HTC and Sense

HTC makes a variety of Android phones, including the first Android phone on the market, the T-Mobile G1/HTC Dream. It also makes the Google Nexus One. Some phones use a vanilla Android installation, and some include HTC's enhancement, Sense.

Sense is a user interface system based around widgets. Widgets are small, always-on applications that run on your phone Home screen for specific purposes, like showing weather information or posting Twitter updates. This is similar to Windows Gadgets on desktop computers. When Android 1.6 was only offering three screens for customization, Sense offered seven. The screens use "scenes" centered around common activities, such as work and social media, and HTC created several custom widgets to make using phone activities easier. Sense also ties some information together, such as combining phone contact information and Facebook.

Sense phones do sync with Exchange e-mail accounts, and the e-mail widget makes checking business e-mail easy. Sense phones come with a PDF reader, which is very handy for reading attachments. It's also easier to use Sense phones for web browsing, because Sense allows for common two-finger gestures like pinching to shrink pages. Multitouch gestures are supported by Android, but Google elected to turn off this feature until Android 2.1.

Enterprise security sometimes demands the ability to remove all the Exchange or other sensitive data from your phone if the phone is lost or stolen (as mentioned previously, this is known as a remote wipe). Sense does not support remote wipe natively prior to Android 2.2, so you'll have to use a third-party app if you need this level of protection for your business data.

HTC Sense phones include the Hero and Tattoo phones. HTC Android phones without Sense include the G1/HTC Dream, the myTouch/Magic, and the Google Nexus One. Although they don't come with Sense, these phones do come with exclusive software from the phone carrier.

That said, the G1 and myTouch are the oldest Android phone offerings. Hardware has advanced since their release, so don't get locked into a two-year contract with one of those phones unless it's a very compelling deal. (For more information, see the unofficial wiki at http://androidonhtc.com/.)

Motorola and MOTOBLUR

Motorola may be more responsible for Android's popularity than any other phone manufacturer. The Motorola DROID was heavily advertised as a competitor to the iPhone, and it became the first truly drool-worthy Android phone to hit the market. DROID is also a straightforward Android offering without extra user interface software.

Motorola's user interface enhancement is MOTOBLUR, also known simply as Blur. Blur is meant primarily as a social networking feature that combines feeds from e-mail messages and sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr, and places the messages directly on the Home screen of the phone without requiring you to log into separate apps. MOTOBLUR also allows native syncing with Exchange e-mail accounts and has built-in support for remote wipe. That means if your phone is lost, your private data doesn't have to be vulnerable. (It's worth noting that, when I asked phone manufacturers about remote wipe on Android, Motorola was the only company that offered the feature out of the box.)

Motorola's lineup includes the Moto DROID, which runs a basic Android OS. Their Blur phones include the CLIQ and the BACKFLIP. The BACKFLIP is noteworthy for its unusual design. Rather than a slide-out keyboard, it has a hinged keyboard that flips from the back, as the name implies. The screen is touch sensitive, but so is the area just behind it, so you can scroll through messages without obscuring your view of the screen.

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