In Praise of the HTC Sense & Why the Nexus One Failed for Me


As many of you might have noticed, I have been largely absent from the blog over the past few weeks. Thanks to a flu gone wild, I was forced to take a break from the Interwebs, and frankly in the process missed a lot of good stuff on which to pontificate. Oh well! Such is the nature of the beast; there will be something new to riff on soon enough.

During my time off, I had another setback: My T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 (s rimm) died. It went into an endless loop of booting and re-booting, forcing me to use Google’s (s goog) Nexus One phone, the online store for which is being put to rest. When the device first launched, I was among those most impressed by it.

I especially liked its screen, its fast processor and the fact that it worked well with Google apps and after using it for just 10 days, I called it the best Android phone yet. What a fool I was to jump to that conclusion. Over past few weeks I had to use it as my primary phone, and let’s just say that topping my list of things to do now that I’m feeling better is to get a new BlackBerry.

On the Nexus One, some of the most basic tasks — such as sending instant messages or typing out email — feel tedious and not at all smooth. And imagine my angst when I missed an important call because the Google calendar pop-ups prevented me from switching to the phone feature. On a case-by-case basis, these are minor things but encounter them often enough, and it’s easy to get annoyed. In fact I got so annoyed that I dug up an old T-Mobile Motorola (s mot) RAZR and for the past couple of days have been using that to call folks. (How I wish and pray that Apple would sell the iPhone on a network not called AT&T.)

#alttext#At the same time, I also had a chance to use the HTC Incredible, also an Android-based phone. And compared to the Nexus One, using the HTC Incredible (despite it’s overtly grandiose name) is bliss.

First of all, as a phone it’s just a rock-solid device and thanks to a great network (Verizon), is able to perform web tasks admirably. It is fast, thin and light. It has a great camera. It has a wonderful screen and it works much more smoothly than the Nexus One. And did I mention it runs on a really good wireless network, from Verizon (s vz)? I wish they made one of these for T-Mobile — considering that I am a T-Mobile customer.

Nevertheless, the point of this post was to point out how much HTC has done for the Android ecosystem. With the HTC Sense, it has not only made the Android experience infinitely more appealing, it has shown the possibilities of where Google’s OS can go. (Related post: How HTC Because a Smartphone Hero.)

Although HTC’s Sense UI originated on Microsoft’s (s msft) Windows Mobile to help make the OS look pretty and be finger-friendly, Microsoft reportedly won’t allow alternative user interfaces on its next-generation Windows Phone 7 devices due out later this year. Which leaves HTC to focus on making the utilitarian Android interface more attractive to customers.

I, for one, enjoyed the messaging applications, the social integration efforts and most of all, how uncluttered HTC has left this Android device. In a recent post, Kevin highlighted some of the ways some of the ways he improved his Nexus One by layering the HTC Sense UI on top of it:


Android focuses more on utility while the iPhone OS is more polished and refined. Simply put: the Sense UI levels the playing field when it comes to “fit and finish.” Both the HTC apps and widgets are extremely well designed. I’m generally not a fan of most Android widgets, but HTC takes it to another level. Tapping the Home button from the main screen zooms out and shows all seven, making it quick and easy to navigate. I also love the fact that I can cut and paste text from the web far easier than the stock Android method.

Android by itself allows decent customization, but the Sense UI takes it to an entirely new level. There are six pre-loaded “scenes,” each of which is like a theme, complete with wallpaper, widgets and shortcuts relevant to the theme. Social, for example, adds more of the messaging, communications and social networking widgets like HTC’s own FriendStream for Facebook.

Kevin suggests that I should upgrade my Nexus One to HTC Sense UI, but frankly I don’t want to waste any more time on this device.

And regardless, it’s great to be back in the saddle again.


Kaushik Gopal

Om, With regards to the flaky keyboard experience I suggest you snag a copy of the app Swype for Android. It’s still in beta, but has a much better experience. While it(Swype) may still not look too aesthetically pleasing, it beats the crap out of all other onscreen keyboards. But that’s just my opinion… Cheers and great post… although i may not completely agree :)

Sandy Lloyd

I have been using my stock Nexus One for about 5 weeks now and I freaking love it. Can’t wait for the update to 2.2. I think you should give it anther chance when that update releases. It is supposed to fix a lot of the problems like soft keys set to high, touchscreen issues and such. Thanks for the article it was pretty good even if it did dog the Nexus One.


Om – thanks for writing this.

It’s a shame people can’t just let other people have an OPINION without telling them they are wrong or stupid. There wasn’t even a mis-leading title.

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to really know a phone without living with it and using it as your primary device for more than a few days. Your experience of reviewing the Nexus One for 10 days and then still being surprised by how you liked living with it, is a bit unexpected.

Don’t let the haters stop you.


One of the really nice things about Sense UI on Windows Mobile is it is incredibly easy to tweak and get different clocks, icons, layouts, etc. And you can do this on the stock roms with a simple cab installer, so you don’t have to go through the custom rom process or worry about voiding the warranty. If Sense on Android is even close to that tweakability, it can address many of the issues mentioned above including lag or its appearance.


