Last week, we asked our readers about which flagship smartphone they liked more: the trend-smashing, beautifully designed HTC One with its 4MP “UltraPixel” camera, or the more flexible Galaxy S4 with its microSD card support, removable battery and more interesting software features. The HTC One came first with 564 votes, but only very slightly – as the GS4 was right behind it with 486 (46%) votes.
Our previous poll was more or less focused on the hardware aspect of these phones. In today’s Ask The Readers feature, we discuss the custom skins running on top of them – HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz.
HTC’s Sense UI has long been known among smartphone enthusiasts for its bloated nature; the way it makes Android feel rather heavy even on some of the powerful of phones it’s been shipping on in the past, thanks to its needlessly-detailed animations and general resource-intensiveness. In recent iterations and especially with the latest Sense 5 on the new HTC One, the Taiwanese company has shed a lot of bloat and made real, tangible progress in making sure their custom skin looks closer to stock Android, while still retaining its characteristic HTC feel.
Apart from the current version of Motorola’s Motoblur skin in use on Droid Razr Maxx HD, no other custom skin feels as close to stock Jelly Bean looks as Sense 5 does now.
Sense 5 looks great, and has some excellent new features that are very much unique to it, including:
- BlinkFeed: A huge Flipboard-like home screen & lock screen widget that pulls updates from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and your favorite websites.
- Zoe: Takes multiple photos and records video when you’re taking photographs, resulting in short GIF-like moving images in your gallery that you can share online.
- Sense TV: A universal remote control (powered by an IR blaster) plus TV guide that works with all major TVs & cable set top boxes in US and UK, as well as Hulu Plus.
As mentioned in our previous Ask The Readers feature poll, Samsung never hesitates when it comes to adding crazily innovative software features to their smartphones.
In addition to the crazy number of mostly-gimmicky-but-at-times-useful features in TouchWiz for Galaxy S III such as Smart Stay for keeping the display on while you’re looking at it, Pop Up Display for watching videos while you use other apps etc., TouchWiz on the Galaxy S4 has the following new features and apps:
- S Health: Dedicated health and fitness-tracking app that makes use of the temperature and humidity sensors in the S4.
- Adapt Display: Adjusts display brightness and contrast based on surrounding light conditions.
- Drama Shot: Allows you to take multiple exposures for awesome actions shots.
- Air View / Gesture: Lets you perform different tasks by waving your hand or pointing your finger right above the display’s surface.
- Smart Pause: Pauses video playback when it detects you are looking away from your phone.
- Dual Shot: Takes photo using rear + front facing cameras and makes a single image out of them.
I am personally forced to prefer TouchWiz over Sense because – despite looking like a novice art class project – it just has more features that go a long way in improving daily smartphone usage. Being able to swipe call logs to call or message contacts, keeping the display on while you’re looking at it, having a dedicated fitness tracking app, and managing your phone from your desktop with Kies Air etc. is downright awesome.
Ideally, there should be a custom manufacturer skin that has the features of TouchWiz, but the mature, elegant looks of Sense, but that’s probably never going to happen, sadly.
This all, however, is just my opinion. We are here to ask our readers what they think about custom manufacturer skins – especially HTC’s and Samsung’s, given that they sell the most popular and influential Android smartphones, so sound off in the comments section after leaving your answer in the poll below.