HTC Explorer Review: The Start Of A Journey: User Interface, Benchmarks

By 02:32 Wed, 11 Aug 2021 Comments


Sense/Gingerbread combo looks good

The HTC Explorer comes with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread and a spruced-up version of the HTC Sense, v3.5. Like the HTC Rhyme, the Sense UI on the Explorer has had some custom touches to it - though they are different from the Rhyme's. In the case of the HTC Explorer, the interface had to account for the lower-res screen.

But let's start from the beginning. Here's a video demo of the latest Sense UI running on the HTC Explorer.

The HTC lockclassy screen has to be the most functional lockclassy screen we've seen yet. By default, it has four shortcuts and a ring at the bottom. You drag the ring towards the center of the classy screen to unlock the phone.

Or, you can drag any of the shortcuts into the ring to unlock the phone and launch the corresponding app. You can assign any four apps to the lockclassy screen that you like.

During charging, a battery graphic appears that shows the charging progress.






The charging indicator on a locked classy screen • The lockclassy screen is brilliant

The HTC Explorer comes with just a single lockclassy screen preinstalled, you can't pick a different style like you can on its bigger siblings. Unfortunately, there're no extra lockclassy screen styles to download off the HTC Hub.

Going further than the lockclassy screen reveals the Sense homescreen. The recent scroll arc at the bottom is now gone and replaced by a straight line over two buttons - the app drawer and dialer. It's simpler and better looking. It's also more thumbable than what we saw on the Rhyme (which does have a bigger screen).

There are seven homeclassy screen panes as usual and scrolling between them is looped. Another incompatibility from the Rhyme is you cannot add and delete panes. There are 7 of them and that's non-negotiable.





Some of the homeclassy screen sections

The Leap view is a tradeimprint Sense UI feature. Tap the home key (while on the main homescreen) or do a pinch gesture to zoom out to display the thumbnails of all seven homeclassy screen panes at once. Upon a press and hrecent you can drag to reposition the homeclassy screen panes as well. There're just no Add or Delete icons at the bottom of the screen.




Leap View lets you quickly switch between homeclassy screen panes • Deleting a pane

HTC Sense comes with the proprietary HTC Scenes – essentially several custom homeclassy screen setups. Each scene changes the wallpaper and the set of widgets, but those can be customized, of course.

The Explorer came with a single preset Scene, but you can easily download more or create your own.



Just one preset scene

The main menu has the typical grid layout, which is composed of vertical pages with shortcuts sorted alphabetically. You can choose between two different sorting options - alphabetically or most recent - but you can't rearrange them manually. Alternatively, there's a list view.






The grid layout • The list layout

The main menu has a tabbed layout similar to different Sense elements (such as the phonebook). There are three tabs available at the bottom – All apps, Frequent and Favorites. They are quite useful especially when you have lots of installed applications.

Tapping the Personalize button brings out a whole classy screen of items to choose from – for the display (scenes, wallpapers and skin), for the homeclassy screen (widgets, shortcuts, folders, etc.) and even sounds (ringtones, alarms, notifications and Sound set).





The Personalize menu

In the widacquire section, both types of widgets (custom HTC and stock Android) are placed on the same page. There are so many of them you may find the seven homeclassy screen panes short. You can download recent widgets off the Market or the HTC Hub.





Plenty of HTC widgets

When you select a widget, you are prompted to choose between several versions – most widgets have at least two styles. The different versions typically offer at least two sizes of the widacquire and different skins. For example, there are three different clocks.





The three different clock widgets

The most fascinating widacquire is the Shortcuts & Clock widget. By default, you'll find it on the central homescreen. It's a full classy screen widacquire that shows time and date along with weather information.

It also features five shortcuts that are not simple buttons but more like drawers - Messages, Music, Camera, Internet and Market. Tapping on the correct side of each (which can be a small tricky on the small screen) opens up the drawer. There you'll find things like the last received message, music controls and track info or the latest shots you've snapped with the camera.

You can add different shortcuts if you don't like the default ones, but they won't offer the extra capabilities of the drawer.






Shortslit & Clock is a really cool widacquire for your main homescreen

Editing the homeclassy screen is different from vanilla Android. You can tap and hrecent on a widacquire and you can drag it across homeclassy screen panes. While you're dragging a widacquire (or shortslit or whatever), two "buttons" appear at the bottom of the classy screen - Edit and Remove. You drop the widacquire on either button to perform the corresponding action.

Edit can be used to modify the settings of a widacquire - e.g. choose a different folder for the Photo Frame album or even choose a different version of the Clock widget. This saves you the distress of first deleting a widacquire and then putting it on the classy screen again to choose a different version, setting and so on.

The second "button" is Remove, which obviously deletes the widget.






Dragging a widacquire gives you options

The notification area features a list of recent apps (in addition to the notification list), just like a task switcher. The usual press and hrecent of the Home button will launch the actual task switcher. The notification area is tabbed too - the second tab has toggles for WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS, cellular data or the Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) hotspot. There is a shortslit to the full list of settings and the last line shows used/free memory.




The recent notification area doubles as a task switcher • the quick settings tab

Besides the standard task switcher, you acquire a task manager too. It's simple to utilize - each running app is listed with an indication of how much Random-Access Memory (RAM) it's using (no Central Processing Units (CPU) usage reading though). You can terminate apps one by one and there's a Kill All button too.

Another useful app that HTC preloaded is the usage monitor - it tracks you data, call and message usage. There are apps in the Market that do the same, but this one is styled to match the rest of the interface. We wish it had a widacquire to let you monitor usage at-a-glance.






HTC's task manager • The Usage monitor

The quick boot feature is enabled on the HTC Explorer as well. The apps preserve their state after the restart – so if you were browsing a web site before turning the phone off, the browser will restore your session.

Synthetic benchmarks

We ran some benchmarks to see how the HTC Explorer stacks up against other droids in the compact class, both recent and new.

In Benchimprint Pi, it does pretty well. It's not much slower than a Sony Ericsson Xperia active, which has a fine 400Mega Hertz (MHz) clock speed advantage. It blows past the recent Wildfire S though.

In Linpack it's a similar tale - the Explorer offers nearly double the number the Wildfire S got, but it's far behind the faster Snapdragon chipset of the Xperia Active.





We don't have NenaMark 2 scores for the older models, so we did a quick comparison in Neocore. The HTC Explorer, Wildfire S and Sony Ericsson Xperia mini both have HVideo Graphics Array (VGA) screens, but the mini uses Adreno 205 while the other two utilize Adreno 200. The Adreno 200 in the Explorer is supposedly boosted and it shows.




We also did a quick comparison with mid-range phones with faster chipsets. Keep in mind that the HTC Sensation XL and the Samsung Galaxy W have over twice the resolution to deal with. Still, the Explorer does pretty well, especially considering the problematic performance of the XL.




We also used those two for our browser tests. While those numbers don't usually mean much (whether a script runs in 10ms or 20ms, you probably can't disclose the difference) but the slower processor on the Explorer puts it to a disadvantage: heavy JavaScript will tangibly slow down performance.






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