The Travesty That Is The HTC Sense Lock Screen

I can’t believe Apple is suing them for this. It’s really not worth it.

The item in question here is HTCs Sense-branded lock screen for their Android devices such as HTC Desire and HTC Legend:

HTC_Lockscreen

The lock-screen is activated every time you put the device to sleep by clicking the power button. The next time you wake it up, the lock screen is there, waiting for your finger to swipe that grayish handle downwards, ensuring that it isn’t accidentally woken up while in your pocket. Incidentally, that’s exactly what happens.

Vanilla Android – or Google Experience devices (Moto Droid, Nexus One), as well as the iPhone, have lock screens which require you to swipe horizontally, and for some distance as opposed to the meagre centimetre which unlocks HTCs screen. On those devices, the chance that you accidentally wake up and unlock your phone in your pocket is all but non-existant, whereas it’s now happened three times on my HTC Desire. The only solution I’ve found, short of re-flashing the phone with Vanilla Android, is to enable Androids unlock pattern, for an extra layer of pocket protection.

I’m thrilled with Android, and I like the HTC Desire hardware. It is, however, becoming very clear to me that custom UIs is the scourge of Android, and HTCs Sense isn’t all you’ve heard it was. In fact, it’s not sensible at all.

19 thoughts on “The Travesty That Is The HTC Sense Lock Screen”

  1. The Travesty That Is The HTC Sense Lock Screen: http://noscope.com/?p=6649

  2. Very interesting point! I’m a huge fan of HTC’s Sense UI myself – I’m using it on my Hero.

    Interestingly I’ve never accidentally unlocked the phone in my pocket (or elsewhere for that matter). I’m thinking it may have something to do with the Hero’s “chin”, a design feature not present on the HTC Desire you’ve been using – however also featured on the HTC Legend.
    I’m thinking this bend on the phone may to a certain degree minimize the risk of interacting with the touch screen when it’s in your pocket – not that I have any scientific evidence to back this up :).

    This doesn’t, however, change the fact that you have a very good point. HTC is producing several Android devices without this “chin” – actually most of their devices don’t have it – so I bet this is an issue not experienced by you alone.

    1. Joen says:

      I’m a huge fan of HTC’s Sense UI myself – I’m using it on my Hero.

      I’d love to hear what specifically you like about the Sense UI.

      I’ve heard some quip about the improved keyboard, but this is not something that impresses me very much. I sold my Moto phone so I’ve tried both Vanilla and Sense, and in my opinion both keyboards suck.

      Some of the Sense widgets are nice. The big clock ticker annoys me, but since it’s a widget, I can remove it.

      In my ideal world, Sense was just a bunch of wallpapers and widgets bundled with HTC phones, and something you could uninstall and reinstall from the Android Market.

      Interestingly I’ve never accidentally unlocked the phone in my pocket (or elsewhere for that matter). I’m thinking it may have something to do with the Hero’s “chin”, a design feature not present on the HTC Desire you’ve been using – however also featured on the HTC Legend.

      I like the chin. It’s visually distinct.

      One other reason why the lock screen works badly, is that the handle area is so huge (it’s TOO easy to hit), compared to the tiny arrow or phone icons present on vanilla Android and iPhones.

      1. Joen,

        I should probably preface this by saying that my only experience with Android has been through HTC Sense. I’ve of course seen screenshots etc. of the stock Android look but I’ve never used it myself.

        Saying that I’m a huge fan may be an overstatement, but I do like the Sense UI. One of the main reasons I like it is that it’s pretty. Simple as that. I think it’s a lot nicer to look at, and therefore also to use, than stock Android. Especially stock Android pre-2.2. FroYo has brought some nice UI refinements, but I still think that the Sense UI is more stylish in some ways. I like the notification bar black instead of white. I like HTC’s icons for Wifi, 3G etc. better – small details, I know, but they all add up to a prettier experience. In my opinion.

        Besides the look and feel there’re small things here and there. I like having seven home screens instead of just three (was this raised to five in 2.2?). HTC Sense incorporated a “Phone” button as a central part of the main UI from the beginning. Stock Android only added this in 2.2.

