A Bird’s Eye View
There are plenty of phones out on the market now to get excited about and many that will disappoint. Take for instance the announcement of the iPhone 4S, when everyone was expecting the iPhone 5. Well, the HTC Sensation XE is one smartphone that will not disappoint.
A whirlwind tour reveals a new upgraded 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.3 inches of touchscreen real estate at gHD 540×960 resolution, and a whopping 1730mAh of battery juice. The reason for the XE is that this is a special Beats Audio edition of the already successful HTC Sensation smartphone. You can expect a pair of ear buds, or Beats, produced by Dr. Dre. HTC is also throwing in your choice of either an 8G or 16G microSD card to boot. A last addition is the remote that activates the Beats audio profile to enhance both the bass and the crisp range of vocals, but also to cycle tracks and answer phone calls without taking out the phone. The remote is no phenomenon, but a nice addition not typically found with phones. I just wonder why you would use the remote instead of the phone.
The Sensation XE is the first of an entire line of smartphones HTC will produce with the Beats Audio technology built in. It also features the new 3.5 version of the HTC Sense interface. The launch in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa happens this month, but North America may have to wait some time. The price is not yet set.
Beats Audio – Real or Illusion?
Beats Audio is the meat of this new line of phones that the HTC Sensation XE introduces, so let us have a look at Beats Audio a little closer. What began as a pair of headphones has turned into HP laptop and tablet additions and now HTC phone enhancements. Beats Audio is making a name for themselves, though admit they are not sure what kind of name, yet. Some claim it is unclear whether Beats Audio means software tweaks, hardware additions, or simply a slick sales pitch.
Jimmy Iovine is Chairman of Beats by Dr. Dre, but also CEO and Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, a Universal Music Group division. He believes it is his company’s mission to restore respect to a tattered and devastated music industry, that has suffered terrible blows to its quality by the so-called “digital revolution”. Beats Audio is attempting to recover the feeling of the music in the way the artist intended the listener to experience it. Granted, his press releases are full of a lot of hot air, but this is an area of the digital experience many have thought was not profitable enough to go after. So audio has suffered while watching visuals get all the attention.
HTC claims that their partnership with Beats Audio is due to their obsession over every part of the consumer’s experience with their products. Maybe this is true and maybe it is not. The point, though, is that it will boost (pun intended) the value of the HTC phones. The question is whether this perception is mere smoke and mirrors or there is real value in the Beats Audio addition. It is hard to tell, since everything on the Internet about Beats Audio is packed with hype. Substantial explanation of the tangible benefits is so glaringly absent that it has raised red flags (another pun intended, since red is the key color on the HTC Sensation XE to signify the Beats Audio addition).
President of global sales and marketing at HTC Corporation, Jason Mackenzie said, “The HTC Sensation XE provides an incredible experience that proves our commitment to truly put the consumers at the center of their mobile worlds.” Is this just used car salesman crap or are they purposely remaining vague and mysterious to build intrigue? I will leave it up to you to decide, but keep in mind there are no specs presented anywhere and all statements are void of concrete technical statements.
We do know that Beats Audio is a combination of both software and hardware. So contrary to the speculation of some skeptics, it is not merely an equalizer tweak. The headphones alone reveal that hardware is definitely involved. The jack on the Beats by Dr. Dre in-ear buds does not have any metal, thus eliminating cracks and pops that are typical of metal jacks. JHP has a video claiming a better isolated processing island for Beats Audio and improved isolation of cables from each other to further reduce crosstalk. Beyond these four facts, there is nothing known of Beats Audio.
A Bigger Version of Sensation XE a Month Later
With the Sensation XE making a big splash, a newer and bigger phone is due out next month – the Sensation XL, codenamed Runnymede. The screen will stretch to 4.7 inches, but the battery will squeak in at 1600mAh, and the phone will be a bit heavier. Also, the resolution will be a weaker 480×800. The screen may be bigger, but along with a bigger screen, the resolution must be higher just for it to match the quality of the smaller screen, due to pixel density. To appear better the resolution must be significantly higher. However, HTC has made the decision to go the other direction with resolution. So the XL will be a downgrade from the XE. The Sensation XE will still be the cream of the crop HTC phone.
Compared to Samsung
HTC made its big appearance on the 6th October, a mere two days after Apple’s opening, in order to steal Apple’s thunder. Of course, they did it in reverse of how stealing thunder is supposed to work. They should have scheduled it for the day before, if they were really so confident in their product. This may reveal either a lack of confidence or a lack of competence in the management at HTC. Either way, the two days post is a bad foreboding for them.
Management aside, how does the HTC Sensation XE stack up against the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy Note and S2? It might be unfair to put the Sensation XE up against the Galaxy Note, which is a Goliath of a phone, at 5.3 inches. The Galaxy Note has 800×1280 resolution to support the vast screen real estate. So that already kills the Sensation XE at 4.3 inches and a measly 540×960. Even the Galaxy S2 has 800×480 on a 4.3-inch screen.
HTC beats Samsung in the areas of size, performance, and audio. Overall, though, the Galaxy Note may appear to be the better phone, especially if judged by the visuals. While it is a simpler design and lacks the red accents of the HTC, the screen size and the crisp resolution will grab the money out of the hands of any prospective purchaser.
If the phones were tested in a race, the HTC would barely win, with its 1.5GHz processor, slightly faster than the 1.4GHz in the Samsung. The Galaxy S2 is already antiquated, with a 1GHz chip.
If it is a race of longevity, the Samsung wins hands down. The battery is 2600mAh, over the 1730mAh in the Sensation XE. That accounts for the weight difference of 170g over 151g. The Galaxy S2 is only 116g, but the battery is also only 1650mAh. The Galaxy S2 is no match for the Sensation XE.
The difference in resolution between the Galaxy Note and the Sensation XE is much larger than the difference in processing speed, though. So the Galaxy Note may have the edge.
Sensation XE vs Apple iPhone 4S
As for Apple’s iPhone 4S, the phone is pretty much the same as the iPhone 4, save for the small boost in speed, slightly better camera, and the voice assistant codenamed Siri. The unfortunate faux pax for Apple is that Shiri means ass in Japanese, but the very common informal word for ass is, you guessed it, Siri. What a gut buster. We just saw Apple’s iPhone sales drop among Japanese businessmen.
When compared to the Sensation XE, Apple has caught up with HTC’s camera, finally. The CPU is the same A5 1GHz found in the iPad2, but who really cares? HTC has it beat pretty badly in this department. The most glaring difference is the screen size. The Apple’s 3.5 inch is tiny side-by-side with the Sensation XE and in spite of the iPhone 4S’ higher PPI, the smaller screen will drive many to that beautiful, big HTC Sensation XE 4.3-inch screen. It is so wide and comfortable, and Apple is so narrow and limiting. The perception is enough to topple Apple.
All in all, Samsung’s Galaxy Note may be the superior phone, but the Sensation XE is at least second place. If you are an audiophile you will certainly pick the Sensation XE for the Beats Audio sound superiority. If, however, visuals are the most critical aspect of a phone, the XE is the next best thing.
Of all the features that might win you over, HTC has built an amazingly beautiful Sense UI. When combined with the 4.3-inch screen and sitting side-by-side with such phones as the tiny Nokia models in the phone salon, the Sensation XE is a gorgeous trophy of a phone. When you pick it up and plop those Dr. Dre ear buds in, the sound blows you away. The HTC will easily sell this great premier product of their new line of Beats Audio powered smartphones.