Like it or not, custom manufacturer skins are here to stay. That said some are better than others, and HTC’s Sense UI has emerged as one of the more mature and usable options, even garnering its fair share of fans. HTC is expected to reveal the fourth version of Sense with new hardware at Mobile World Congress next month, but PocketNow allegedly got a look at the changes before prime time. They came away impressed, and noted some radical – and in many cases welcome – changes.
First and foremost: the homescreen can finally function in landscape mode without any hacking or tweaking. This is a feature that is bafflingly absent form almost all stock phones (save QWERTY sliders) and is often inserted by modders and aftermarket ROM developers. Sliders and icons go with a slate gray look instead of the current glossy black, and the sometimes obtrusive icons are augmented and in some areas replaced with text. The task switcher is similar to the card system found on stock Ice Cream Sandwich, but uses a 3D effect like the current Sense carousel.
The lockscreen gets a makeover with a more straightforward notification system, reportedly aping the iPhone 4 and 4S. (Careful, HTC – Apple’s lawyers are running amok, and will certainly be looking for easy targets.) PocketNow reports that HTC plans for all of its devices to use capacitive physical buttons, not on-screen buttons as was assumed to be standard for Ice Cream Sandwich phones. Some hardware will move to a three-button layout even so. A new guest mode allows you to lock all private data and apps to allow a friend or acquaintance to borrow your phone for a quick call or search.
Sense’s other affected programs like email and the web browser get incremental updates, and the later notably has a reader mode saved page function. Beats will be a universal feature with support for plugins from third-party apps, and DropBox is included with some integration with the rest of Sense’s custom applications. Take all of this as rumor at the moment: none of it is official in any way. We should be able to confirm or deny all of the above information in Barcelona in late February.