        You mention the widgets, and I agree with you on that. Some of them are nice, but I don’t use a ton of them – but they are a lot nicer than the comparable stock widgets (returning to look and feel), whether or not they fill a need for me.

        I agree with you on the unlock screen, though. I’ve actually had trouble unlocking it, because it’s so easy, I guess. You have this giant area to drag down, and if you don’t get it down long enough, it doesn’t unlock.

        1. Joen says:

          Oh man, I think you’d prefer vanilla Android. It may not translate super well in screenshots, but it really is the little things.

          First off, I’m not averse to “pretty”, but I do think pretty should take the backseat, as ‘splained here: http://noscope.com/journal/2006/09/pretty-is-relative

          Secondly, a few things:

          I like having seven home screens instead of just three (was this raised to five in 2.2?).

          Well yeah it’s raised to 5 by default, but you can configure that to be 9. Personally I’m now at TWO homescreens, and that’s using the highly configurable “ADW.launcher” replacement, because I’m sick of Sense (another story).

          HTC Sense incorporated a “Phone” button as a central part of the main UI from the beginning. Stock Android only added this in 2.2.

          Vanilla Android has always had a phone icon in the bottom left corner. ‘Course you could remove that if you wanted, so it wasn’t permanent.

          Android 2.2 added the little dock-esque thing in the bottom with the phone icon there. But even that phone icon is actually removable — you could place Gmail there instead.

          Back in my Milestone days, I’d use the “People” link to call. I’d click “people”, unslide the keyboard, press the first letter of the person I’d call, and click the phone icon next to them.

          But the HTC Sense “People” list, requires TWO clicks to call a person — first click the person, then click “call”. It’s a mess.

          I agree aspects of Sense are prettier. Certainly the “Scenes” feature, which allow you to make sweeping homescreen widget/icon configuration changes easily, they’ll appeal to the social young hipsters. Sense is, on the surface of it, a much more commercial product.

          Deep down, however, Google have done everything right with the vanilla Android. It’s not a smooth, connected experience by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d rather call it an “incomplete” experience. Imagine it this way: Google is building a castle; they’re almost done, and it’s shining in the horizon. In comparison, HTC Sense is a house. The house is all done and ready to move in to. But it can never become a castle.

          Thank goodness this is a comment. My writing here is horrible.

  3. I would really like to try vanilla Android – especially 2.2. I’m sure some of my love for HTC Sense stems from the fact that it’s what I’ve used – it’s my only real experience of Android.

    I do think “pretty” can be an important part if “form and function” as you write it, but I do of course agree that the thickest layer of candy coating can’t save you if your UI is completely messed up UX wise. But that’s another discussion :).

    Oh, and regarding your house/castle metaphor: I think I would actually prefer a house over a castle, when it’s something I have to use (or live in) everyday. I think a castle would be way to much hazzle in the ling run ;). But maybe that’s just me :).

    (BTW, I’m on my way on vacation, so it’s not our of rudeness if I don’t respond immediately to possible further discussions :))

  4. On my Hero I simply slide my finger from the “hang up” button to the “menu” button and the phone is unlocked. Its like having a slider directly on the button surface. I’ve also never had any trouble with unwanted unlocking of the phone while in my pocket.

    Vindberg.

  5. Stu says:

    On my Legend with 2.1 and Sense, I have to hit the power button to get the screen back on, and then do the downward swipe to unlock the phone.

    Never had any trouble with accidental unlocking in my pocket.

    I’d prefer it if I could get the screen back on with the menu or home button, because the power button is awkward to press through the plastic shellcase it lives in.

    Looking at the HTC webpage – http://www.htc.com/ca/support/legend-virgin-mobile/help/settings – they say that you use the menu button to turn on the screen. I noticed that they mention Bell / Virgin whereas mine is a Vodafone UK variant….. Is it just Vodafone that have changed things so that it requires the power button to re-activate the screen, or is that a typo on the HTC webpage?

    Or is the button press requirement configurable somewhere I’ve not found yet?

