many of the software enhancements that set that device apart, and I have to imagine only the serious die-hard Android user is going to pay the full $650 price for one. Ben points out that the likely market for a full price HTC One that loses most of the cool features will be small and I completely agree.

Related ZDNet HTC One articles

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, HTC, Smartphones

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32 comments
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  • I like this idea....

    ... of having the stock Android on the best smartphone out there. And I think it serves both Google and HTC.
    yphilogene
    • What makes it the best though?

      The hardware design is fabulous, but if the full camera and speaker experience are not realized with stock Android then is it really going to be the best? The camera alone is not as good as the S4 and Nokia phones, but when combined with Zoes and Highlight Videos it does a great job with content for sharing.

      Choice is fine, but for those who really want stock Android they can always get a Developer Edition HTC One and hack on what they want. "Regular" people will be happier with the HTC One as HTC has designed and optimized it.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Here's why I think stock is better.

        I want to get off the treadmill of needing a new phone to get new software. The HTC One is sexy enough to last four years or so, but it'll need more than Boom Sound and video highlights to stay relevant. Google comes out with cool stuff faster than HTC comes out with bug fixes. If you get a new phone every 6 months, that won't matter. But most people need to wait it out.

        My HTC One S took over a year to get Jelly Bean. Will it ever get another update from HTC? Sadly, nobody can say yes. Stock gives us yes.
        skeeboe
        • You're right, but not for everyone.

          I think the peopel who don't care about upgrades (the truth is the last BIG upgrade was 2.3 to 4.0), won't find the stock version better.

          Google upgrades 1 or 2 times a year and most of the changes are very small (4.1.2 to 4.2.2?)

          To most people who just want to use a good phones, it's like when you hear some people say "I bought this 8 passenger minivan for my 3 person family because you never know when I'll need to drive my daughters soccer team to practice".

          Personally, for me, I'd rather have Blinkfeed and Zoe, over an upgrade on new features I'm not sure bring any benefit to me.

          Having said that, choice is always good.
          casualsuede
      • It is better unless ...

        You really like Sense and some of the added gimmcks. I have two; one silver 64gb dev model and a Stealth ATT model. I rooted and put CM on the Stealth and can definitely say it is an improvement for me. HTC removed far too many stock Android features and placed a modded Sense version or nothing in their place. I am a fan of stock Android and have never really liked Sense.
        So for me, it is an improvement. A good one.
        rhonin
      • there is no reason HTC can't make the camera work with stock

        they can still give the drivers to Google with permission to bundle them into the stock image, but no permission for them to be used outside the stock image. that's what Samsung did with the drivers for the Exynos5 SoC in the Nexus10.
        theoilman
    • Bang on...

      Nailed it!!!
      Michael Aston
  • Well, if you assume HTC will keep the device updated . . .

    Your loyalty to HTC is touching but at the rate the alpha rats are fleeing the ship it might not exist in any capacity to push updates (already one behind) to Android phones well within the lifespan of the One.

    Whether Google's or HTC's version of Android is better is a personal choice. Whether Google or HTC is more likely to provide timely updates over the next two years is pretty obvious.
    Aleks Shindig
    • for HTC's sake I hope they change their ways

      and it's never too late, but I think you're right that they won't. and fast updates doesn't change the fact that sense, especially this latest version, is an ugly mess.
      theoilman
    • Updates?

      HTC is already pushing 4.2.2, within a couple months of launch. So, if proof is in the pudding, it's there for the first update.
      casualsuede
  • Special software vs lack of updates......you pick

    Anything under 8 months for an update is completely unrealistic. Even Samsung and the Galaxy line are at least that long on updates (When will the S3 see 4.2.2?). HTC has never been that quick with updates and Google version and Nexus version get updates within days or even hours after release. The special apps are nice for the first couple months, but then you miss the updates. Will always be a trade of.
    alex_darkness
    • Right Hand vs. Left Hand

      It comes down to preference; stock vs. gimmicks.
      I'm a stock fan. :)
      rhonin
    • it depends

      for small updates, hobbyists on XDA can pump out new ROMs weekly by editing AOSP etc. for larger updates it can take a lot longer. Cyanogen Mod, arguably the largest group of ROM devs, took over 6 months to put out a stable ICS ROM. but either way these are hobbyists working in their spare time. if they can put out an update from 4.1 to 4.2 in a week or 2, there's no reason big OEMs like HTC who pay their employees can't do it as fast or faster. but even such a small update takes them 6 months to a year.
      theoilman
      • and this holds equally true

        for both stock and skinned android, so that's really not an excuse
        theoilman
      • I would say it isn't the OEM only....

        It's also the carrier. The new software load, whether an updated OS, an MR or anything else, needs to get time in their labs to got through a whole lot of testing. If the carrier labs are full of product they need to get out, software updates often get pushed down the line.

        I guess the same goes for the OEM. If they have a new device coming out and an MR, most often the amount of resources they have, they will wait for the device to launch or at least leave lab before working on improving existing software.

        I hope HTC get's better, because now, they have to improve less number of models down the line.
        casualsuede
  • Maybe there will be apps

    Maybe HTC will create apps for these features downloadable from Play Store.
    randygrenier
  • I am never going to buy a phone...

    ... that does not come with the stock Android experience, period.

    My wife had the Galaxy SIII and I had the Nexus 4 and we often switched and I know it was not a fair fight. Granted HTC may be different but better than Google in the software department. Someone's got to be wearing Sense-colored glasses to even pretend HTC is better.

    It is just not a fair fight if hardware manufacturers are competing with Google on who delivers a better software experience.
    kannankeril
    • apples and fluer de menthe

      good luck with camera, mono speaker on the nexus 4...the hardware is far superior on the One...the s3 comparison is invalid...you like Pure Android, then the HTC version will bury the nexus 4...
      Michael Aston
  • HTC One: An Outsider's Perspective

    I would tend to agree with the author that for the typical end-user Sense would be preferred over AOSP. Stock is what comes shipped on the phone; so this phone will effectively have two stocks. Since Google posts their builds, if a HTC RUU can be acquired, users could try one version, then the other. That being said, again I'll say Sense has some gloss that the typical end-user would probably choose over AOSP. IF Google does do an image though, I'd want to know: 1) Is it a one time dealio like the Sony Experia AOSP test run OR will the build(s) be maintained? [Important because this would make latest & greatest AOSP outpace HTC updates given the histories of both] 2) AOSP is NOT possible w/o manufacturer's proprietary images.. Will these be agreed upon (and updated for each new build)?
    All in all, being a music buff I envy you guys' dual front speakers, and if someone can pluck the RUU, doesn't matter which version your device shipped with; just a choice of what you'd like to run with long-term; as, both could be tested/switched at will.
    insink71
    • I completely agree with you.

      In the world of Porsche, HTC One with Sense is like a fully loaded 911 and the Stock version is like their 911 RS. The RS is a stripped down performance version with all the speed, but none of the gimmicks (and missing some of the convenience).

      There are alot more regular 911's sold than RS', but the RS sure has it's loyal fanbase.
      casualsuede