Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I can probably never go back to HTC Sense

I've been using an Android phone - specifically, the HTC Hero (CDMA) - since January of this year.

Through the intervening 9 full months of use, I've been through three major OS versions, one of which was provided on the phone, one of which was hacked on and then officially applied, and one of which is not official in any way, shape, or form - and at least two root methods. I've seen at least four different interfaces - HTC's Sense, ADW.Launcher, LauncherPro (I think), and whatever the default AOSP launcher system is.

All three UIs depend on underlying frameworks I know next to nothing about to display information, but that's not of any particular importance for my conclusion at this point.

An important realization struck - I cannot go back to using HTC sense full time.

Let me first state that I love the unified phone/dialer/contact interface, and I more or less approve of the custom widgets, the custom mail application, and the fact that they provide a pretty good AIM client.

I'm completely indifferent to the Themes thing that allows multiple home-screen setups.

The things that really bug me, though, are fatal flaws - this UI is a complete and utter resource hog. It never should have shipped on a 528 MHz phone. Animations for everything? Great, awesome, how about instead of showing clearing fog and a sunbeam when I wake my phone up, you just focus on letting me use it? Fortunately, most of those can be turned off, but they're still there, wasting space on my /system partition. A browser that takes four or five seconds to launch and be ready for any sort of input is pretty sweet, too. The ROM backups take up a full 70 megabytes more space on SD than AOSP backups, even that for Cyanogen.

The absolute worst part, though?

You're required to have a default phone number for your contacts.

See, Android features this neat widget strategy of allowing you to have Quick Contacts show up on your homescreen. You tap on the contact icon and get this:

Tap on the phone and you get this:

Except on Sense. Because Sense requires contacts to have a default phone number, you are no longer two taps away from calling a contact at any one of their numbers; instead, you must either accept that pushing the phone button makes their default number happen, or you need to tap their contact card, go to their contact, select from a long list of visually identical options, and hope you did that right without being able to stare at the phone.

That one horrible usability flaw is enough to make me not want to use the one feature that was a draw to the phone in the first place - its customized UI.

This is all aside from the fact that neither HTC nor Sprint will acknowledge that the Hero CDMA can run 2.2 and will therefore not even try to put out an update for it. One system update for a phone they'll likely continue selling through the holiday season this year. I'm locked into contract on this thing until the end of January 2011, by which time the second major revision to be overlooked by Sprint and HTC will have come out. Great support, guys.

(nerd over.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pentax Strobism

I just found out my "broken" flash is really only broken because its screen doesn't work. If I put it on wireless mode and throw some Gels on there, I can use it with my working flash and paint.

[update] Here's the same idea, different execution.

Monday, October 4, 2010