Hands on: HTC Sensation XE Ice Cream Sandwich review

Now rocking Android 4.0

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TechRadar has been sent by special delivery HTC's Ice Cream Sandwich update for the HTC Sensation XE so we've downloaded, installed and booted it up to find out what's changed.

The update can be installed over the air and we hooked ourselves up to the office Wi-Fi to ensure a speedy download. All you need to do is to go to Settings > About Phone > Software Update and follow the on-screen instructions. In total it took less than 30 minutes to download and install Ice Cream Sandwich on our Sensation XE.

Once loaded we were greeted with version 4.0.3 of Android along with an update to HTC's Sense overlay. HTC did unveil Sense 4.0 at MWC 2012, however the Sensation XE only gets an update to version 3.6 – as Sense 4.0 will only feature on newly released HTC handsets.

HTC sensation xe

Ice Cream Sandwich provides a whole host of new features, but not all of them are implemented / available on the Sensation XE.

HTC sensation xe

Android 4.0 is designed to work without buttons, but seeing as the Sensation XE has four below the screen HTC has taken the correct decision to continue to use them instead of opting for on-screen navigation.

HTC sensation xe

When you start using the Sensation XE after installing Ice Cream Sandwich you'll notice a marked increase in speed, with widgets loading quickly, home screens gliding past without a care in the world and the whole interface feeling really slick.

HTC sensation xe

The new Face Unlock feature is now present thanks to the front facing camera on the Sensation XE, so you'll be able to unlock your phone by just looking at it – love at first sight. To set this up go to Settings > Security > Screen Security and select the Face Unlock option.

HTC sensation xe

Hold down the home button and you're greeted with the new Android 4.0 multitasking menu which shows all open apps as a list of thumbnails. We easily swept up and down the list and a sideways swipe over an app closed it – helping you to quickly conserve previous battery life when you're running low.

HTC sensation xe

Sense 3.6 ensures the Sensation XE still keeps the well known HTC look and feel with the iconic clock and weather combination dominating the main home screen and the 3D weather animation sweeps across the display when you unlock.

HTC sensation xe

You will notice that the 'dock' at the bottom of the home screens has been replaced with a more conventional app tray layout. This may be a little confusing at first if you've become accustomed to the old style dock, but trust us when we say you'll get used to it pretty quick.

HTC sensation xe

Google has taken a leaf out of Apple's book when it comes to folder creation, as you're now able to drop one app on top of another to stick them both into a folder. It's a really useful feature, we just hope Apple doesn't mobilise its army of lawyers.

HTC sensation xe

HTC has kept its own People app for storing your contacts and matching them up with the various social media accounts with wizard-like accuracy.

HTC sensation xe

The 8MP rear-facing camera features a dual-LED flash to brighten up even the darkest of corners and the app opens promptly. Turn off the three second review and you'll be able to snap pictures less than a second apart.

HTC sensation xe

There are some new features within the camera app including the new Ice Cream Sandwich powered panorama scene mode, plus the plethora of options which were already available thanks to HTC.

HTC sensation xe

The noticeable speed increase is mirrored in the internet browser with web pages, including trusty TechRadar.com, loading in a matter of seconds. Auto text re-flow sorted out our zoomed in views, allowing us to read articles without going sideways.

HTC sensation xe

From what we've seen it looks like HTC has done a jolly good job integrating Ice Cream Sandwich into its Sense 3.6 UI.

It provides new features and improved performance, while maintaining the familiar experience which HTC users have come to love.

We are intrigued to see if battery life has also been improved and we'll let you know soon in our full HTC Sensation XE Ice Cream Sandwich review.