    1. Joen says:

      Stu,

      I’d be surprised if Android 2.1 with Sense is different on the Legend than it is from the Desire.

      So you want to be able to activate it via the menu button? No idea if you can do that, but I’m sure there’s an app for it if it’s not built in. But why would you? Are you using it in a case? The legend (drool, by the way), is so sturdy that I don’g see why you’d need a case 🙂

      Finally, the legend has the “chin” which Søren mentions the Hero also has. Perhaps that’s what prevents it from unlocking?

      On a related note, I’ve rooted my phone (it was so easy using “unrevoked 3”), and the second CyanogenMod (which is a mod of the vanilla Android that ships on the Nexus One) v6 comes out, I’m installing that. Then finally I’ll have the lock screen I was used to on my Milestone (on which I didn’t have this problem). I’ll post an update then.

  6. Stu says:

    Joen,

    At the moment it’s power button and then swipe to unlock.

    I’d be happy with menu button and then swipe, or even better – menu button and then the Android unlock pattern (but no Sense swipe)

    I have the screen timeout set to 1 minute to help with battery life, and so I need to unlock it again quite frequently. The annoying part is that I need to adjust my grip on the phone to squeeze the power button in through the case. Even without the case it’s slightly annoying, although not as bad.

    I don’t think the chin makes much difference for me because the power button is so difficult to press accidentally (or even deliberately!) through the case. It would help protect the menu button from an accidental press though.

    I could probably get away without using the case, but I’d like to keep the phone looking shiny and new for as long as possible – partly because I’m clumsy and paranoid, but also for resale value in case I upgrade later.

    Will have another look for an app to change the behaviour but not found anything yet. I take it that’s the sort of thing I’d need to root the phone for? I’ve not got round to yet either (only had the thing a week or so)

    1. Joen says:

      I’d be happy with menu button and then swipe, or even better – menu button and then the Android unlock pattern (but no Sense swipe)

      I’ve seen an app (which requires your phone is rooted) that allows you to rid of the lock screen entirely. That, combined with an unlock pattern, will at least get you halfway.

      Please be aware that if you root, you void your warranty. Though you can “un-root” at a later point, should you need to.

  7. Stu says:

    I just tried an app called “No Lock” which got rid of the lock screen, allowed a screen wake with any button and didn’t require root access. Unfortunately, it also disables the unlock pattern.

    The search continues!

    1. Joen says:

      The search continues!

      I know installing a custom ROM is probably a totally overkill solution for you, but it looks like CyanogenMod version 6 will support your tweaking how to wake the phone:

      http://db.androidspin.com/android_build_screenshots.asp?build_id=304

      “wake on trackball” and so on.

  8. Stu says:

    Interesting stuff – like you say, probably not for me, but could well be ideal for someone.

    For now I’ve finally managed to get the widget working for the “no lock” app, so I can totally disable locking for when the phone’s sat on the desk / table. And at least it has a visual indicator to remind me to re-enable locking before it goes back in the pocket.

    I think that’ll have to do until 2.2 comes out for the Legend. Will re-assess the situation then…..

    Thanks for all your help tho. 🙂

  9. Thomas says:

    Hi

    I have never accidentally unlocked my HTC Legend in my pocket.
    But my problem is that whenever I receive a call I accidentally accept or reject the call in my pocket. So I always have to call people back and explain what happened…

    Does anyone have the same problem and perhaps a solution?

    1. Joen says:

      Thomas,

      I did kind of have that problem, and I’m sorry to say my solution was to root the phone and install android without Sense.

  10. Thomas says:

    Hi again

    Thanks for your reply Joen.

    I actually contacted HTC support with my problem and the answer I got was: “Buy a case for your phone!”. THANK YOU! One of the things I like about HTC Legend is the design. And now HTC suggest that I hide it in a case…

    1. Thomas,
      Oh, “get a case”? Now, where have we heard that before? 😉

  11. Ian says:

    Umm.. put it in your pocket upside down.. problem solved.

    I have never had a single accidental unlock or answer/reject problem with my desire.

Comments are closed.