This guy is nothing more than a retard.. just stick with your crackberry cause the N1 is obviously too advanced for you. No credibility whatsoever!

Jared Backus

btw t-mobile is gonna bring the iphone to its company in june

Amit Agarwal

Om – Glad you are back and thanks for this story.

I have been considering getting an Android device and your experience will help.

BTW, your new profile picture in very nice :)

Om Malik

I think you are going to quite enjoy the Android devices especially the ones from HTC. I like the Flip from Motorola though their Blur software needs work. I am told there is a Sony Ericsson phone with Android and it is said to be pretty good. I have not seen it or used it — just heard second hand that it is one of the better Android implementations. I am sure there will be a lot of options in the Indian market.


Om, welcome back. How does it feel :-).

Looks like phones have become the new tech. religion.

Om Malik

I guess so :-) It has been a long slog back to normalcy and still quite there but blogging is helping me recover. I have missed the back-and-forth including getting yelled at by some of my friends here in the comment section ;-)


I did share some dislike for text input on the N1. The thing is this is inherent on all touch screen only phones. IPhone is a horrible experience for me with no custom dictionary and mediocre auto correct.
What sold me on the N1 for this aspect was its amazing voice to text and possibility of alternate keyboards.
I would say 60-70% of my data input is now by voice.
It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable and for me to figure out, but once I got the nuances it changed my experience.
Do also realize much of the bonus of an N1 is the custom Rom community. With great ease one can have stock android and sense ui available to them with a reboot.
Android 2.2 will offer 3 changes the Xda community has had for months.
Blackberries are unchallenged kings of communications phones.iPhone isn’t even on the radar IMO.. But Android phones specifically the N1 are fantastic for messaging some areas better and the closest to best of both worlds the market has to offer.

Ed DiGirolamo

I have had the Google N1 Since the day after it was available (had to wait for overnight shipping which wasnt fast enough) This phone has been attatched to my hand since that day. The N1 has not given me a single problem, not crashed, not glitched or anything close to the sort and mine is rooted and running a custom rom which is more likely to cause a glitch. I can solve your problem, when you get your new crackberry mail me your failed N1 and when the whole RIM network craps the bed AGAIN ill be happy to have your glitchy nexus one for my 5 year old to use because its that easy to use.


I had 3 Nexus Ones and HTC was ready to send me a 4th when I asked, can you just give me my money back? Unbelievably, they did, after 90 days without restocking fees. Because I sold my myTouch to get the Nexus, I was without a phone and borrowed my son-in-laws decommissioned Pearl 8100. I am in misery and can’t wait to get another Android, either the Samsung Galaxy S or the EVO 4G. Getting the EVO $G would be akin to heresy for me since I despise Sprint. But I am stuck, without the Android experience.

It id great that you have had a wonderful ride with the Nexus but be assured, many have not. Real defects in the Nexus, in my opinion initiated the demise of the Google direct problem. Terrible CS killed the deal.


I had 3 Nexus Ones and HTC was ready to send me a 4th when I asked, can you just give me my money back? Unbelievably, they did, after 90 days without restocking fees. Because I sold my myTouch to get the Nexus, I was without a phone and borrowed my son-in-laws decommissioned Pearl 8100. I am in misery and can’t wait to get another Android, either the Samsung Galaxy S or the EVO 4G. Getting the EVO $G would be akin to heresy for me since I despise Sprint. But I am stuck, without the Android experience.

It is great that you have had a wonderful ride with the Nexus but be assured, many have not. Real defects in the Nexus, in my opinion, initiated the demise of the Google direct problem. Terrible CS killed the deal.


so, let me see if i got this right. you wrote an article praising the nexus one as the greatest thing since sliced bread before you really tried it as your day-to-day phone… and now you’re telling us that the HTC incredible is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

and your credibility is intact how exactly?

Om Malik

Well i guess I used it for ten days and wrote a review. And then I used it for longer period of time and then discovered problems that only come from sustained use of a phone/device. And I am sharing those.

As far as HTC Incredible, not sure where I said it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. My comparison is with Nexus One.

And to admit you were incorrect the first time, well I have no problem with that. Of course, it would have been nice if you were able to use your real name when criticizing me. :-)

Thanks for your thoughts.

jason rushin

I’d like to know how you upgrade a nexus one to the Sense UI? Can you do that (legally) without rooting the phone?

Kevin C. Tofel

Jason, the process to root and install custom ROMs – what I did to get Sense on my Nexus One is quite easy, but it will void the warranty on the phone. I followed the processes outlined in the Android forums at to make this happen.


To compare a blackberry to the nexus one is like comparing apples to oranges. They both have their pros and cons. To expect to be able to use an on screen keyboard as a replacement for a bb keyboard is foolish. But I don’t see your reasoning. It sounds like you will promote whichever phone or network that seems to favor you (or pay you). At least now I know how ‘reliable’ your product reviews are.

