HTC Sense on a phone
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

With Windows and macOS still kicking around, we don’t think of Android as an “old” operating system, but it is. The history of Android is littered with big moments. One thing that made a lasting imprint is HTC Sense.

HTC Made the First Android Phone

HTC releases the occasional smartphone, but its involvement in the Android ecosystem is drastically smaller than it used to be. HTC was the original Android manufacturer, producing the T-Mobile G1 for Google back in 2008.

You could say that HTC is responsible for Android’s success simply because it made the first Android phone. That certainly got the ball rolling, but the company’s software skin, HTC Sense, was its true lasting contribution.

HTC’s Long Relationship with Android

As previously mentioned, HTC and Android go way back. After the company produced the first Android phone for Google, it pumped out a bunch of its own branded Android phones. These devices were actually much more popular than the G1 and available on more carriers around the world.

For a long time, HTC devices were considered the cream of the crop in the Android world. Before Verizon got the iPhone in 2010, it was the exclusive home to several high-end HTC smartphones that were very popular.

htc droid eris
HTC Droid Eris Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Despite its own branded devices doing well, HTC kept working with Google for a long time. It produced the Nexus One and T-Mobile G2 in 2010. Then, after a long hiatus, HTC made the original Pixel in 2016 and the Pixel 2 in 2017.

In recent years, HTC has released a few mid-range smartphones and a couple of high-end 5G devices, but this is nothing compared to the early days. While HTC has always made great hardware, its software is what really shined.

What Is HTC Sense?

HTC Sense is what is commonly referred to as a software “skin.” It’s a customization layer on top of the operating system, which, in this case, is Android. Manufacturers use skins to differentiate their devices.

There are tons of devices running Android, but Android doesn’t always look the same. The software on a Samsung phone looks drastically different than the software on a Google Pixel phone, yet they’re both running Android.

HTC Sense is simply the skin that HTC uses on its own branded devices. There have been several big updates to Sense’s design, but it has probably changed the least out of all Android skins. HTC still uses it on devices today.

It’s easy to think of Sense as a skin, but there’s actually quite a bit more to it than that. Beyond the aesthetic changes, Sense also includes a suite of exclusive features, apps, and widgets. Sense is what makes an HTC phone an HTC phone rather than just an HTC-made phone.

RELATED: What Are Android Skins?

Why Was HTC Sense Important?

stock android 2.0 vs sense 2.1
Stock Android 2.0 vs HTC Sense 2.1 Google | Joe Fedewa

To understand HTC Sense’s importance, we have to go back to the T-Mobile G1 again. The Android version that launched on the G1 looked extremely basic. It was a barebones operating system without much flair. Very utilitarian.

HTC’s first two Android devices featured this barebones version of Android, but in October 2009, the company launched the HTC Hero, the first phone with HTC Sense. This was around the same time that other manufacturers started making Android devices, too, but HTC Sense was easily the nicest looking of the bunch.

This is why HTC Sense was so important. The “skin” became a reason to buy a certain Android device over another Android device. Even if the other device had better specifications, many people preferred HTC devices for the Sense software. The skin itself was a “feature” that people wanted.

HTC Sense 2.1
HTC Sense 2.1 Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

HTC Sense had personalization options, beautiful widgets, shiny icons, a nice home screen launcher, useful built-in apps, and a polished UI with more dark elements. Sense felt like software that had been designed for people to use rather than a development platform.

RELATED: How to Get the HTC Sense Weather & Clock Widget on Android

HTC’s lasting impact on Android was forcing the other manufacturers, and perhaps most importantly, Google itself, to take design seriously. Nowadays, “plain” Android, which can be found on Pixel phones, is beautiful. HTC Sense played a big part in that.

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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