NFC/Android Beam: Naturally, this little bit will only apply to HTC devices that offer NFC functionality, but Sense 4 does indeed support Android Beam -- and on the One X, it works flawlessly. We were able to share URLs, directions, apps, contacts and even YouTube videos with our Galaxy Nexus without incident. We were also able to download Google Wallet directly from the Play Store, but carrier restrictions still apply.
Keyboard: HTC loves its virtual keyboard so much that the layout remained nearly identical, with the exception of a standard set of arrows on a fresh row at the bottom. This means if you weren't a fan before, nothing's going to change your mind now. Of course, part of the beauty of Android is the fact that you can simply download a new keyboard and use it instead, so this really isn't a make-or-break factor when you're thinking of purchasing a device. On a positive note, we were quite pleased to see the trace functionality still baked into the Sense keyboard, and it worked brilliantly. Calendar: Sense's calendar is colorful and easy to read. You can view multiple calendars and incorporate tasks, contact birthdays, Facebook events and more. The weather for the city of your choosing is spread out across the top of each individual day, but if the daily layout isn't for you, just touch one of the tabs at the bottom to switch to week, month and agenda views. Phone: The layout is very much what you'd come to expect from Sense, but a few elements have been tossed around to make room for uniformity with other parts of the UI. For instance, tabs now run across the bottom of the app and the rest of the keypad has shifted up the screen to make room for them. Two of them -- groups and call history -- can fortunately be removed if necessary. What can't be taken away, though, are the phone and contacts tabs.
Beats Integration: HTC must have received a lot of complaints from customers upset that Beats Audio couldn't be used in third-party apps, because the company added the functionality into Sense 4 and used it as one of the update's key talking points at Mobile World Congress in February. While only certain legacy devices (such as the Vivid) will get the feature alongside version 3.6, every phone or tablet bearing 4.0 will likely boast this capability. We checked it out on the One X, and was indeed able to take advantage of Beats on several third party apps. Widgets: Most widgets made available by Sense 4 aren't all that different from any other HTC device that has come before it. There are a few native Android widgets scattered about, but be prepared to wade through a much larger sea of available options with Sense than you would have on pure ICS.
Disabling apps: Not every app or process can be disabled in Sense, and there doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to which ones are affected. The camera app and bluetooth share can't be disabled, for instance, but the dialer and contacts apps can. With that said, there are still plenty more options to get rid of stuff on Sense 4 than any Gingerbread-running version. Dropbox: The One series is lacking in expandable storage, but we'll give HTC credit for trying to come up with a solid alternative method to make up for it. The Taiwanese company has once again partnered with Dropbox to hook you up with 25GB cloud storage space when you're rockin' on a Sense 4 device. This is more than plenty of real estate for many people, and it's most likely sufficient if you've been taking advantage of other cloud services or streaming music options such as Google Music, Spotify or anything else. Our primary concern here isn't a matter of running out of space; it's the fact that nearly all of these services end up becoming a huge drain on capped data. If you don't have unlimited, you'll want to be incredibly picky about how much you listen to on a regular basis. As a sidenote, we're unsure if you can still get the same amount of storage via Dropbox if you port the new Sense firmware onto an older device, but we'd love to find out from any aspiring devs who want to give it a shot.
Clock: Gone is the desk clock tab, and the world clock has undergone a makeover. While the same clocks are still there, they've been restricted to the bottom half. Taking its place on the top section of the screen is a Google Earth-style globe that can be rotated, tilted and zoomed, all the while displaying weather conditions in major cities as you go. Nearly all of the other tabs within the app have barely changed, with only slight variations in style. Screenshots: Yes, Virginia, screenshots are included in Sense 4. Hold down the power and volume down buttons and kapow -- the shot is stored in your gallery, and you can do whatever the heck you want with it. Easter eggs: Perhaps only a handful of people really give a darn about if their phone comes with hidden easter eggs, and perhaps HTC agrees, because Sense doesn't come with the typical stock Android gems. There, there, heartbroken reader. You're a trooper, everything will be okay. Test menu: For those that like to dig really deep into menus, we combed through the test menu (accessible by dialing *#*#4636#*#* in the phone app) and found it to be identical in setup to stock Ice Cream Sandwich.
Ah, Android skins. We've vehemently opposed many of them over the years, because each manufacturer chooses to value differentiation and "user experience" more than the nature of the OS itself and completely misses the point. Additionally, a healthy portion of these skins are loaded up with so many extra frills and gimmicks that the performance of the actual device suffers as a consequence. HTC's proprietary UI is no exception to this, and in the past has been one of the worst offenders. With the exception of a few questionable nips and tucks, HTC's latest UI, Sense 4, has avoided this same reputation. Peter Chou's company has largely succeeded at its goal of bringing a lighter version of its skin to the One series. While it doesn't look like a copy of vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich, it's able to maintain its unique personality but still holds on to the spirit of what Matias Duarte has been working hard to accomplish with the Android OS. By this, we mean offering a fresh design, important new features and great performance -- all of these being elements that were sorely needed. For the first time in ages, we're loving the experience of a Sense-powered device.