HTC‘s Sense UI, a custom-made theme that sits over another OS and provides new functionality and a high level of polish, is probably the best regarded of all manufacturer-made custom UIs. Others, like Samsung‘s TouchWiz and Motorola’s BLUR, are often less preferable than the untouched OS, but HTC Sense is often a major selling point on HTC phones like the HD2 (pictured), Droid Incredible, and Evo 4G.
But a new tide is coming. The OSes HTC had been improving with Sense, namely Android and Windows Mobile, may not need it quite so much. Google is rumored to be focusing on UI improvements with the next version of Android, even hiring away one of Palm’s crack UI designers to work on Android 3.0, codenamed “Gingerbread.” And Microsoft, saddled with an OS long past the point of improvement, has simply tossed out Windows Mobile in favor of the new, very slick Windows Phone 7.
As part of Windows Phone 7’s design-centric user interface, Microsoft has put some serious limitations on the amount of modification any manufacturer can implement. Microsoft wants Windows Phone 7 to be familiar and reliable; the company has imposed a strict set of required hardware, a set number, type, and layout of buttons, and only three hardware configurations. Software is similarly restricted, although we don’t know the specifics of what manufacturers can and cannot change.
Many assumed this would simply mean that Sense UI would not be coming to Windows Phone 7, but this weekend, HTC said otherwise. Said Drew Bamford, head of HTC’s user experience team: “Microsoft has taken firmer control of the core experience, but we can still innovate. We won’t be able to replace as much of the core Windows Phone experience, but we will augment it.”
It remains to be seen exactly what kind of modifications a Windows Phone 7 version of Sense would bring, and the only glimpse we’ve gotten at an HTC Windows Phone 7 phone (that will never not be awkward) shows a device sans Sense. Hopefully Sense on Windows Phone 7 is as good as it is on Windows Mobile and Android.