Om Malik

I am not sure that there is a single place where I compare Nexus One with Blackberry. You are reading what you are reading.

I have much less problems typing on an onscreen keyboard on iPhone and Incredible and Droid (Motorola) versus Nexus One. I am a heavy text messaging user and the keyboard doesn’t work as well on this one.

Thanks for sharing your opinions.



While Om has his preferences and prejudices (which I disagree with as often as I agree with), it is ridiculous to suggest that he promotes products or services which favor or pay him. I have been following Om’s writings for years now, and I have never ever felt that his writings are for sale. He is an authentic writer and your insinuations are simply wrong.



Of course you enjoyed the Incredible moreso than the Nexus One, it was released much later. I am assuming you will enjoy the EVO much more than the Incredible and the Nexus One as well.

Also, to prefer a Blackberry or Razr over the Nexus One? Being a little dramatic aren’t we?

Om Malik

I prefer Blackberry over all devices. I have made it pretty clear in all my posts so far. I like how it allows me to focus on communications (messaging) and that is very important considering that I work with a remote/distributed team of work and need to IM/Chat/Email very frequently.

And yes you are right when you say Incredible is newer so I guess it is better. Point well made. I think from my perspective, I find Sense UI more useful and enjoyable. Again, it is a personal choice.


Hey Om, can you elaborate on what issues you had with the phone?

Om Malik

I think i have elaborated some of the problems in my comment responses. Most of the problems have been around text messaging and on-screen keyboard. These are little things, but they happen often enough to be annoying.

For instance, when I am typing a text message, a little touch out of place and I was on home screen, having to go into the message app again and then start typing. Sometimes the on-screen keyboard just freezes. And this is despite keeping the phone very upto date.


I’ve gotta agree with the first two commenters… Sense looks pretty, but I find it harder to use, and the lag for Sense users is a real bummer. And of course, looking pretty is a matter of taste. I find that the Sense UI has a bit too much of that “blue LEDs make everything look like the future” feeling, and that stock Android is a more attractive. Then again, I think that iPhone OS is unattractive and a PITA to use, so grain-of-salt.

One of the things that users enjoy about android is being able to customize it to fit their needs. For myself, I use Swype instead of the stock keyboard, which makes text entry as pleasant as a hardware keyboard, and Handcent to make quick SMS conversations nearly effortless.

Also… as an Android user since the first day of the G1, I have no idea what Om’s on about with this “Google calendar pop-ups prevented me from switching to the phone feature” business. I’ve never seen anything like this happen. Am I missing something? More importantly, am I missing why a Nexus running sense is going to be substantially different from an Incredible?

Om Malik


It is a personal choice thing I suppose. I personally find the Sense UI more fluid and easier to use. I think Nexus One with Google Android didn’t work for me. I am using the Sense-based Incredible and have found it so much smoother to use.

On the calendar thing — it is actually a problem which I have encountered a few times so I know it is a problem.

As for the rest of your comment and also comments by Wil and Nick, I guess we are different people with different UI sensibilities. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Wtf are you on about? This article is garbage. Calendar pop-up’s preventing you from answering the phone, typing email and sending txt are tedious?

“Kevin suggests that I should upgrade my Nexus One to HTC Sense UI, but frankly I don’t want to waste any more time on this device.”

So you’re lazy too. Have fun rocking that 2.1 Sense when the rest of the Nexus One users will be flying along on 2.2


As someone whose primary phone is a Nexus One and has also used phones with the Sense UI, I had the opposite experience. I found Sense uglier and more cluttered, with functionality I use frequently either buried or moved around for no good reason. (For a good summary of issues, see this article:

Not to mention the fact that most Sense phones are still waiting on the last rev of the Android software, and will once again be months behind when 2.2 is released next week.

It would be nice if HTC gave everyone a choice between Sense and generic Android. I’m leaning towards getting a Sprint Evo next month, but the aforementioned problems with Sense will probably hold me back. If I could install stock Android on it without having to “root” the phone, I would buy one in a heartbeat.

Om Malik


I guess we are two different people when it comes to choice of UI. Now that is indeed the good aspect of Android. You can pick between what works best for you, me or someone else.

On Sprint EVO, now that does look like a yummy phone. Too bad no 4G in San Francisco for now.


Evo is one beast of a phone. Its probably the best phone available out there (including iPhone and such). San Francisco will have 4G before the end of 2010. This phone can work on 3G/4G. So you are good to go now and when 4G comes , you will be ready.


Om, Nope haven’t tried it. It will be tough to get one before launch day June 4th 2010. Sprint said they have few more surprises before launch. We know you love BB, so from that perspective it will not be a great email or texting device. The rest of the features (including flash), it beats every other phone out there. And it runs HTC Sense.

Check the official videos of it.

Sprint Commercial

I would love to see a review of it from gigaom (you or Kevin).

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