HTC has updated the user interface for the Android platform, this time adding new services to make the open-source operating system, managed by Google (NSDQ: GOOG), look and act more polished like its closest rivals. At an event in London this morning, HTC said it has improved the picture-taking and video-recording experiences, added an e-reader, and most importantly, developed some security features that will help people locate a missing phone, remotely lock it and wipe it clean.
With the new services, Android starts to look more like a finished product than a work-in-progress, which is key as the platform pushes beyond early-adopters and into the mainstream. Not all the new features will be available on phones in the U.S. For now, they are launching on the Desire HD and the Desire Z, which are expected to start shipping to European and Asian markets next month. The Desire HD is similar to the HTC EVO 4G in the U.S., and the Desire Z is similar to the upcoming launch of the T-Mobile G2.
This is the first upgrade to HTC’s Sense software since February, and the biggest change is new security features that are packaged together in an online portal, called HTCSense.com. The service compares to Apple’s MobileMe, Microsoft’s My Phone and features on BlackBerry. HTC’s version lets people find their phone in a room by triggering the handset to ring loudly (even if it is set to silent), or pinpoint its location on a map if it’s been lost or stolen. Users can remotely lock the phone, forward calls and texts to another phone, send a message to the phone to arrange its return or in the most extreme scenario, remotely wipe all personal data from it. (More details in the press release via Engadget.)
In addition to security features, the HTCSense.com makes it easier to transition from one HTC phone to the next, by archiving contacts, text messages and call history from a PC browser. That’s where some U.S. carriers may object if it makes it easy to change to an HTC phone on another carrier. HTC did not say whether it would automatically download applications, as well, but you could see that coming in the future.
HTC is also including new camera, maps and e-reader apps: The camera app makes recording and editing easier; HTC Locations makes mapping faster and avoids mobile roaming charges (presumably by caching maps on the device); and the Kobo e-book store comes preloaded on the device (which doesn’t seem special since it is available for free in the Android Market.).