The first thing you notice about the HTC (somewhat unfortunately named) Sensation XL is its sheer size. This phone is built around a 4.7" screen, the same size as Google's flagship Samsung Nexus Prime but this has a lower screen resolution. I was curious to try out an Android device with a larger screen as a few of these devices have started appearing on the market. Despite the large screen the phone is very slim and packs lots of features. After having the phone on trial for a couple of weeks I can only conclude that the large screen is a bit of a mixed blessing. It is great for some functions but gives the phone a bit of an inconvenient feel.
The device is physically large and there is no getting away from that (see the photo below for a size comparison with the HTC Desire). If you like to wander around with a coffee in one hand and you phone with your other hand you might find this device a bit awkward. I found that if I tried to use the phone in one hand it was a little difficult to reach every area of the touch screen, if I moved it around I got a bit worried about dropping it. So unless you have giant hands you will probably end up using this device with both of your hands, a bit like a small tablet.
The big screen did make quite a difference for some functionality though. Using the SatNav on the device was great with a large very clear display being a great asset while driving. A slightly larger screen was great too for reading ebooks, with the 4.7" screen getting near the 6" screen found on Kindles. This could be really good if you fancy reading ebooks on the move but do not want to take an extra device with you. Similarly gaming and watching video on it were great experiences too with the large screen and certainly helped bring about a bit more of an "immersive" feeling. If you have a home media server that is DNLA compliant you can also take advantage of the Connected Media application to enjoy that content on your phone.
Of course just being entertained on the move might not be enough, travelling time can be a good time to be productive too. It was interesting to spot Polaris Office on the phone, the same office productivity suite as is bundled with the Asus EEE Pad Transformer. This version seems to only deal with word processing or spreadsheets but it is possible to edit as well as view such files. I quickly tried editing a speadsheet on the device and maybe it is something you wouldn't want to do for too long but if you wanted to make last minute changes to a file it could be useful. The on screen keyboard is of course slightly larger on this screen making it a bit easier to type.
Two big issues on Android devices have been battery life and internal storage (a factor that regularly drives us HTC Desire owners crazy). It was interesting to see that on this phone you can choose between three different power modes: high performance, normal and economy. I suppose this would take some experimentation to know how these perform but it is good to know that if you were going to be away from a power socket for some time then the economy mode could be very useful! Internally there is 16GB of storage according to the specifications (about 4GB looked to be internal memory) so it should be some time before space runs out, even with apps like Facebook and Google Maps installed.
One potentialy annoying habit the phone has is to play an audio clip when you go into the weather app or sometimes when you switch the phone on. This is ok sometimes but was a bit depressing on one occasion when it was raining heavily and the phone displayed a graphic or grey clouds and played a sound of heavy rain against a window!
The HTC Sensation XL is certainly an interesting device and it is great that the Android ecosystem allows for such choice in the types of device you can buy. The phone is a bit large for my tastes and I think the awkwardness of use in one hand is a factor that might put me off the phone, but if that does not bother you then the large screen could be a reason to go for this phone above others. In the end every mobile device is a compromise of functionality and size. When smartphones arrived on the scene they were often much larger than the mobile phones they replaced and it will be interesting to see if this type of device will become more commonplace.
HTC Sensation XL images courtesy of Three Media Centre. Thanks to Brando and Three for the loan of the phone.