Drew Bamford Speaks Out About HTC’s Sense 5 and Blinkfeed

| March 1, 2013 | 9 Replies

htc one black backgroundWhenever there’s a smartphone launch in the Android world, there’s often a lot more to talk about than just the hardware. Companies like HTC and Samsung have been altering the way Android looks and feels on their devices for years now and, in the case of HTC they’ve faced a number of problems along the way. A lot of you reading this might remember the Sense of old, which was buggy and very bloated – even Sense 4 didn’t go far enough to cut back on the features that designers had lumped Sense with. Have you created a light version of Sense with Sense 5? Cutting down on the features in Sense 5 wasn’t one of HTC’s main focuses when they went to redesign their skin, it was to solve the problems that Android apparently puts in front of us users.

You’re probably wondering who the hell Drew Bamford is, he’s the Director of User Experience at HTC and he took to HTC’s blog to talk about the new additions and refinements to Sense. It’s a good read, and it doesn’t smack of marketing either which is a nice change. There are some interesting points that Drew makes but, he outlines the main focus of what needed to be tackled with this redesign as the following:

During our research, a few consistent patterns emerged:

  • Most people don’t differentiate between apps and widgets.
  • Widgets aren’t widely used – weather, clock and music are the most used and after that, fewer than 10% of customers use any other widgets.
  • Most of you don’t modify your home screens much. In fact, after the first month of use, approximately 80% of you don’t change your home screens any more.

What did we learn? We needed to dramatically reinvent HTC Sense to meet your actual needs.

I’m not sure I agree with everything Drew has to say there but, it’s fairly true that we don’t often rearrange our homescreens. I might be alone in this but, I’ve been using the same layout on my devices for the last year or more, the same staple widgets – or type of widgets – but, there’s one area of my homescreen I regularly change and that’s the center page. I’m always on the look out for a brilliant wallpaper and some stunning widgets to show off every time I unlock my device. Blinkfeed takes this choice away from me, and it’s almost as if I am forced to have content flood my eyes all the time. While Blinkfeed can be turned off, or toned down as much as you like, it’s HTC’s default and it’s clear that they want to do away with the traditional configuration we’re used to. Also, I’m surprised Drew didn’t mention Twitter, Facebook or Google+ widgets either as being able to flick your Twitter feed on your homescreen never gets old.

Drew goes into quite a bit of detail and perhaps the most interesting quote from his piece is the following:

Our existing home screen, and frankly any home screen you see on a mobile device, is at least loosely based on the desktop experience originated by Xerox in the 1980’s. It was a useful approach to help people transition their physical work environment to something digital.

What he’s talking about here is the mouse as we know it today. You might think that Apple invented the mouse and the GUI we use everyday but, in fact was devised at Xerox, the big wigs at the top wanted nothing to do with it but, Steve Jobs knew better and engaged in some sort of stock swap in order to see the technology. Thus, Apple’s GUI was born. There’s no way the homescreens on our smartphones resemble that sort of graphical interface, I mean if you forget about the very obvious omission of a cursor, widgets offer us a much richer way to get quick access to data and content we want access to. It’s true that we scroll through lists of content in apps and widgets like we always have but, I fail to see how Blinkfeed comes even close to offering a better solution.

Overall, Drew makes some good points and it’s always good to hear from the people behind the scenes, creating this sort of thing but, I don’t think this latest version of Sense has gone nearly far enough. Sense 4 was not a nice experience for me, personally, and I can’t see this new version being much better. HTC have made an admirable effort to take back control of Sense but, I fear the HTC One might have bigger problems than how you look at the weather on your homescreen.

Category: Android News

About Tom Dawson ()

For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, I grew up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles and have been using Linux for years now. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I've loved every minute of it. As a big reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android and technology as a whole.

    Just an fyi you dont have to have the blink feed page as your center page you can change it to vave your traditional htc clock or other widget to be your main screen. Also blink feed can be completely turned off if you want you might want to rewrite this article with true facts.

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  • Fitz

    you cant see this version being better than last years? have you used it to determine that? doesnt even sound like you’ve used it. you sound bitter from sense 4 to me. why dont you actually wait to pass judgement condenming it AFTER you have used it for a while.

    • http://androidheadlines.com/ Tom Dawson

      As I stated in the article, Sense 4 wasn’t a good experience for me. Am I passing judgment? Of course not.

      I see no evidence to suggest that this latest version of Sense will be any better than the last. It’s clear that HTC have put a lot of effort into making it better but, I don’t think they’e gone far enough. My opinion might change once I use it, like you say.

      I hate all skins. But that’s not getting in the way of how I assess Sense. I can get on with TouchWiz and Moto’s skin is really quite nice but, I’ve had numerous HTC phones and used numerous versions of Sense. 4 wasn’t the worse by any means but, a lot of the features and the way it makes Android work are pretty pointless. The dialer in Sense is awful, and offers no advantages over the stock one. Samsung, for the most part, leave the functionality of the dialer alone.

      • Fitz

        Well its pretty obvious which device you prefer by your statements. I however have used every version of sense since Froyo. Never had any issues with Sense dialers that you mention.And Sense looks great to me compared to previous versions. To each his own.I just can’t take your opinion very seriously with a blanket statement about something you clearly haven’t used.You clearly have a preference for Samsungs ui over Sense. Just dont understand what you mean by they havent gone far enough. What exactly are you looking for them to do with it?

        • http://androidheadlines.com/ Tom Dawson

          I’ve only ever owned one Samsung device, and that was the Nexus S. I really don’t like TouchWiz either, but hand me a phone with Sense and TouchWiz and I’ll take TouchWiz every time. Mostly because I prefer to use AOSP and I can use TouchWiz almost like I can stock Android.

          I started out with an HTC Desire and used Sense for a while on that, and newer versions ported from the Sensation etc. On my One X I have now I’ve tried to get on with Sense 4 but it’s infuriating. The dialer in Sense just doesn’t work right to me, it’s just a list of numbers in front of you, how is that useful? The stock dialer and Samsung’s offer you access to contacts, call long etc.

          I should have an HTC One in for review soon so I will be taking a good, long hard look at Sense. As for the look of it, I don’t see the need to deviate from the Holo theme, I think that looks pretty nice but when stock Android was ugly before Gingerbread I’ll agree that Sense was far better on the eyes.

          For Sense I’d have liked them to take a leaf out of ASUS’ and Moto’s book and add to Android, instead of trying to make it something it’s not.

          • Fitz

            I’m a little confused about the lack of dialer functionality you mention. Because I’m still using my old sensation, waiting for the One. And the options that i have when pressing phone option are people, groups and call history. Also, on the list it does have the most recent calls. I’m using sense 3.6. My device is rooted, but with stock ROM. It seems to be a bit more than just a list of numbers. They actually tell you when the most recent calls were either made by you or to you. You also, have the option to add contacts from this list and to view a more detailed list of a specific contact from that list as well as link it to your social media.

            • Fitz

              These exact same features remain in Sense 4.0 btw.

  • Purestriker

    Blinkfeed can be disabled. You dont appear to realize that or didnt even say anything about that. Why are you bashing sense 5 if you havent even used it. Because if you had you would know blinkfeed doesnt have to be the homescreen if you dont want it to be. Do you even know that?