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HTC Interfaces

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TouchFLO, Manila, Sense - what is this all about?

The questions “What is the difference between TouchFLO and Sense?”, “What is manila?”, “Does Manila 2.5 differ from Sense 2.5?” are still floating around either international or Polish forums. Additionally several months ago (when I started my adventure with Windows Mobile and HTC) I myself was searching answers to the same questions. These are the reasons why I decided to try to explain – according to my small knowledge – certain kinds of interfaces developed by HTC.

HTC Home

Windows Mobile standard Today screen

Most of you probably know the standard WinMO interface, called Today screen. The first, yet primitive, but still an ovule of the Sense was a Today screen plugin and was called TouchFLO or – more properly – the HTC Home. On HTC website (in HTC Touch FAQ section) it can be read that HTC TouchFLO™ is an Intuitive Touch Screen Technology that enables both finger and stylus input(...) and HTC Home is a Today screen plug-in that gives you up-to-date local information at a glance(...). Technically That might be true but nevertheless among HTC users (and in some of the mobile online services) both names were used concurrently. HTC Home had (by default) characteristic digital clock in the upper screen part, then immediately below 3 notification icons (about e-mails, text messages and missed calls). Below them you could see several icons enabling access to certain pages, i.e. Contacts, Weather, Programs, Music etc. The big clock and the pages have became a base to all the future HTC interfaces.

An additional element of the HTC Home was 3D Touch Cube (only for some of the phones). To access HTC Cube the user had to slide his finger upwards. Then a three-dimensional interface used to appear allowing the user to quick dial to favourite contacts, 6 frequently used applications or the multimedia playback.

HTC showed HTC Home (and TouchFLO) for the first time in June 2007 and the first phone with the new interface onboard was the HTC Touch (Elf). Then HTC Home was used in many different Touch-family phones like, HTC Touch Dual, Touch Cruise or popular Kaiser (HTC TyTN II).

HTC Home close to default look
HTC Home
HTC Cube

TouchFLO 3D

The first “serious” version of the interface, for which the big “Flipping Clock” has became the most recognisable feature, was TouchFLO 3D. This time HTC uses an expression “interface” not “technology” with regard to TouchFLO 3D, so that’s the way most people call it. TouchFLO 3D is a Windows Mobile screen overlay totally replacing the Today screen. Although – as every plugin – it can be switched off in Settings, but when it’s active you won’t see Today screen at all. Its’ premiere took place in May 2008 and the first phone with the new GUI was HTC Touch Diamond. Not quite a month later the HTC Touch Pro was released also equipped with TouchFLO 3D.

TF3D – as TouchFLO 3D is often abbreviated – has several main versions. In the first one (1.3) the Tabs (also called pages) were always the same. The user couldn’t switch off any of them nor change their order. These possibilities were added in TF3D 2.0 that was published together with HTC Touch HD in September 2008 giving users also the Stocks Tab (not available in previous versions). TF3D 2.1 (announced in February 2009) brought changes to the Calendar tab (month and day views), revision of Stock tab (numerical instead of graph data), changes to Contacts tab and – last but not least – the full support of the Landscape mode. This version was delivered onboard the HTC MAX 4G, HTC Touch Diamond2 and HTC Touch Pro2 (yes, the first European stock ROM for Rhodium was WinMo 6.1 + TF3D 2.1).

TouchFLO 3D (probably v 2.0)
TouchFLO 3D
TouchFLO 3D on the most popular photo of Rhodium

Some of the phones (probably because of relatively high demand for resources by the new HTC interface) were shipped with so called TouchFLO 2D (or Manila 2D), which basically was TF3D without 3D visual effects. The phones were (probably among others) HTC Touch Viva, HTC Touch 3G.

Manila 2D

All versions of the TF3D were based on the same TABs philosophy. The HomeScreen flip-clock was also a characteristic feature. On the bottom we saw a slider with icons which was used to navigate between tabs. Changing tabs was also possible by sliding finger horizontally (sweeping tabs). From the first version the TF3D had at least following tabs: Home, People, Messages, E-mail, Internet, Calendar, Photos&Video, Music, Weather and Settings. TF3D 2.0 and 2.1 had also a Programs tab consisting of several customisable links to user programs. On the HomeScreen under the clock we could see a Call history bar (showing the number of missed calls or voicemails if applicable) and the Calendar bar (showing upcoming appointments if there were any).

Sense 2.1

A bit after that another revolution came in. The interface called “TF3D 2.1 with Sense” or shorter “Sense 2.1” was released. It was still TF3D philosophy so the flip-clock and tab layout stayed similar, but the revolutionary change was the Sense itself: the ability to automatically detect your location from the network data and adjust services according the current location. Of course it was applied in first place to the weather which was not only showed in the Weather tab, but also on HomeScreen below the clock. There was also a possibility to turn on full screen weather animation on HomeScreen. So if there was rain outside you could see raindrops across the screen and wiper showed up from time to time.

Sense 2.1 came together with Windows Mobile 6.5 and it’s new Start Menu (for me one of the most annoying news about the WinMo 6.5). For this reason the Programs tab became intensively used and this on the other hand caused motivation for the manila developers to write numerous mods increasing the number of quicklinks and making it’s configuration easier.

The Sense 2.1 was released in the first half of 2009 (Rhodium got the Sense 2.1 in November, but in June the HTC Hero was showed with TF3D 2.1 + Sense onboard). As for the name I found a description from which I could read that Sense 2.1 and TF3D 2.1 with Sense are two different interfaces which differ for instance with the bottom slider icons (grey icons = TF3D, coloured icons = Sense). Furthermore the name Manila 2.1 was used concurrently. But for instance the Wikipedia writes that the first version of Sense was showed with HD2, so in this case Sense 2.1 could never exist. However with this text I don’t intend to perform a detailed analysis of the Manila/TF3D interfaces (as this would involve listing all the single official and custom builds and ports if it), but only briefly explain the main differences between them and make it easier for a new Users to read/write about them on forums.

Sense 2.1 without fullscreen weather animation
Sense 2.1 with sunny weather
Sense 2.1 during rain

TF3D 2.0 and 2.1 (also Sense 2.1) – although they are already brilliant in my opinion – still give a feeling that they are “only” plugins for the Windows Mobile Today screen. In many places the user was switched to the standard, white Windows forms and applications (Calendar events/appointments were edited in Windows Calendar, most of the Settings were only links to standard Windows Settings). These versions didn’t have any possibilities to add links to the HomeScreen and the HomeScreen customisation was strongly limited (the user could change only the background wallpaper) and involved programming/editing (if anybody wanted to change anything deeper).

Sense 2.5

And then, in November 2009 the noble HTC HD2 (Leo) was released with HTC’s newest interface – Sense 2.5 (called also TF3D 2.5 vel Manila 2.5). Changes were considerable. From the first sight the 3 large HomeScreen shortcut places were conspicuous and there was no Call history bar. After sliding upwards with the finger additional 6 shortcuts appear. Unfortunately the Programs Tab was removed from Sense 2.5 so the uncomfortable Start Menu and these 9 shortcuts became the only way to organise quick access to the favourite applications.

This version of Sense is however much more integrated with the system (although it’s still a plugin you can switch off). Most of the system Settings and preferences is set directly in the Settings tab, which is far more finger-friendly than the Windows Settings. Because of the lack of Programs tab the users started to mod the HomeScreen to achieve increased number and different layouts of the quicklinks. They also learned that new interface offers much more flexibility in changing and even moving elements of the HomeScreen which resulted in - for instance - new notification bars and hundreds of custom clocks.

Sense 2.5
Sense 2.5

As mentioned previously, the Sense 2.5 was officially released only on HD2, but soon the community developers have ported the interface to other HTC phones, like Rhodium or Topaz. Unfortunately the Sense 2.5 used so much resources that the working comfort of these releases was very low. Nevertheless more and more ROMs for these devices used Sense 2.5 and presumably under the “pressure” of programmers and porters HTC released finally an official European ROM update with Sense 2.5 for Rhodium. Today this ROM is initially installed on most non-branded Rhodiums bought in European stores.

Some of the chefs still cook Rhodium and Topaz ROMs with older versions of TF3D/Sense dedicated for users who demand stability and speed. Some other chefs spend efforts on optimising WM 6.5 and Sense 2.5 so that the use of the system is relatively comfortable.

There are also some people who invest their time and efforts on developing mods for the HTC interfaces. One of the most known among xda, PPCGeeks and many other forums is Co0kieMonster. He was making perfectly working mods for TF3D, Sense 2.1 and Sense 2.5. In the beginning of 2010 he released Co0kie’s Home Tab (CHT) – the best Sense 2.5 mod ever made. In my opinion this mod has finally made Sense 2.5 fully usable. CHT Original thread on xda

Sense 2.5 modded with CHT 1.7.1

Additional information

Additional information for the end: Although in the above text I described the interfaces from the Windows Mobile point of view (this is the only system I am familiar with besides Symbian), the Sense or TF3D interfaces are common also in Android phones (such as HTC Hero mentioned above). This however is a subject for another person. On the other hand please note that the above information are valid for European versions of phones and/or ROMs. In different countries HTC Phones have different code names and usually come with another software/ROMs.

All the above information was found on different Internet sites and forums. I only searched for them and formulated the article. As for the screenshots, most of them was made by me on my Rhodium, and the rest was found with Google images and is not my property.

PS. I would like to say thank you to the mods from and for hints about the topic.

PPS. The above text represents my best knowledge about the topic. However I am a WindowsMobile user for only 8 months so I can be mistaken/wrong. Please correct me if you find any errors.

Skrobel 30.09.2010